Eating occasions revisited


Last summer I wrote about the new scientific phrase called, “Eating Occasions.” You know, those times that we eat in response to stress, boredom, sadness, grief, happiness, excitement, loneliness, fatigue, nervousness, and frustration; just to name a few. Or those times that we eat because the clock strikes a certain hour; or we’re at a social event where food abounds and we just ate dinner ~ but we nibble anyway ‘cause everyone else is doing it. 

It’s so easy to succumb to Eating Occasions. In fact, I’ve realized that I’ve had to overcome two addictions in order to lose weight and keep it off. 

  • First, I had to get rid of toxic cravings for highly processed, highly salted, and high fat foods. Check. That was relatively easy for me to accomplish because it was a black and white plan to follow. Basically, if one faithfully adheres to the six week eating plan in Eat to Live, with little to no deviance, bingo, the addictive desire for the standard American diet (SAD) diminishes and then eventually goes away. In fact, the body actually craves high nutrient foods instead, and SAD foods are literally disgusting! Seriously. That sounds over simplistic, but in all reality, that’s what genuinely happens when one carefully follows the six week plan. 
  • Second, I’ve had to overcome eating when not truly hungry. This addiction has been definitely more challenging for me to conquer. Even with over 2 ½ years of nutritarian eating under my belt, I can still succumb to this nemesis at times ~ it’s a culturally acceptable habit that’s engrained into the very fiber of my being. 

Dr. Fuhrman repeatedly states that frequent eating, or eating when not truly hungry leads to higher caloric intake; and that it’s important to get in touch with instinctual signals for hunger that directs the body how to eat and not to overeat. He says that we’ll discover that we really only need about half to two-thirds the amount of food that we thought we did. Otherwise, habitual overeating will lead to excess fat that produces a lifetime of needless and ongoing suffering. 

As with any unhealthy addiction, it’s totally worth every effort to continually contend to overcome overeating. We need to seriously ask ourselves, “Are we eating to satisfy the body’s need for nourishment, or are we obliviously caught up in eating occasions?” 

A quick tune-up of the mind is much easier and cheaper than a major overhaul of the body.  May we all choose to eat for health today! 


image credit:  flickr by Kirstea

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Comments (22) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Ginger - April 13, 2011 8:10 AM

I love the freedom these ideas have given me.

Suz Zencka - April 13, 2011 9:00 AM

Thanks so much for today's post, Emily! It is a REALLY helpful reminder to me, when I get frustrated with myself for still struggling at times, that the journey for health is a lifelong journey. Thank you for candidly sharing that you still struggle at times, even after 2-1/2 years of nutritarian eating. The challenges are very real - and worth overcoming.

It's helpful for me to be reminded from someone further along the journey that my struggles aren't unique or a sign of failure. Engaging the challenges is what creates success.

Again, thank you!

Elisa Rodriguez - April 13, 2011 9:01 AM

Well written and beautifully said Emily!

StephenMarkTurner - April 13, 2011 9:03 AM

Hi Emily

Overheard a bodybuilder giving advice to a protege last week advising him that the most important thing was 'getting the metabolism as HIGH as possible', presumably to get lean.

We know that a better way to get lean AND healthy is to have a low metabolism, and simply eat lots and lots of nutrient dense foods. Eat enough greens and the problem becomes more like getting enough cals, not too many.


MarathonME - April 13, 2011 9:42 AM

I admire you all for being so far down the road. I find I still have a weakness for some animal product each week, an occasional salty item and I still have the weakness to over-eat once I start to eat. For this reason my weight fluctuates up and down within the same 3 pound limit. I have limited my eating opportunities to only 3X daily, now I need to somehow reduce the volume I feel I need to eat at those times. Thanks for your posts.

Melissa - April 13, 2011 9:55 AM

No matter what style of eating I've followed, I've always had issues with binge eating and overeating. The common advice about this problem is that we need to check into our emotions and figure out what we're really hungry for, what emotion we're trying to "soothe" with food.

This advice has NEVER worked for me.

It's only recently, after reading about the "Water Cure" that I realized my urge to binge/overeat isn't a psychological coping mechanism, it's a physiological thirst mechanism! I've been confusing hunger for thirst my entire life! To remedy this, I've been carrying around a water bottle and drinking from it constantly. I thought drinking more water would mean that I would have to force my body to chug it down, but I've found that my body is really receptive to all this extra hydration. Whenever I have a sensation that I suspect is hunger, I first drink a large amount of water. Sometimes the hunger disappears. When it doesn't, that's when I know I'm truly hungry and I eat.

I truly believe that consistent water intake is the missing piece of the weight loss puzzle for me. Since upping my water intake, my desire to binge/overeat has dropped dramatically, and when these desires come up, they dissipate after drinking water! I finally feel like I have a normal relationship with food.

I urge anybody who has overeating issues to try this method, it's been nothing less than miraculous for me.

StephenMarkTurner - April 13, 2011 11:45 AM

(for MarathonME)

For me it's not about 100% veggie. I still eat a few eggs every week, and take a smidge of fish oil each day. I will also eat a few pitas with some falafel and olive each week.

The science strongly backs up about a 95% veggie diet, and it gets a bit uncertain after that point.

Even if you are 100% vegan, someone else is all raw, another is a 'Jain' (only eats veggies that grow above ground, so as not to disturb the insects and ants), where does it end?

Cheers, Steve

Theresa Anderson - April 13, 2011 11:50 AM

"A quick tune-up of the mind is much easier and cheaper than a major overhaul of the body. May we all choose to eat for health today! "

That is a bumper sticker Emily. Proverbs of a Nutritarian
Thank you...
If we would think twice before speaking and think twice before eating we would be near perfect! :-)

Peachy - April 13, 2011 5:09 PM

Melissa, Interestingly enough I also read The Water Cure and am ingesting 64 oz.of H2O as a daily routine. It is phenomenal. I now drink water when my food triggers hit. My chronic sinus problem is getting better. It could also be due to being on the nutritarian program for 11 days. The two changes seem to go well together as it would be difficult to stay on the nutritarian program without being well hydrating.

How long have you been sufficiently hydrating?

Lawrie - April 13, 2011 8:27 PM

Thanks so much Melissa for your comment about water. I think that may be my missing piece. I am going to start drinking water whenever I feel hungry because I am trying to eat all the right things and not losing the weight I thought I would on the nutritarian diet. I do feel better though.
thanks for writing.

Dr. Fuhrman - April 13, 2011 8:41 PM

It is important that nobody gets injured from the faulty advice about water above, so I need to comment. First of all, once you are eating a healthy diet, comprised of high water content foods and naturally very low in sodium, thirst does not get mistaken for hunger. In fact, both excessive hunger and thirst virtually disappear. However, the important message I have to convey is that when a person is on a very healthful, low salt nutritarian diet, the over-drinking of water (as advised above) can more easily cause a low electrolyte level, low blood volume, fatigue and even fainting. In general, the excessive drinking of water can result in a medical emergency from low blood electrolytes and can even cause seizures. I strongly advise you excessive water drinkers to be careful, especially if switching from the dry and high sodium SAD to the wet and low salt nutritarian diet; and of course I am posting this so nobody else follows this advice and gets hurt from it.

NutriDude - April 13, 2011 9:39 PM

Preparedness is so critical to avoid these tempting occasions. Having a bowl of washed greens in the refrigerator, fresh fruit at the ready or a big bowl of soup in the freezer can make all the difference. These are my new "convenience" foods

tyler - April 14, 2011 8:15 AM

I can't say enough how much 'eat to live' has improved my life.This must be read twice in order to get the full benefits & keep focused. I average 3 lbs a month & my meat cravings are diminishing.My mental clarity at 66 has greatly improved also, it is a thrill to wear clothes that have not fit for the last 12!
Thanks Dr. Furhman for offering the best ever common sense outlook on health.
Canada loves you.

Fuhrmanista - April 14, 2011 11:25 AM

Dear Emily,

I did ETL 10/2010 through 12/2010, and lost 30 #, but "had just a little" of holiday SAD foods, and that was enough to trigger a "relapse with a vengance". I've regained the lost pounds, and have gained more. I weigh nearly 300#, and can barely walk due to arthritis in my feet and hips. I enjoyed ETL, joined the online Fuhrman site, followed diet to the letter, found a support group, and it was all for nothing. NOTHING. The weight, and more, is back, and I don't think I can start over yet again. I am 60 years old and have been dieting since my early teens. Dr. Fuhrman's ETL was my last, best, hope, and I failed. Again.

I'm writing to you because your posts have been special to me. Thank you.

Some of us are failures, despite all the info /support that a fine program like ETL, and Dr. Fuhrman, can offer. I am one of those failures. I just don't have another try in me.

I hesitate to sign myself, "Fuhrmanista", because I denigrate the name. So I shall sign off as "F", for "Failure".


StephenMarkTurner - April 14, 2011 12:33 PM

I have certainly been guilty of overhydrating. Well known fitness advisor Ellington Darden advocated 1 (American) gallon per day of ice cold water. Among the 'benefits' touted were the using up of 123 Calories or so (to warm the water).

Again, for weight loss, you can rev up your metabolism, drink gobs of ice water, sleep with one leg outside the blanket (more warming). Or you can eat more Nutritarian foods...


PS Yup, Canada does love you!

Fat Fudge - April 14, 2011 5:03 PM

I can vouch for what Dr. Fuhrman just posted. When I started E2L, I continued to drink the large amount water that I was used to. I began having periods of light headedness and when I had my blood tested by my doctor, she said that my sodium level was slightly below normal (132 instead of the average 135). So yes, please be careful about increasing your water intake.

Mark Osborne - April 15, 2011 5:22 PM

Overhydrating is a serious issue with runners. The standard literature (and sports drink marketing) tells runners to drink, drink, drink, but the reality is that dehydration has never been a serious issue for runners even though elite marathon runners can loose up to eight pounds during a marathon. Hyponatremia due to excessive consumption of fluids (including sports drinks) on the other hand is now a serious issue with numerous cases of hospitalization and even death following running events.

Emily Boller - April 15, 2011 8:08 PM

Dear Successful,

Dust yourself off, and keep contending for freedom!

Mary - April 15, 2011 9:53 PM

When I started eating Nutritarian I knew I would need a way to avoid the mindless snacking I used to do until my cravings and habits were under control. When I wanted to eat and knew I wasn't hungry I had a cup of tea. Even the mere ritual of preparing it- filling the tea kettle, pouring the water, choosing from my cup collection- was satisfying. Many months later I still enjoy that cup of tea, white chai, green, herbal (I grow my own camomile, mint, etc.)the many options are all a part of it. I described it to a friend as picking a chocolate out of the box without all the fat and sugar.

Desert Fox - April 20, 2011 11:36 PM

what exactly is an excessive amount of water?

To this desert dweller who rides bike almost 2 hours a day, the 64oz mentioned doesn't seem like all that much. It's less than a 2 liter bottle.

But if this is a dangerous amount to an ETL participant please let me know.

Michael - April 21, 2011 9:27 AM

Desert Fox,

From what Dr. fuhrman has said in the past, what you are doing is fine. By following this plan, you will be more in touch with what you're body needs to eat and drink. I live in a hot, humid climate (Atlanta) and I need more water when I exercise as well. I think the main issue is forcing yourself to drink large amounts of water when you're not thirsty. Just drinking 64oz. of water a day because someone tells you to is not a good idea. Your body may need less or more depending on the conditions. I find eating high-water fruits and vegetables in the Summer to be more hydrating then drinking water. Maybe it's because of all of the vitamins, minerals and electrolytes that you don't get from water.

StephenMarkTurner - April 21, 2011 11:56 AM

Is it too simplistic to just go by the colour of urine? I have often heard that pale yellow urine means adequate hydration.


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