Eating Occasions

female eatingAs a culture, how much of our eating is dependent upon how we feel at the moment, the social event that we are attending, a tradition, or the numbers on a clock? Perhaps, along with being addicted to food, we are addicted to eating occasions

I’m sad . . . .


I’m happy . . . .


I’m bored . . . .  


I’m lonely . . . . .


I’m stressed . . . .


I’m nervous . . . .


I’m frustrated . . . .


I’m at a party . . . .


I’m with friends . . . .


It’s 6am . . . .  


It’s 9am . . . .  


It’s noon . . . .


It’s 3pm . . . .


It’s 6pm . . . .


It’s bedtime . . . .


I have insomnia . . . .


I don’t feel well . . . .


I’m exhausted . . . .  



When did we evolve from a society that eats meals to fuel the body to one that eats many times a day; regardless of hunger? Numerous meals and snacks a day are now scientifically called, “Eating Occasions” [or EOs for short] As a culture, are eating occasions destroying us? In the past 30 years, eating occasions have increased among all ages, with the greatest for those in the 75 - 90 percentiles; plus, the time between them has exponentially decreased.  Not only are we eating more, but with less time spaced between EOs. 1

Before I committed to nutritarian eating, I was caught in the many-times-a-day eating occasion trap. Anything and anytime was a reason for eating. Even though I’m now free from toxic hunger that drives one to overeat, I still need to be vigilant when I’m out with others that I don’t eat for social entertainment, or eat because the clock reads 12 noon, if I’m not truly hungry.  

As Dr. Fuhrman states, “Frequent eating leads to higher calorie intake.” We all know that this leads to the excess fat that produces a lifetime of needless and ongoing suffering. It’s beneficial to renew our minds from time to time and re-read the chapters on toxic hunger in Eat for Health, or listen to Dr. Fuhrman’s teleconference, “Curtailing Overeating.” We need to seriously ask ourselves, are we eating to satisfy the body’s need for nourishment, or are we caught up in eating occasions? A quick tune-up of the mind is much easier and cheaper than a major overhaul.  May we all choose to eat for health today! 


American Journal of Clinical Nutrition  90: 1342-1347, May 2010

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Michael - June 24, 2010 9:56 AM

I have the most difficulty when I'm around my family. I seem to always get into the food within a few days of being around them. It's worse when I go there because I'm completely out of my routine and there isn't a lot of healthy food around. Boredom is a big problem as well.

Ro Lewis - June 24, 2010 10:01 AM

But it is so HARD not to eat all those times! I am a grown up woman but I have to eat on all those social occasions, and of course we have to have dinner at 6 because that's the glue that holds families together. I'll listen to the curtailing overeating teleconference and hope that helps. Thanks for your comments.

Lauren - June 24, 2010 11:43 AM

In this sentence, "In the past 30 years, eating occasions have increased among all ages, with the greatest for those in the 75 - 90 percentiles". I'm not clear what is meant by "in the 75-90 percentiles". It doesn't appear to be the 75-90 age group (or I think it would have said 'age group' rather than percentiles), so I'd appreciate a clarification. Thank you.

It is very difficult in our culture to say no when friends and family offer food, since food has equaled love for so many of us. But it is doable. The key: You have to let others be uncomfortable with your choices, and observe you eating for health regardless of the occasion. Easier said than done, but by consistently doing so, they will come around and respect your choices. My family and friends now make sure there are vegan/nutritarian offerings at family gatherings, and I always make sure to bring good stuff to eat so they understand there's no depravation going on.

It's very difficult to detach from and ignore the constant barrage of ads and images all over enticing us to eat all sorts of things all times of day. But it's completely possible, and just takes time, and resolve, and switching your focus onto positive and healthy things instead.

Unfortunately, emotions seem to win out over facts about health in the moment more often than not, and it takes a lot of concerted effort to stick to our commitment in the face of others' emotions and beliefs about food, family gatherings, "oh, come on, one won't hurt you!", a plate of cookies or whatever it may be, and perhaps most importantly our own emotions and stress. Again, I have found learning to shift focus again and again to the positive, anything you are grateful for, works, and eventually becomes the automatic habit we want.

Thank you for this article to help us with our commitment to our nutritarian choices.

Mike Crosby - June 24, 2010 11:43 AM

This morning I was thinking of what I ate yesterday.

Some of dis, a little of dat. Before long, I realized it added up. Oh yeah, I ate that too. And that too.

I have never kept a food diary, but I know I eat a lot more than I think I do.

Went to a ballgame last night. Is it possible to sell a food that is nutritional? Items being hawked were pizza, cotton candy, cokes, beer, and ice cream. Wouldn't it be refreshing to hear, "Apples, oranges, bananas, get you fruit right here"?

Sighle - June 24, 2010 12:09 PM

Boy, Emily, I have experience all of these eating occasions and then some! Far too many of us are living to eat. Renewing our mind with re-reading and listening to the teleconference is a great suggestion. Mindful eating needs to be cultivated and practiced until it becomes a routine way of life for us. Wonderful article!

Dalia Kinsey - June 24, 2010 12:20 PM

What an important post. I'm working toward only allowing internal cues to dictate my eating, but it’s a long road. I'm going to read over the toxic hunger chapters in Eat for Health again before I go on vacation. That is when I'm at my weakest. I've linked festivity with eating. Eating is meant to be enjoyable but it isn't for fun. We really need the reminder to Eat for Health and not for entertainment since as a whole that is not the way food is seen state side.

perelandra - June 24, 2010 2:29 PM

@Ro Lewis - Why do you "have" to eat? Is someone forcing it down your gullet? ;) I'm just kidding of course, but what you put in your mouth is your choice, not someone else's.

Deana Ferreri, Ph.D. - June 24, 2010 4:05 PM

The 75th-90th percentiles of eating occasions. So the difference between the number of eating occasions that were the 75-90 percentiles 30 years ago and now is the largest compared to other ranges of percentiles.

You can read the abstract here:

Emily Boller - June 26, 2010 11:22 AM

A life completely free of food addiction, brain fog, organic depression, and chronic fatigue and disease is the real glue that holds the family together!

MIke Rubino - June 26, 2010 7:57 PM

Great post Emily. I find myself frequently caught up in the social aspects of eating . It seems our society has foucued eating as "The activity" around which people relate . Im as guilty of this as any even now .

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