Weighty Matters

Just another WordPress.com site

Food Associations

on April 9, 2014

I treated myself to some new technology at home in the form of an AppleTV gizmo. I also signed up for a subscription to MLB.TV. Together, these things allow me to watch Phillies games on my television. I’m a big fan of baseball and the Phillies are my team. All of the years that I lived up home in SoJersey, we watched baseball games on television all season long. Before the time that they broadcast the games on the tube, we used to listen to them on the radio. I’ve missed that practice in the years that I’ve lived in Florida when the only times I could see the Phillies were when they played the FL Marlins or the occasional game on ESPN or Fox.

Tonight’s game is on while I type this. I was thinking about the years when we also had season tickets to Veterans Stadium for 16 games each season. I always wanted a ball park hot dog at those games. That was a strong association of a particular food with a particular activity. Each of us probably has countless associations that we make like popcorn at the movie theater, cake on a birthday, or turkey at Thanksgiving. Many of us can also add family traditions, like my family’s practice of making Pizza frita (fried dough) on Christmas morning. I have friends who never go out fishing without picking up fried chicken from a particular convenience store.

There used to be a great little family-owned Cuban restaurant in town. For years I ordered the same meal whenever I went to this restaurant — pork chunks with yellow rice, black beans and fried plantains. It got to be funny because I’d go with my mom and say that I really should try something else sometime, but the favorite tradition always won out.

I’ve noticed that I also have food and eating behaviors associated with certain places, activities and other things. Cookies in the kitchen at work are a guaranteed trigger for me. It’s like I have to eat one (or two).

I don’t think that the food associations are necessarily bad, except when they are. 🙂 By that I mean that if I’m aware of the association and make the food or eating choice mindfully with full awareness — and incorporate it into my overall eating plan, it can be a positive activity. If I don’t use the associations as a trigger to overeat, or eat compulsively, then it’s not automatically unhealthy. The key is being mindful and aware.

Eating by rote just because of the ingrained, often long term, association can be a dangerous, slippery slope. One needs to be aware of the association or habit in order to effect positive change, or counteract the trigger. For example, I used to automatically throw a candy bar onto the belt at the supermarket checkout. There’s a reason they put those rows of candy bars in that location! It didn’t matter if I wanted the chocolate before I got to the store or not. Most of the time, I hadn’t even thought about it on my way to the supermarket. When I hit the checkout line, I had associated the experience with also buying and later consuming, the chocolate bar.

I’m mindful about it now. I still want it most times, but I can resist the trigger of the association and choose a different behavior — ignoring the chocolate, completing checkout, and leaving the store.

This reminds me of something the coaches warned us about when I went through a smoking cessation program more than 27 years ago. We learned that smokers frequently lit up cigarettes because of the place or situation and not because they had an urge to smoke right at that particular moment. I rapidly noticed that I automatically lit a cigarette whenever I got into my car or sat down at my desk. (Back in the early 80s, most offices still permitted smoking.) When I went out to a rock club with friends, invariably I’d have a drink in one hand and a cigarette in another. Once I was made aware of the practice, I became adept at identifying the “association moments”. Eventually I learned to counter them, much like I’ve learned with the checkout candy bar rack.

Not sure if I’ll have the same success in other situations. Movie popcorn is a powerful lure. I can only try and do my best, or at the very least, take a look at my plan for the day and adjust so that I can enjoy the treat. Either action — resisting or working it into the plan – requires awareness and conscious thought. Those things can trump the automatic reaction because of long term association. I can work with that.

Do you have any food associations? Care to share?

Advertisements

One response to “Food Associations

  1. Skye says:

    Popcorn at the movies is probably my biggest. Special cookies at Christmas and the obligatory turkey and mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving, with my grandma’s two jello salads if possible. I made one of them this year when I went to friends and they loved it. I’m going to look for the other recipe so I have it ready for this year.

    My housemates have been instilling the concept of popcorn before bedtime in me. I haven’t usually eaten right before bed before and I know it’s not a good practice, but I started eating partly because fresh popcorn smells so good and partly as a community thing. I’ve been working on refraining from eating right before bed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s