Food Experiment:When Life Isn’t a Buffet

supermarket refrigerators
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The kids and I had to run an errand today next to the grocery store, so they brought along their spending money and scoured Kroger for treats that fit their budgets. (Following the advice in You Need a Budget, we’re strict about saving 50% and giving 10%, but the rest is theirs to waste spend as they choose.)

Since I wasn’t doing mental gymnastics to figure out “what sounds good to me?,” I was able to really look at everything in the aisles and was reminded of this from The Hungry Brain:

The Food Marketing Institute reports that in 2013, the average US grocery store contained a staggering 44,000 items, up from an already impressive 15,000 items in 1980…This variety means we experience less sensory-specific satiety, almost like a perpetual buffet.

When I have free rein over what I put in my mouth, I really just spend the day hopping from one taste experience to the next. Salty now sweet? Sweet now and salty later? Is there still Diet Dr Pepper in the house?

I don’t eat for hunger; I eat for pleasure or to stave off boredom, and every new taste is another PING! to my brain cells to fight off the boredom.

But it’s amazing how quickly I get full (or at least tired of eating) when all I have is hot dogs. Or an apple. Or just peanut butter toast.*

And it’s amazing how many times a day my brain tries to justify reaching for a treat. I had to discipline a kid–time for a treat. I finished homeschooling and checked everything off the list–treat. We’re out of the house anyway–I want a treat.

But today, having those set parameters, already knowing what was on my mouth’s agenda, made all the difference.

Oh, and after a rather difficult discipline issue in the middle of homeschool, I prayed instead of reaching for the chocolate box (yes, we have a chocolate box). I won’t lie: I didn’t feel much better for it. I especially didn’t feel better in that dopamine-triggered way that chocolate has.

But not everything in life is about how I feel; most things aren’t, actually. And having some food boundaries may just be the reminder I need about those fickle feelings.


*I will admit: I’m still playing a little fast and loose with dinner. Last night, Matt requested I bake up some Pokemon Pillsbury cookies we had. I obliged…and ate four. And I had pancakes tonight–but it was already on the meal plan before I started this!

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