How Often Do You Think About Food?

Have you ever thought about how much time you actually spend eating? Let’s say you spend 20 minutes eating breakfast, 30 minutes at lunch, 20 minutes on snacks, and 60 minutes at dinner. Let’s be as thorough as possible and assume you spend another 60 minutes of food prep on the average day.

Total time: 3 hours and 15 minutes

That’s it. Contrast that to the other 12 hours and 45 minutes you are awake, assuming you sleep about eight hours a night. (Wouldn’t that much sleep be nice?)

I don’t know about you, but when I was obese, I thought about food a lot more than just the times I was eating or prepping the food.

One of my first thoughts in the morning was about what food I was going to eat that day. Would I eat the rest of the brownies I had made the night before, would I make cookies, would I be going out to a fast food restaurant for a quick milkshake later in the day? Even while I was eating breakfast (which may have been those brownies),  I was thinking about what foods came next.

I continued in this vein throughout the rest of my day. I’d think about food while working with the kids on their schoolwork, think about food while they were napping, and think about food while I was doing chores around the house.

Even in my obesity and dysfunctional relationship with food I knew this was not a healthy way to live.

Mentally – it was hard for me to imagine making healthy changes in my life with regards to food because I thought about it so often throughout the day. It was also hard mentally because I often felt very guilty after I overate. Very guilty.

Physically – it was difficult for me to constantly think about food because I expended a lot of energy on preparing food, going to get the foods I was craving, and eating the food. Not only would I hope in the car on a moment’s notice to go to a fast food restaurant, but I would also make extra trips to the grocery store to buy the foods I “needed” for certain dishes or desserts I wanted to make.

When I look back on those 10 years of morbid obesity I can still feel the frustration brought about by that lifestyle and that way of thinking.

The sad thing is that losing 150 pounds did not “cure” me of thinking of food more often than the average person likely does. It’s taken a lot of years past reaching my goal weight to get to that point. I don’t know that I took any conscious steps to think less often about food, but rather it was a process that happened to me as I learned new habits, stopped using food as an emotional crutch, and made healthy eating part of my life.

How often do you think about food? Do you ever wonder whether or not people who struggle with their weight think about food more often than people who do not struggle with food or weight? Diane

If you are interested in seasonal eating and visiting Farmer’s markets, I’m talking about it here.

52 thoughts on “How Often Do You Think About Food?

  1. Sharon says:

    So happy to see this post from someone I admire and who even as a longtime maintainer, is honest enough to admit that food (and thoughts of food) will always be present. Yes, I struggle with this always and even now in a period of relative calm (I’m currently maintaining), I fight with the food thoughts almost constantly it seems. It’s just a continuous battle talking to myself, saying NO, reminding myself how much better I like myself now and that the __________ I’m being tempted by at that particular moment just isn’t worth it.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      It always will be for me. I do think about food a lot, but part of that now is being a mom to seven and having to prepare large quantities of food three times a day. But the days where I was obsessing over television commercials and magazine pictures are pretty much in the past. I am careful though, because I know that the temptation will always be there.

      In some ways it can be a good thing because having that awareness makes me stay diligent and not let things slide.

  2. blackhuff says:

    I agree with you. When I was obese too, I used to think about food a lot too. It’s actually scary. I am actually very relieved that these days it aren’t like that anymore. It felt like a heavy stone was removed from my shoulders when I stopped thinking about food so much 🙂

  3. Joe says:

    I still think about food often even with me being on a healthy path for 6 months. I will see on foodnetwork about bbq or pizza and immediately I’ll start to crave it. I think the important part is to realize you don’t need it and don’t have to act on a craving (I almost sound like a drug addict!). I don’t think I’ll ever kick the habit of not thinking about a good meal completely but I’m trying to kick the habit of giving into my thoughts.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I understand the trigger of television very well Joe. I’d see a commercial with canned biscuits in it and I’d hop off the couch to go make some with Bisquick. Not healthy behaviors at all. You put it very well that we have to learn that even though we think certain foods, we don’t always need them. Salad – ok. Pizza or biscuits – not ok very often.

  4. Contemplaive Fitness says:

    Different context: I am preparing to win my first bodybuilding contest in 12 years. I m also preparing for a RAGNAR relay race next month. I am working out with clients, blogging, and on Facebook quite focusing on issues relating to exercise and fitness.

    Translation: I THINK ABOUT FOOD NON-STOP — ALL DAY, EVERY DAY.

    BUT, I think about good foods. I think about the taste, the value, and the function of wonderful foods; red cabbage, asparagus, grapefruit, skinless chicken thighs, and more.

    This is the best relationship with food I have ever, and I don’t want to not think about. I love to think about it 🙂

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      You, like Dr J., are a rock star. You are right that we all need to think about food. People like you who are training for events must really think about and plan your nutrition for the best performance possible. We could probably all take a lesson on you from that. Good luck in the contest – I hope you win!

  5. Gwen says:

    It’s funny, I don’t think about food now quite as much, but I’m consumed with thought about being healthy, the ‘primal’ eating plan, why I’m eating as much organic as possible, etc. I’ve actually traded one obsession thought trend for another. I guess it’s better that my obsessive thoughts are now on healthy trends and plans, rather than unhealthy, but it still is obsessive. Maybe most people who are overweight are obsessive (OCD)…? Interesting concept.

    Thanks for your nuggets of truth, Diane!

    • Janis says:

      I think healthy obsession isn’t a bad thing, and that there is such a thing. I’m sure someone like Sarah Chang thinks about the violin a lot more than average people do. The trick is to focus it on something positive and to focus on improvements and not times when you missed the mark, which can be hard.

      I think we’re all OCD in some ways, though … I know I think about music way more than most people just because I write it. I think about it during the rare down times at work and ALL THE TIME when home. I’m just very fortunate in that the thing I obsess over doesn’t kill my pancreas.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I do wonder whether there is a higher percentage of OCD people who also struggle with their weight. That would be an interesting thing to research.

      You are doing a great job with your eating and your weight loss Gwen!

  6. Kara says:

    For years, decades I thought about food all the time. I wrote a blog post a while back about thinking about food all the time. It is by far, my most popular post. It is read on a daily basis, which leads me to believe that many people are preoccupied with constant thoughts of food and for those people it is a daily, 24 hour struggle to not eat food, just as it was for me. I also think that there are people on the other end of the spectrum who don’t give a second thought to food and eating is not a struggle.

    I can remember as a kid thinking about food and the thoughts grew as I got older until I finally got help retraining my thoughts and behaviours. I no longer think about food all day, and when I do it is in a normal way. What are we going to eat for dinner? What do I need to buy at the grocery store? How long will it take to learn to like chick peas? (Answer: quickly – about a week)

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      It took some of my kids longer than a week to appreciate that little chick pea! Ha!

      I too struggled for years with thinking about food all the time. For me, I think that behavior really started in high school when I was struggling with self-esteem issues and other personal issues. I used food as comfort and that started the cycle. It took a long time to break it as well.

      It does take a retraining of our thought patterns to think about food in a healthy way.

  7. Dr. J says:

    One of the advantages of eating IF warrior style is that I do not think much about food during the day at all! I probably only think about it when I am preparing it.

    The exception is, as a health and fitness writer, I think about the problems with food all the time 🙂

  8. Babbalou says:

    I don’t think about food very much. I eat just three meals a day (no snacks) or sometimes 2 meals plus one snack. And sometimes when I’m busy I forget to eat…I’ll realize it’s 3:30 and I haven’t had any lunch or it’s 11:30 and I haven’t eaten anything all day. I do cook all my meals, so spend maybe 60 minutes or so a day preparing food, but I often cook without really think about it much. In reading blogs I’ve been struck by the comments from people who think about food constantly.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      It really is quite common to think about food a lot, at least with the people I meet regularly. I wish that I didn’t think about food as much as I do now, but I do believe I’ve crossed the point where my food thoughts are healthy – for the most part. I do try and be aware of times when I may be thinking about unhealthy foods too much, especially around holidays when junky food is in such abundance.

  9. Mary Ellen Quigley says:

    I almost feel like I think about food more now that I am losing weight. Part of this is because of the Weight Watchers system. I have to plan my points. Everything I put in my mouth has to be measured, thought out, and carefully considered. At first it drove me nuts. Now, I plan my day the night before and get everything ready. This way I don’t have to think about it as much because it is all ready to go for me. Except for the actual cooking part.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      It does take planning to make sure you are eating right, no matter if it is a great program like Weight Watchers or something else. Even people who follow no program have got to think about and plan healthy food otherwise they will likely fall right back into old habits. You sound like you are doing a great job at finding the balance!

  10. Janis says:

    This is one of the reasons why I don’t buy it when people say that they don’t want to diet and count calories because they don’t want to think about food all the time. Chances are, if someone is fighting their weight, they are already thinking about food all the time. It’s just a matter of whether you’ll do it and have diabetes or not. And by the time you get diabetes, you’ll be tyrannically monitoring everything that goes into your mouth anyway.

    And as a data point from someone on the other side of things, I definitely do not think about food a lot. Even when I do — I love to think about recipes and things — I don’t stay on those thoughts because something else distracts me. I’ve had times when I’ve been on the couch reading a book and said to myself, “Ooh, I want to get a cup of ice cream, but I’ll just read one more page,” and then finished the book, got up and sat at the piano for however long, then did some crocheting and went for a walk … and the ice cream just sat there in the fridge for another week and a half. I’m definitely obsessive about things, but they’re just other things. 🙂

    That was a revelation for me BTW, to learn that a lot of people can’t imagine forgetting about a pint of ice cream or a half a jar of uneaten Nutella in their kitchen for six months. I’ve had some mocha flavored M&Ms in an empty Chambord bottle on my piano since I moved in two years ago and I continually blank on them. That said, I do not have any more bottles of Chambord in my apartment, empty or otherwise. I would be incapable of forgetting about that, which is why I no longer drink.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I couldn’t have forgotten that ice cream. Not in the days when I was in the thick of obesity. It would have been calling my name and no amount of busyness or activity would have removed it from my mind. That’s why I was so careful when I first started to lose weight to not buy things that I knew would “call my name” until I got off the couch and consumed them.

      You are blessed in that regard! I completely agree that people who struggle with their weight spend a lot of emotional and mental energy on food thoughts. I know I did and I know that the majority of people I speak with about weight loss do as well.

      • Janis says:

        I just hope that in some way, it comes across that there are many, many things to be obsessed by or consumed with. Obsessiveness, if it’s in a person’s brain, can and will attach to anything, not just food. Food is one of the most inconvenient things to obsess over though, since you can’t go cold turkey on it to solve the problem, you’re surrounded by the drug 24/7 and can get it at any age, and it’s so hard to hide a food addiction. I think it’s easier for me to keep an alcohol-free environment than for a typical person to keep a crap-food-free environment.

  11. Michelle says:

    Way too much, although its better now than it used to be. I used to constantly think about my next meal or snack. Now, while I still do some of that on off days, I spend more time thinking of ways to bring variety to meals for myself and my family. So *how* I think about food has changed as much as how often. I’m liking the change and hoping I continue to think about food less as I continue to lose.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      That’s such an important distinction in my opinion. The thinking about food in a positive way like you described. We all need to plan our meals and part of that planning is thinking about food.

  12. Jody - Fit at 55 says:

    I may be in the minority but I am one that has lost my weight, kept it off for 30+ years, eats well a good % of the time but still thinks about food A LOT & even the food I want to eat & do not… just me. I feel being fit & healthy is more important to me than the foods but I still think about them. 🙂

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I don’t think you are in the minority at all Jody – at least not what I see every single day. I think people who have lost weight think about food a lot. It all depends on the person rather those thoughts keep us eating healthy food or push us into unhealthier choices.

  13. Dave says:

    Times i think about food are usually when i do physical labor all day and have probably used most of my energy, then you get the feeling what hungry means, all i think about is eating and of course allot of water.

  14. Alejandra @ wishfulshrinking says:

    I find that while I’m pretty in love with food, I only obsess over the thought of it when I’m hungry. If I’m sipping on water or snacking on fruits and veggies through the day, I’m fine. The second I get a “bad” craving though, or am just plain hungry, I can’t focus on anything unless I eat or drink something. Used to be cheeseburgers or something chocolate related that would shut my brain and belly rumble up. What a life that was!
    When I went through a very strict, very limited diet to get me to a safe weight, I thought about food probably every second. I thought about the foods I could not have, the only foods I was allowed to eat, and how much food I was able to eat throughout the day. It consumed my every thought. Relationships with food are extremely complicated.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      You are right – those relationships really are complicated. I too thought about food all the time and like you shared, it was usually unhealthier foods. It takes a lot of time, and for me, a deliberate effort to change those thought patterns. In some ways I think it is all part of that lifelong journey to healthy weight management.

  15. Ellena says:

    Hi Diane!
    You’re blog post totally reminded me of this new method (to me). Have you heard of Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon?
    http://www.eatstopeat.com/?vtid=eatblogeat
    I found his method fascinating, and utterly different from everything I’ve heard before about skipping meals, not eating, etc. I’d love to hear your opinion about it, as I’m definitely not completely sold on it (;
    Thanks!
    Ellena

  16. Brenda says:

    I am a personal chef and think about it all the time. The trick is to be the master of your stomach and you are fine. Also another thing while I am cooking I just sample …I don’t pig out LOL.

  17. Maureen says:

    I think about food quite a bit, but more in the sense of “what will I make for dinner this week?” or “what veggies can I add to make this meal healthier?”
    I try not be obsessive over food thoughts because I know it’s not good for me, but sometimes it is hard.

  18. Jill @ a Girl in Progress says:

    I set out to type a response to this the minute I read the post, but then I couldn’t find the words. I had to take some time to reflect on the past several years of my life. I’ve been through a lot on my journey and definitely used to think and obsess about food pretty much every waking minute. It was mentally and emotionally exhausting. I’ve prayed about it, been to counseling, talked to friends and family about it, etc. I think I’m finally coming into a place in my life where food is a PART of my life but is not my life and doesn’t constantly consume my thoughts.

    That is the biggest freedom I could have hoped for! It wasn’t easy and it certainly didn’t come overnight or with a quick fix. I’m human after all, and I still have days where I think about food more than I should. However, I’m being set free from the bondage and misery of constantly thinking about food.

    Thanks for another really great post that caused me to reflect on my progress!

  19. Vickie says:

    I think there are a lot of things we can do so that we are not putting food thoughts in our heads all the time.

    I avoid the foodie bloggers who talk about food constantly and post food pictures (also constantly). Yes, they are talking about what they consider to be “healthy food”, but it is still way too much exposure.

    I record everything I watch on TV and blink through the commercials.

    I do not go to food based events. There are a lot of other types of events in the world. I go to plays, lectures, book groups, discussion groups, concerts. This is dramatically different than what I used to do.

    I only go to the store once a week. I do not browse aisles, products while I am there.

    Yes, I used to think about food all the time too.

    I think what I did was to retrain my brain. First I learned to only eat at meal time. And then I learned how to sort of only think about food as it related to shop, prep, cook or eat. It took a long time.

    Honestly a lot of the people I know in blog land who struggle with this foodie thing seem to self perpetuate it. I think a lot of it is habit.

    I also think a lot of it has to do with taste buds. The people who move over to whole foods, over time, in a nondeprived way, seem to have taste buds that are not on over drive. And when the taste buds fall in line, it seems like the brain does too.

    It does not happen on day one. It is very much a process.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      It sounds like you were very deliberate in protecting yourself from food “exposure” through the Internet, television, and the media. That’s a smart strategy that a lot of people would likely find useful. Thanks Vickie for sharing that.

      I do like to look at food blogs, but I can also find myself getting sucked into looking at fascinating beautiful recipe after fascinating beautiful recipe. It’s like when the police officers say to people they are arresting, “Step away from the car lady.” I have to tell myself to step away from the beautiful food!

  20. Diane Carbonell says:

    That’s wonderful Norma and something that I know a lot of people long for. To be able to think about food as nourishment and fuel and not entertainment and comfort. You are awesome!

  21. Sarah says:

    Wow, what useful comments here – I have lost 23 pounds over the last few months and my food cravings had all but disappeared. My problem is that I am now beginning to think about food much more often just lately, possibly cos I am near to target and allowing myself to slip back to the commercial watching, blog devouring, recipe swooning.
    I will NOT falter…I will get to target and I will focus on other obsessions like staying fit!

  22. Tanvee says:

    Hi Diane, this post felt like you were writing about me 🙂 I used to think a lot about food even as I continued my weight loss journey food was always on my mind. But the thoughts changed when I was obese I thought about waking up in the morning to eat brownies (I would actually look forward to waking up for the food), as I continued my weight loss journey I started thinking about what I can eat, what would be a healthy switch for my morning brownie, I still think about food more than normal people but it’s just a healthier thought 🙂

  23. Perry says:

    Very interesting read! All the thoughts here are so very positive and are very helpful to any one who is struggling with food addiction. Knowing that you have a problem is always the first step in fighting any obsession and triumphing over it!
    I do think about food a lot only when I have been unconsciously depriving myself. I am sometimes carried away with my activities that I eat too little or forget to eat. This probably points to another type of obsession – work!

  24. Don says:

    Actually this one is rarely a problem for me. I am usually so busy food is sort of an afterthought – I will usually eat relatively quickly and get back to work. When I do think about food, it is mainly when I am looking for an excuse to procrastinate. The one big difference is when I have been on some fasting/cleansing diets – and it is amazing how much I would fantasize about various foods then, even when I got through the first couple days and lost the hunger.

  25. Sharlette says:

    I don’t think about food very much at all. Quite often I will suddenly be yearning for food because I have been busy and forgotten to eat, but mostly if I actually think about food it is to compare different snacks so I can choose the healthiest. 🙂

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