by Michael Plank

“Eating like an asshole.”

Man, I wish I’d never said that. I used that term a lot a few years ago. I never used it to directly criticize someone. I always said it about myself or used it in a hypothetical scenario. But if I could go back and delete that phrase from my brain, I would in a heartbeat.

What I was trying to talk about was the phenomenon where eating an extra roll at dinner leads to 5 beers, a trip to taco bell, and a pint of ice cream (what? just me?). Melissa Urban of the Whole30 uses the term “food without brakes,” which is much better. In my own work with my nutrition coach, we started using language around eating “with or without intention,” which I also like.

The problem with describing any kind of eating as being “like an asshole,” is that it overlays a huge heaping of judgment on it. And if there’s one thing any therapist or counselor or meditation teacher of philosopher worth their salt will tell you, it’s that adding judgment to a behavior is not a helpful way to change it. It doesn’t mean that judgment can’t be valid, but it does mean that people are much more successful when they can look at a behavior objectively – as neither good nor bad – and then make a decision about whether or not that behavior serves them. That’s easier to do with a clear head than with the shame spiral that inevitably follows the second you believe that you’re “eating like an asshole.”

Ugh. Any time I hear someone use that phrase now I cringe and feel a stab of guilt. If I ever said that to you or around you, I’m sorry. I wish I hadn’t. And I don’t anymore.

But we can’t change the past, so here’s what I’ll say moving forward. The next time you feel like your eating is careening out of control, take 30 seconds and clear your head, then ask yourself “what’s my intention right now?” and then make a guilt-free decision based on that. And, spoiler alert, sometimes my intention is to have an extra beer with my friends because we’re having a great time. It’s not all about deprivation. And if that doesn’t work, try nutrition coaching, it’s worked wonders for me, and our nutrition coach will take 10-15 minutes with you to talk for free about how we can help.

And when you end up doing stuff that you ultimately regret (ahem – see the beginning of this post), learn from it, and move on.