Thursday, November 12, 2009

Food & Happiness

It’s not true, you know.

The idea that a candy bar, a bag of chips or a big spread at a Mexican restaurant is going to make you happy. To be sure, there will be that magnificent moment when chocolate brushes by your lips or you take that first crisp crunch of a still-warm tortilla chip smothered in spicy salsa.

But it’s a fleeting sensation… there and gone in the blink of an eye. In the morning, all that will be left is a lot of fat and/or sodium slowly churning through your system and a lot of guilt caked on your brain.

Somewhere along the line, somewhere deeply rooted in our messed-up wiring, is the idea that food equals happiness. The belief that if a little food makes you feel this good, a lot of food will make you feel that much better. Everyone doesn’t think like this, but I know that I did, and I’m sure a great many of you do (or did), too.

That’s an equation that put too many of us in a place that we never wanted to be.

A place where it’s easier to keep giving in to temptation than to make any real and lasting change in our life.

Believe me, I’ve been right there with you, and I know exactly what it feels like to confidently proclaim “This ends today!” in the morning and to sheepishly admit “Yes, I would like fries with that” in the afternoon. It’s a truly demoralizing sensation that leaves you feeling as if you have no control over the situation. Helpless and hopeless.

I don’t know what it’s going to take to get you over that hump. For me, it was a weekend at home all by my lonesome where I could really reflect on the mistakes of my past and steel myself for the hard road ahead. Someone recently pointed out to me that that alone-time was probably the incubator I needed to make the necessary changes inside my head. Whatever it was, I wish I could bottle and market it because that mindset is a life-changing elixer.

And don’t get me wrong. I still enjoy good food, but I’m redefining “good”. Seeing it in a whole new light. Not just eating with my mouth anymore, but with my head. It’s difficult to change a lifetime of bad habits, but the only way to do it is to break them down and replace them with new better habits.

Our brains are remarkable creations, but they don’t always seem to have our body’s best interests at heart. That brain sends out a lot of crazy messages – “How about some cinnamon buns” “Melt some more cheese on it” or “Let’s just grab something at the drive-thru” – that makes it easy to believe it just wants to build a cushy moat around itself. How better to accomplish that feat than convince you that eating will bring you happiness?

But food won’t make you happy in the end.

Feeling good makes you happy.

Feeling good about yourself makes you happy.

Being healthy and fit and strong makes you happy.

And you, my friend, deserve to be happy.

I could give you a thousand and one weight-loss tips. I might even be able to help you figure out a pretty effective workout routine. But until you really embrace this whole adventure fully… until you do a little heavy lifting upstairs… I seriously doubt you’ll have the kind of success that you’re looking for or, frankly, deserve.

It’s time to really wrap your head around what it’s truly going to take to accomplish what you want to accomplish.

After all, that’s the first step in getting it done.


  1. you know what made me happy? getting rid of potoato chips, I mean it cleaning out my pantry and deciding that it was my time to shine.
    as the saying goes "Nothing taste as good as thin feels".
    Thanks for the reminder my friend.

  2. I could not have said it better Jack.. so friggin true! You have to put the hard work in both physically AND mentally! And how good it feels to be healthy, fit & strong!

    There is no quick fix that works long term & no magic pill. Get that thought straight & move on. This is a journey, not a race & it is a life long one.

    I lost weight in high school & then flip flopped up & down 10 pounds in my early 20's. And it took to my 30's to understand better & I just kept learning & still do.... it is a journey no matter what & it is a life journey. I think I understood even more in my 40's & now in my 50's then in my 30's!

    Really great post Jack!

  3. Great post. There's that sweet spot-- three squares of chocolate may be nicer than zero squares, but six, nine, or twelve squares do not contribute to your happiness in the long run.

  4. Food is no different than alcohol or drugs in that the happiness is always temporary and not the real deal. Ever have a food hangover? Awful and you really don't feel better, you feel worse.

  5. Hear, hear!

    The food may taste great, but once its gone...what do you have left?

    Eat to live, not live to eat.

  6. Too true.
    I like food entirely too much for my own good, and it's a hurdle I still come up against every once in a while. Food should not make me as happy as it does.
    But I'm learning.
    Now if I could just banish PMS cravings I'd be set...

  7. This is exactly what I need to hear right now. I think I'm gonna follow your lead and take some time out to really think about why I'm doing this and altering my mindset.
    Thank you for writing this post!

  8. Good post as always Jack. I think I might get hubby to read this one.

  9. Great post! Not only does the good food that I am eating now make me happy it doesn't make my gallbladder-less tummy feel sick anymore! whoo hooo!

  10. Love this post! It's so true. Even though chocolate and fries may make me happy for a few minutes. My body feels very unhappy for a couple of days!!

  11. Yep. I mean, if I could lose a pound every time I heard somebody in my life say "I just don't want to live my life that way, always having to say no to my favorite things, always worried about what I put in my mouth", and then later make a comment their fat thighs, flabby arms, or whatever - well, let's just say my blog wouldn't be a weight loss one.

    And really, you said it. It's just about redefining a few things. Redefining what good means.

    Thanks, Jack.

  12. word! Feeling good about myself DOES make me happy!! happier than any amount of food ever could! It's good to be able finally to realise this!It's good to read this so eloquently put by your good self. Just fab. Thanks Jack xxx

  13. Fantastic as always Jack, you write with such honesty, it's very refreshing to read :)

  14. I do deserve to be happy, you are so right! Sometimes that means doing things that make me uncomfortable but I can't turn around and comfort myself with food.

  15. I agree with you completely. I think this has been a challenging road so far, but it has also been way more exciting than I could have imagined. I love being more active, feeling great and being in control. And I do it (almost) everyday with a good attitude. I honestly think that's a huge part of it.

    We have to do it even if it's not easy because it's worth it.

  16. I think it's a process, really. Mentalities don't change overnight.
    Mine changed long after I started losing weight.. but it has made things easier and I feel so much better now.

  17. Amen. Food won't make you happy. But that serotonin carb boost is for real!

    It is hard to change, and I agree, for most of us it is a looonnnng process. No way I could flip the switch in one weekend. You are lucky that way Jack.

    I will say hello to Telluride for you! Thanks for your comments on my blog, as always.

  18. " confidently proclaim “This ends today!” in the morning and to sheepishly admit “Yes, I would like fries with that” in the afternoon."

    I could go for months like that until I decided, "If not now, when?"

    Great post as usual.

  19. Class A post, per usual.

    With one caveat:

    Studies have shown that chocolate massages a pleasure zone in our brains and makes them more active.

  20. FANFRICKIN-TASTIC JACK. absolutely. I was just saying that to my husband the other day...that if I could bottle the flip switch that went off in my head that day standing there in build a bear I would. It's like a reverse negative. Thank you for show prep Jack. I know what I am going to blog about tonight.

  21. I had an epiphany on just this very thing last night. At home was a delicious low-fat, low calorie potato gratin waiting for me to heat it up; all I had to do was saute some scallops and voila! A healthy dinner. Yet for a few minutes before I went home for the day (to my dinner) I really, really wanted to stop at Subway to get dinner. It would be for a healthy meal too, on the way home, etc., but it would also cost money I don't really have to spare. I asked myself why, when I had this delicious gratin (it's really good) that I had been looking forward to all day. And I realized that, for me, part of why I want to eat out or eat something already made (chips or something) is because I didn't have to make it. Someone else did. In other words, someone else was taking care of me for a change. See, I'm single. I do it all. If I don't cook, I don't eat. So now I'm going to ask myself if I really want to eat _____ or if I just want someone else to take care of me. Then I'll go call a friend or my mom, or hug my dogs. And then I'll make dinner.

  22. Damn you and your serious posts.

    Food does not make me happy, you are right about that. I am currently making horrendous choices and I certainly do not feel happy about it.

    Why, why, why is the question? Why don't I feel like I deserve to be happy?

  23. "Not just eating with my mouth anymore, but with my head."

    THAT is why I read your blog, Jack. Thanks for another thought-provoking and TRUE post.

    I guess I need to slow down long enough to ask myself the question: Is this [insert food here] going to make me happier than reaching goal will?

  24. I needed this today. How did you know?

  25. Great post! You would think after losing 100+ pounds that I wouldn't struggle with this anymore, but this whole thing is still a learning process. I do have to remind myself that food won't make me happy. I just take it one decision at a time and it all seems manageable. Thanks!

  26. Absolutely true! Every single word! I HATE when I get down and food is the first thing I want! But I am learning day by day to replace that instant thought with something healthy or to get off my butt and find something to do to take my mind off of it.

    Your after pic is great by the way! Is that your Billy Mays impression? LOL (Seriously though, looking good!)

  27. Well, heck, that's some pretty amazing blog-timing. It happens that way often, eh? Thanks for sharing a great post :)
    I'm trying so hard to do the heavy lifting upstairs and being aware of those things - but seems like there is some hump I can't get over... I will, but at this moment I don't know where it comes from.
    Maybe the actions will have to come before all that understanding... because I know I'm just not GETTING it... but I will.

  28. Thanks Jack. Im really struggling lately and your posts really help me open my eyes.

  29. Food doesn't equal happiness. When I was 305 pounds I didn't feel happy after I ate, but rather ate to not feel the other emotions.

    Great post.

  30. So true! Just keeping your head in the game is key!

    I'm finding my food-happiness connection when I just say no!

  31. I am finding that many things don't make me happy that I thought did at one time. Amazing the changes our heads make when we do give ourselves time to think. I took 3 months :)

    You always seem to know what I need to hear or reaffirm. Thanks!

  32. So true.
    My wants should not outweigh my needs.
    I need healthy food. I want chips.
    I don't need the chips so I won't eat the chips.

    So easy to read & tough some days to actually do. Stupid brain. ;)

    Best wishes Jack,

  33. Food is truly one of the great pleasures in life (in my opinion), but it's true that it won't make you happy. In fact, if you abuse it, it always makes you unhappy in the end.

    Great post, Jack.

  34. What I love about your more serious posts is that they are often adressed to the general masses who read your blog. I think that it's great that you put effort into helping others on the way to better health, and I hope you know that it truly makes a difference.

  35. I just ate a vegetable. I thought I should let people know... I'm not sure if I'm happy about it- Foolsfitness- Alan

  36. You're absolutely right! Feeling good makes you happy. The better you feel physically, the happier you feel. Of course it doesn't solve all your problems, but from experience I can tell you that it's easier to be happy in a fit healthy body than a soft pudgy lazy one. It is sooooo worth the effort it takes to get into shape - days become sunnier, problems easier to handle. I choose fitness and happiness.
    Live Life Happy!

  37. In the end? No. In the present? Yes. That's why people turn to it so often. But there are many ways to find happiness. You just have to find and choose those instead.

  38. Love! Love! Love! this post. You hit it on the nail. You are my hero for the day. Thank you for sharing.

  39. I love this post. LOVE. Thanks, needed to read it today.

  40. THIS WAS A BRILLIANT ENTRY...every word you wrote I would find myself agreeing with you.
    Until the mindset is there - nothing can be done to help the one trying to lose the weight...

    For myself I remember, something clicked in my head...up till then I tacked my weight with emotions, seeing my reflection in the mirror hating what I saw and then going on the first crash diet I could find, lasting 2 week and falling off the wagon again...
    But once the click happened in my life changed.

  41. Excellent post, Jack. Without that 'click', not much happens in the Real Change department.



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