Rules for Eating and Drinking


I have a few rules for eating and drinking in order to

  1. prevent overeating,
  2. increase enjoyment,
  3. be more concentrated while working and
  4. ensure that I'm at my best the next day.

Not to say that I always manage to abide by them – but when I do, I'm better off.

Be present

When you eat, eat. And when you drink, drink. Don't read, text, watch a movie or work at the same time. One major point is that eating when not hungry becomes boring. So, by not keeping entertained, it's easier to not overeat. The only exception to this rule is talking to other people in the room. But even then, devote at least some of your attention to it.

My only exception is drinking water when working or doing other things.

Eat only when positively hungry

This one is quite obvious, but can be hard to follow. Food often tastes great and can be tempting even when you're not hungry. It's easy to argue yourself into eating, for example by referring to ideas about eating and exercise.

Put your cutlery down for every bite, and don't reach for it until you've swallowed and breathed

Because your feeling of hunger has a certain delay, it's easy to overeat. By following the procedure below, you force yourself to slow down.

  1. Take a bite.
  2. Put down the cutlery. If you're not using cutlery, for example because you're eating an apple, put the piece of food down.
  3. Chew well and swallow.
  4. Take at least one breath.
  5. Repeat.

Set a limit on the units of alcohol you'll drink over the course of a day

For me, this limit is two. That way, I mostly avoid being dumber than usual the next day.

With alcohol, be a follower

Don't lead drinking. If other people aren't drinking, or you're alone, don't drink. If the people you're with are having one beer, don't be the first to open a second.

Fast every now and then

Fasting probably helps your health and is a quite interesting and fulfilling experience. I usually try to fast until I reach the second slump. For me, that comes around day four.

Limit coffee

While coffee isn't dangerous, and some studies suggest that it's positively healthy, it has some downsides:

  1. It's easy to get addicted. Some people (like me) get withdrawals in the form of headaches.
  2. Coffee makes your teeth look worse.
  3. By drinking coffee, you mask your need for sleep.

Ask your future self

Ask yourself, if I eat this, will I be happier an hour from now? If you're positively hungry, and "this" is something healthy, then the answer is probably yes. But if those two conditions aren't satisfied, your future self will probably be less happy.

Louis C. K. joked, "The meal is over when I hate myself". While a funny joke, hating yourself sucks.

Eat and drink the healthy stuff

This is a huge and controversial topic, so I'll refrain from a lengthy discussion here. Rather, I'll note that – so far in my research – Nina Teicholz and Gary Taubes are most convincing.

Avoid temptations or make them less tempting

If I've bought beer for guests, I don't put them in the fridge before I have to. That way, I'm less tempted to grab one. Also, I find it easier to avoid buying stuff than to not consume it when I have it at home.

"Just one" is a myth

I, for one, have difficulties eating just one piece of chocolate or one piece of cake.

Break the rules if important

If it's important enough, break the rules. Some examples:

  1. You need to stay awake, for example during a drive or crunch time at work.*
  2. You're a competitive athlete.
  3. The social situation calls for it. For example, it's slightly rude to decline food when offered. So, sometimes it's good to have that piece of cake.
  4. The occasion is special. It's okay to break the rules as long as it doesn't become a habit. I have to admit, I sometimes drink a lot more than two units of alcohol.

* In the army, we learned that "good soldiers eat when they aren't hungry, drink when they aren't thirsty and sleep when they aren't tired." Who knows when we'll get the chance again, right? While good advice in military settings, it's best avoided in civilian life.