This week I am introducing a topic which may be one of a series, since it is complex topic. But it arose for me as I was attending a work gathering last night and observing the way in which I and others approached the food and alcohol service on a patio restaurant for a social event.
First let me say that work social events have always made me a bit uncomfortable. Over the years I have learned ways to enjoy them (generally without alcohol) but as an introvert, they wear me out. Especially after a long day of meetings, a work event to attend can feel like a special brand of hell to those of us who just want a break from having to interact with people.
For many years, my approach was to be sure I had a glass or two of wine, or a beer, to help myself relax during these events. Many of us know alcohol to be a “social lubricant” and rely on it for loosening up our tongue and not feeling as tense or nervous about having to make small talk.
A couple of years ago I decided to stop drinking completely for a period of time. While I am not alcoholic I noticed I was relying too heavily on wine to relieve my discomfort, and I did not like the habitual nature and automatic desire every evening. It was at the same time that I realized I am in a work culture where many, many people drink at work social events. It is a norm, and I suppose among a lot of introverted engineer types, social lubricant many seem like a necessity sometimes.
When I was not drinking, I felt a lot of pressure from colleagues, and the only answer that caused people to back off from asking why I was not drinking was to tell them it interferes with my sleep. Somehow, then it is less socially acceptable to pressure someone to drink.
But the same goes for pressure around desserts: when you do not have a dessert on my team, everyone gives you crap about it! Tons of pressure.
So the point I want to make in this brief blog (since I will need to run off to meetings again today) is that we often eat, not because we are hungry, but for other reasons, like social pressure. We drink for reasons like that as well.
There is a great episode of Hidden Brain which discusses this topic, and I encourage you to listen if you are interested in the topic of food and psychology. Why we eat goes far beyond actual physical hunger. It sometimes has to do with being unable to tolerate social pressure or personal discomfort.
But we can teach ourselves how to pay attention to our own hunger signals and become comfortable with the momentary discomfort of rejecting food when we really do not want it. Learning this skill we strengthen our ability to make other challenging choices as well, and for me, that has transformed my ability to manage my weight.
Okay, time is limited and I think I will make this into a series, continuing the topic on my next Wellness Wednesday when I will be home and not at all-day work meetings. Happy hump day!