Posts like this: Programmed to Eat make me WANT TO SREAM. I would have left a comment at this person's blog, but all the log-in procedures made it onerous to do so. So here is what I would have said:
There's nothing wrong with eating to fulfill pleasure centers of your brain, and as long as you think there is, you perpetuate the idea that there are two kinds of eating: bad and good.
Eating and food are neutral. There's no moral component to either thing. Demonizing food makes eating it when you're not hungry an even more desirable activity (thus setting up the systems by which our brains can get into a shame spiral about eating a donut or some cookies).
When you consider yourself virtuous because you didn't eat anything at Assembly Hall, you've thus set up a false dichotomy that won't do you any good; next time you do eat something there, you'll beat yourself up for succumbing to the bad. You're also, by extension, saying that anyone who is thin is virtuous and anyone who is fat is sinful and bad.
See anything wrong with this picture?
I don't think his initial point is that bad. The idea that we're programmed to eat at certain time is true. We're programmed to eat a big turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, after all, even if we don't want turkey (and I don't! I hate turkey.). I feel programmed to eat at breakfast, lunch and dinner, because if I don't, I feel both a physical hunger and a brain-based hunger. I like eating at those times. It's pleasurable for my body, and also fills my stomach comfortably.
Where he goes off the rails for me is when he says, essentially, that this is BAD. This programmed eating is inherently and always bad, and if we can exercise some self-control, we are good people who will no longer be obese! He might not say it explicitly, but it's pretty clear that he believes quite strongly that thinny thin thinsters are good good good people with buckets of self-control, who only eat ever when they're stomach hungry which makes them ever so virtuous and good, and fat fat fatties are people with no self-control whatsoever who *gasp* eat at cultural events because they're bad bad bad and full of hunger sin.
Obviously, my pretend comment makes it pretty clear that I think setting up a dichotomy between real (read stomach) hunger and other kinds of hunger is a Very Bad Idea. I believe quite strongly that no matter where your hunger comes from (a need for comfort, a desire to experience some pleasure, a way to connect with friends, or yes, your stomach, to name a few places) it should be honored. Ignoring hungers doesn't make you more virtuous. It makes you more hungry.
We've entrapped ourselves in a world where everything we put in our mouths has some value attached to it: it's bad or good, healthful or unhealthful, sinful or not, virtuous or not. But what if it's just a cookie? What if it's just a piece of celery slathered in cream cheese? What if it's just two or four or ten slices of pizza? What if we stop with this dichotomy and just allow ourselves to eat? Full stop. Forget about hungry or not. Forget about healthful or not. Eat when you want to eat, what you want to eat. Wouldn't that be better for all of us? If we could authentically eat like this, I'm convinced the world would be a better place.
A girl can dream, can't she?