5 questions to ask before you eat.

I love me some Seth Simonds.

I could wax eloquently about why, but suffice it to say he’s my reverse mentor & was even before he knew my name.

Please to bookmark his site.

Please to bask in the insightful wizdom which is he.

Please to enjoy.

5 Questions To Ask Before Eating Anything

Have you ever walked into your kitchen, opened the fridge, and eaten a cup of sour cream with potato chips before realizing you’d only meant to get a glass of water?

That was me.

I was a rag doll in the fierce clutch of my rampaging hunger. At first, I felt like I couldn’t control my hunger at all. I tried to outsmart it by keeping healthy snacks around the house. That was a step in the right direction but not enough because I was still eating constantly. I was in a constant state of hunger. I started looking for a solution and found it, not in food, but in my relationship to the stuff (I do not, however, have a relationship with mustard greens. Evil stuff).

I started paying attention to why I was eating instead of only when and what I ate. I’ll go over the discovery process in a later post. For now, here are the five questions I ask myself before eating anything:

1. Am I dehydrated?

The simple truth is that most of us don’t drink enough water. When I began to ask myself this question before eating, I immediately stopped eating heavily after workouts. I substituted a glass of water and a piece of fruit for my post-workout kitchen assault and felt more energy within 20 minutes than if I’d eaten the full meal.
2. Am I trying to overcome emotions with food?

Also known as “emotional eating”. Boredom, sadness, anxiousness, and even positive feelings like exhilaration and ecstasy can create a “hunger” that seems very real. I had allowed eating to become my quick-fix during moments of high stress or intense emotion. I replaced the eating with exercise (let off steam, literally!), a phone call to a trusted friend, or a mug of tea (don’t hate on the tea-drinkers). Taking control of my emotional eating didn’t just reduce my food intake. It gave me a sense of power over my behavior that trickled over into how I dealt with the tension at hand!
3. Am I physically exhausted?

“Hi, I’m Seth and I’m a recovered energy drink addict.” It’s true. I was one of those guys who didn’t sleep well and guzzled refined sugars and caffeine to make up for it. By taking control of my wild sleep schedule and becoming an early riser (posting on this next week) I was able to go from four cans of Full Throttle a day to the occasional cup of coffee or tea. By asking myself “Am I eating because I’m tired?” I was able to distinguish between hunger because I missed lunch and hunger because my body needs to rest.
4. Am I eating to be polite?

If you’ve ever eaten dinner then gone to a friend’s party, discovered it’s actually a dinner party, and eaten dinner all over again, you know how hard it is to eat intelligently in social settings! When you’re at a social, work, or other occasion that involves food, remind yourself that eating “to be polite” need not include gorging yourself. Armed with my new outlook, I recently walked into a friend’s party-turned-dinner. Instead of being “polite” and eating a full meal, I told my friend I’d just eaten and asked if I could help out at all. He was delighted to have some help,  and nobody asked why I wasn’t eating. (Confession: I did sit down for dessert. Warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream is not something I refuse easily)
5. Do I need to sustain my body?

If I’ve answered “NO” to the first four questions, I’ve found that there’s a solid chance I should answer “YES!” to the final question and fuel my body with something healthy that I enjoy eating. When you discover the joy of eating to fuel your body, you begin an adventure of grand proportions. I like the idea of having adventures that are larger than my waistline!

Once you’ve made a habit of asking these questions, it becomes less of a chore and more of a subliminal process.

You won’t see me standing in front of my fridge reciting these questions out loud (although it might be a good idea to print them out and put them on your fridge?) but you can be certain I’m running through the list in my head.


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  1. Tina says

    This is so fantastic! Sure, people have proposed the idea before. Some of these questions are so much better than any I have heard before. I am printing this out! Thanks

  2. says

    Good info, for sure. I ran into the problem of eating too much when overly tired a few months ago, or that’s when I first noticed it, anyway. Easy enough to defeat, if I’m paying enough attention to see it for what it is. :)

  3. says

    i HEART you Seth!!! So cool to see you here :-)

    Great questions that I definitely need to remind myself of daily. I had “mindless eating” syndrome for a long time.

  4. says

    Well said, Seth! Eating for fuel instead of entertainment or to fill a void or to feed an emotion takes practice. Will power + Skill power (knowledge) = Results

    Thanks for sharing your insight with us today.

  5. says

    Great post. I wonder what percentage of the time we eat because we’re hungry vs. one of this other reasons!! Hope your Monday is treating you well!

  6. says

    I am NEW Seth Lover!!!! Excellent Post!!! The lack of water and sleep and Definately politeness(Drug reps and the “Devil’s Food” Are my pitfalls!! I am going to incorporate the 5 questions into my daily living!! Thanks Miz for The Wonderful Introduction!!
    Love Ya Both!!
    Dr. Mo

  7. Cindie says

    Thanks for today’s post. I am struggling with all the holiday goodies still hanging around my house and I find myself walking in and out of the kitchen and just grabbing something without even thinking. I will ask myself these questions next time I walk past a plate of cookies or a bowl of chips!

  8. says

    Ah, Seth, I love this so much. It’s so well thought-out and so clearly stated that it resonates in a very new way. I adore the notion of taking five minutes to stop and think my way through these questions methodically – it appeals to my sense of order/OCD. :-) It’s a great technique to really get a handle on eating habits, which is something I need to do right now – I’ve gotten a bit out of control and can’t even blame it on the holidays.

    Also, have been meaning to mention that I love that you’re Facebooking your posts, Miz – gives me yet another methodical, orderly way to do my blog reading! :-)


  9. says

    That drinking water is a big thing. Many people are just thirsty when they think they are hungry!

    Great post & self discovery & learning are so important to our growth in terms of learning what helps us get thru this process!

    It took me a long time to get past the emotional eating & now I ask if the person or situation that got me upset is really worth downing a ton of calories I will probably not even taste cause I am pissed off at the moment.

    As for polite.. I learned a long time a go to say NO if I did not want to eat something. My family & friends are used to it! :-)

    Enjoyed your post! Good info!

  10. says

    1 and 3 speak to me. I know I have a tendency to not drink enough liquids, especially in cold weather!

    I also eat when I am tired. I have sleeping troubles fairly often and the next day is such a struggle snackwise.

  11. says

    Great post!!!! I am trying to ask myself those same questions! Emotional eating seems to be a big issue for me, so I am really trying to take the time to listen to what I am feeling when I want to eat.

  12. says

    I love this! The “Am I exhausted” question is so true for me. I always eat more when I’m tired. I too am a converted early riser. Love me a good schedule:) Also love this: “I was a rag doll in the fierce clutch of my rampaging hunger.” Thanks Seth!

  13. says

    Good questions!

    I also tend to ask myself: do I only feel like tempting “snack” food or does a real meal sound appealing too? If I’m not hungry enough to want a bowl of chili or a turkey sandwich, maybe I don’t actually need crackers and peanut butter either.

    On the other hand, if I AM hungry enough to want a real meal, but the timing’s wrong and it’s too close to lunch or dinner and I don’t want to spoil my appetite, a smaller healthy snack is a great idea.

  14. says

    Thanks for the link to Seth’s blog. What a nice, funny guy! :)

    I can relate to a lot of your post today. Especially #4 on eating to be polite. Our society is so strange if you sit and think about it. We slam people because they are fat yet we throw food in front of them all of the time. Commercials, signage, etc.

    And then we have holidays and gatherings that center around food. Even if someone has already ate, they are expected to join in, or it’s rude. I’ve never understood that. It almost seems like our society sets people up to be fat.

  15. says

    BEAUTIFUL. I read this and thought “holy crap is there a secret camera following me around?” :) I think that these are issues we ALL have difficulties with; thanks so much for addressing them on such a practical level.

  16. says

    I obviously should have woken up earlier to reply to your amazing comments!

    Full disclosure: I am eating as I write this. =) Fresh pineapple from Wholefoods—the place incredibly sexy people go to walk around the store in their fair trade clothes to make all the trying-not-to-be-fat people feel like crap about themselves… or is it inspired? I choose to be inspired.

    @Tina – Sure, the idea has been proposed before. I don’t think that’s a terrible issue because, when it comes to personal health choices, real change seems to be a matter of timing. You have to encounter the right information when you’re ready to act upon it in order for the information to be useful. I hope this time it was! =)

    @YumYucky – ROFLWES – “roll on the floor laughing while eating a sandwich” – food doesn’t talk to me anymore. High fiber food can make noises at other stages though…

    @Cammy – The problem is that when we’re tired we don’t think to do things like… sleep! If you don’t have time to sleep, a few tablespoons of raw cocoa powder tossed in the blender with a frozen banana and some soymilk… GOOD MORNING! =)

    @Michelle – Punch your pillows before you hop into bed. Will loosen the muscles in your arms and you’ll fall asleep more easily… it’s also fun to punch things. =)

    @Sue – I saved myself more than 20 hours of exercise (okay, I sound terribly lazy now) by not pigging out over the weekend! I don’t recommend it though. Enough to drive one crazy.

    @Fitarella – aww, thanks! Why can’t we all get “mindless jogging syndrome”? I want to catch that! If one of y’all has it, can we make out? Pleeeease? Thanks.

    @Joanna – You forgot about THE POWER, namely, chocolate? A diet that says one can’t have chocolate on occasion is not worth trying, I say. =)

    @Erica – When I started asking myself these questions the number of times I actually ate something each day dropped by about 50%. Craziness! I’m sure for others it will be less but I was a zero-turn mower. =)

    @FootDr69 – I have as much love for thee as thou has exclamation marks for me. =)

    @Cindie – Sit down and eat everything that’s left in your house. You’ll feel so crappy that you’ll be good for at least a week of not snacking. =P Alternately, you could invite some friends over for a “save me from my snacks” party! Nothing wrong with making your friends work off some pounds instead of you, right? =)

    @Valerie – You have OCD, I have ADD. I’m glad we could put our letters together and make a beautiful progress baby! =)

    @Jody – I’ve proven myself to be pretty adept at making myself fat. No need to let others do it, right? =) You sound so strong & confident. When I am 52 I hope to be the same!

    @Lori – $10 says that if you stop worrying about your weight and focus entirely on making sense of your sleep cycle, some other things will seem to take care of themselves. Fighting a 2-front battle is so hard. Prioritize, love! I wish you all the best!

    @Charlotte – Now, if I could just combine getting up early with working out. I’d be a walking success story. More on that soon. =)

    @MizFit – Thanks so much for having me! There’s obviously enough of me to go around… for now. When I’m skinny we’ll have to work out some sort of visitation schedule. =)

    @Crabby – Smart snacking is an important tool for good health and sustained energy levels. The “3 squares” concept tends to make one round. I’m a big fan of the small handful of almonds and glass of water concept. =)

    @Francesca – I’m happy to meet you! =)

    @AFG – Societal pressures… yes. But I have always been the one to put food in my mouth. I was never forced to eat. Finding the confidence to do what is best for oneself is a definite struggle but a journey worth taking. I’m so glad to have you along!

    @Sagan – Yes, actually. If you go to SaganGoneWild.com you can view yourself in numerous attractively compromising situations for a small monthly fee. =P Thanks for reading!

  17. Nettie says

    Awesome post (and I was planning to skip all blog reading this week. Are you posting all week?!).

    Thanks for a new blog to add to my reader, Miz.

    You are, indeed, my Fitness Guidance Counselor.

  18. says

    Ah- I have thought I eat from boredom in the evening. (well, I probably do). but never thought that I could be eating because I’m tired and need to go to bed.

    After having the hydration thing down – many people think of me as the “hydration gal” – I’ve screwed it up lately by substituting coffee. What? It’s hot, and has caffeine! Must reverse this trend.

    Forget putting these questions on the fridge -I need them on my right palm So I can see them every time I lift something into my mouth.

    Great list, Seth. Thanks.

    And @Lori- I have found that since I’m exercising, taking zinc and magnesium right before I go to bed is creating the nicest night sleep. This from a chronic insomniac.

  19. says

    I’ve definitely added your blog to my google reader :) Can’t wait to start reading your posts!!
    I do have to say that this week i’ve been eating my meals only at the table and slowly, taking small bites. No reading etc. And what surprised me not only did it take longer to eat :) but i was satisfied a lot quicker!!

  20. says

    Great list. I have to ask myself before I eat something whether I’m eating it because I actually need to or if I’m eating because I want to.

  21. says

    I’m all for being successful at the over eating game. I can’t help thinking that this is like the proven good advice of counting to ten when we are upset. The problem I have, is if I could count to ten, I would not have been upset in the first place. The best advice I know is to have a plan, and stick to it.

  22. says

    Hmm, polite eating, never thought about it, but I do it sometimes. I don’t drink enough water, am consciously trying to remember to do so.

  23. says

    You guys are positively awesome. That is to say, both positive AND awesome.

    I’d also like to say that I’m jealous of all you talking about scarfing Christmas cookies. This is the first year I didn’t have big gingerbread men to nosh on alongside giant mugs of hot chocolate. Oh, boy, oh yum!

    Thanks for letting me share a bit of my craziness with you today!

    Much love,


  24. says

    I love the idea. I have a hard time remembering to do things like this long term (past the magical 1 week mark that I seem to stumble at). Any tips?

  25. says

    Great list. I’m usually better but I’ve been a little lax about this over the holiday. Good reminder to start getting my head out of this haze and being a sane person again! :)

  26. Claudia says

    This is all very well and totally true and helpful but unfortunately doesn’t address what for me is the core problem, which is that I just want to eat crap.

  27. says

    I recently came across Seth Simond’s and his blog. I too am finding his words of wisdom to be a form of mentoring. Your blog popped up into my reader as a suggested site and I am subscribing now.

  28. says


    I just have to say, I really love these questions. I posted them all over my house and just by reading them, I’ve already prevented many a food meltdown. So, I just wanted to say thanks for this post! (P.S. I’m also really enjoying the podcast that you and Shauna do. Keep up the great work!)