Jul 312007

Anyone ever notice that? When you’re really hungry and you’re in a shop, that’s when you are the most indecisive about what to eat. Which I find kind of ironic because every second you spend being indecisive, is a second being hungry.

I think this happens because you want to choose the thing that will give you the best “bang for your buck”, and when presented with a dizzying array of very similar choices causes a lot of cognitive dissonance. If you had to choose between a dead skunk and a sandwich, I think most of us would choose the sandwich, but what if there’s seven kinds of sandwiches, two kinds of salads and four kinds of candy bars? All the choices are good and, assuming they’re all the same size, would fill you up about the same. So the tie breaker becomes taste.

I think that taste is the real problem because it will all taste so good because you’re hungry. But therein also lies the solution, it will all taste good because you’re hungry. And you cannot have buyer’s remorse if you haven’t tasted the others, unless your choice tastes bad. So, just pick up something and know that it won’t matter in another fifteen minutes because you’ll have probably eaten it and forgotten about it.

My recommendation? Two, actually:

  • Decide what you want ahead of time, perhaps as you’re walking into the shop or kitchen. You might also decide on a second choice, but be firm about it. Making the decision ahead of time helps prevent some of the second-guessing when all your choices are in front of you. If your desired choice isn’t available, you’re back to square one, and suggestion number two might help:
  • Set yourself a time limit, say, 10 seconds to make a decision and get out. If you have the discipline, you might decide that if you don’t make a decision in 10 seconds, you’ll either walk out empty-handed (and empty-stomached) or buy something you really don’t like. This isn’t to scare you into making a decision because you actually have to be able to walk out or buy that undesirable food. If you can’t do that because you just don’t have that kind of discipline, don’t do this.

You might be able to recognize that this heuristic applies to many things–not just food. Deciding what you want ahead of time and giving yourself a time limit to make a decision can be very helpful for many things, including when looking for a car, house, partner, dog, fan, career, god knows what else. For more complicated things, you might decide to list down some things or characteristics you are looking for. It makes it more likely that you’ll be able to recognize what you want when you are faced with it.

  One Response to “When you’re the hungriest, is when you don’t know what to eat”

  1. Heh, I’m always the first to decide what to eat when I go out for dinner with friends. Prolly because I’ve realised that, as long as the restaurant is good, I’ll enjoy *anything* on the menu.

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