The Excuse Brain

Defeat the Excuse Brain - photo by mcmi

To make improvements in your life it is important to first recognize your weaknesses. Certain character traits just seem to be built into us. It may be possible to ignore problems for awhile but eventually our hardwired flaws catch up with us. One thing I’ve been taking more notice of lately is that when I am faced with any situation that deviates from my normal routine, my instinct is to make an excuse to eat.

After indulging quite a bit over the holidays, Daniel and I got back into our normal healthier routine in the new year. But last week when I heard there was a snow storm approaching my first thought was, “We better go stock up on snow day snacks!” The news that frozen water vapor would be falling from the sky some time in the near future was enough for me to completely forget about my health goals. In my “excuse brain” this line of thinking made perfect sense.

If you look hard enough (and believe me, I have) you can always find an excuse…a friend’s birthday, a long weekend, an invitation to dinner, a new flavor of Oreos, a stressful day, good news, bad news…Arbor Day. You can always use some twisted logic to find a reason to eat. But if you can recognize your tendency to do this, it will be easier to avoid.

Next time you find yourself making an excuse to do something contrary to the goals you’ve set for yourself—even if it seems like a good reason—take a breath and really think about it. Is it a good decision or is it “excuse brain” taking over?

What are some of your triggers for making excuses? What is the silliest excuse you have used to break from your healthy living goals?



15 thoughts on “The Excuse Brain

  1. SMG

    I am impelled more by stress or emotional triggers than special events or holidays. When the pressure hits, the Crisis Manager in me goes into gear, and once everything is back under control I immediately feel like I need to eat something, even though I’m not necessarily hungry. The eating regimen for reduction I am presently following does factor in a snack mid morning and mid afternoon, so I can eat something if I need to. Just yesterday after having had my little snack of lean protein a small bomb dropped on my head – I took care of it, and then immediately had the compulsion to get more protein. I was sated from my first little snack. It was completely the aftershock of the stress. I don’t know whether I thought it was reward or a way to fill the void after the adrenaline stopped?

    Emotional triggers also compel me to eat – when people make comments about my weight, when I feel stressed or lonely, to want to fill a void. I’m glad to say that I am getting better about realizing it. I haven’t developed an early warning system for stress triggers, though, such as yesterday’s episode. I’ll have to be attuned to what my inner voice is saying to figure out how to circumvent it. The brain’s role in all this is so interesting.

    Speaking of the brain, I am eagerly awaiting Susan Peirce Thompson’s new book entitled Bright Line Eating that will be published in March… from what I have been able to gather, her approach is pretty straightforward and some might say a bit rigid. No sugar or flour, eating between meals, 3 meals a day & everything weighed & measured. Her expertise is neuropsychology, and she maintains that by following these bright lines and not compromising helps to heal the brain from addiction to food (dopamine receptors). I am eager to read the science behind her formulation. I can say that when I am off sugar, flour, artificial sweeteners, etc. for a good period of time the drive to eat them is minimized.

    1. Ella

      Thank you for mentioning that book. That sounds like the program singer Judy Collins has followed for many years. She has an upcoming book “Cravings” which talks about this.

  2. Denise

    So I’m not the only one. Mine seems to be similar: if anything outside my routine changes up a bit, I get thrown off. Stress contributes, but my issue seems to be mostly routine-based. Thank you for putting this into better words than I could. I live in Myrtle Beach, SC, and back in October we had Hurricane Matthew. It’s pathetic to say this, but I got completely thrown off by the whole storm thing. Being without power for 72 hours didn’t help and of course all I wanted to eat was junk food. I still haven’t been able to bounce back, and that was 5 months ago. I guess I can’t blame the hurricane any longer.

  3. Hanro

    Hi Andie,

    So fricking true! My excuse is it’s Friday or I’m tired, I’ve worked hard and I deserve a break/treat.

    The rationalization we come up with is sometimes ridiculous. We, humans, are lazy sometimes because it’s easy. Instead of solving the Rubix cube, we just paint each side the color it needs to be. Or what about FOMO? Don’t want to be left out.

    It can sometimes seem as though nothing is in our favor.


  4. Merry

    This is so true, the past two weeks have been nothing but excuses and now I have a 4 pound gain to thank myself for. I’m in a funk now because of the gain and need to get focused and back on track. When I get out of my normal routine, things just go haywire and that really shouldn’t be the case – there are always going to be celebrations, stressful situations, vacations – I need to get my mind to take care of me and nothing else. It just gets so busy in there some days I chose to ignore what I know is right and eat to compensate to quiet things down – make sense?

  5. Cassie Schelldorf

    Oh man, this speaks right to my heart. For me, I’m really trying to work on a balance, but I find when I don’t track, I go bananas. You think you’re eating healthy but you’re not. So, I’m trying to really plan my meals out so I’m ready to go when hunger does strike. Crossing my fingers for a better week.

  6. T

    One of the stupidest excuses I have for binging is “Well, I’ve been so good this week” — as if eating healthy and normally means that I should undo all that good work for a binge. It’s something I still struggle with (even right this second) and honestly some days I can turn it off, and some days I can’t, and I give in. It’s frustrating and so self-sabotaging.

  7. Sabrina B.

    really good point, these excuses seem to be “go-to” habits that become hard wired, with an auto-pilot setting, so they kick in without thinking about them until, whoops, “I just ate the whole thing!”, seems like a good idea to “wake up” realize what’s happening and form new hopefully healthy habits to replace the bad ones!

  8. Christy

    It’s really so helpful to see that other people have this problem and it’s not just me!!! Thank you, wonderful article, wonderful comments.

  9. Judy

    Well I read this at a perfect time. My husband is going to do a sleep study tomorrow night and I woke up (ok and went to bed) thinking about what I could get as a treat to have when alone with all my TV shows I seldom see since he retired. Now I have decided to totally move furniture and clean the bedroom and rearrange two rooms. Thanks Andie.

  10. Jill

    Sure everyone can find an excuse but so many foods out there make it worse than just saying we don’t have discipline or will power. A lot of that is a myth when it comes to what sugar and carbs do to you in making you want to eat more. Eating plenty of healthy fats, protein and veggies keeps you full enough that you won’t want things like chocolate cake. I don’t count calories or measure food when I am eating those three categories above and am losing weight even in menopause at age 50.

  11. Rebekah

    I’m the world’s worst to justify eating something unhealthy after a healthy meal, usually dessert. I always can tell my self, “I deserve this”, no matter what I have or have not done. And, chances are I probably don’t deserve it at all. After observing myself over the course of a week, I found that I told myself I deserved something (insert unhealthy option here) at least once, sometimes more, per day.

    On a vacation about a year and a half ago, my mantra was “Vacay, no weigh weigh”! Needless to say, I gained 5 pounds in one week!!! A year and a half later I still haven’t lost those 5 pounds. After about a year of struggling I’m on the right path now and keep telling myself I am the only person that can make a healthier version of myself. With heart disease and diabetes on both sides of my family, I have to be proactive for the future.


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