From time to time, I get a question from people around me about what motivates me to write and talk about food on a daily basis, whether on this platform or other social media outlets and gatherings.
My answer is always along the lines of, “I’m trying to contribute towards restoring the relationship people have with food”.
My philosophy about this relationship has always been a holistic approach: from what to eat when you should eat it and why you do so.
What I had never given much thought to, however, is the behavior aspect.
Recently I started thinking deeply about the habits we develop with eating and specifically, the bad ones, and the fact that we usually don’t even see them coming or realize we have them. These habits, oftentimes than not, destroy that ideal relationship we have with food.
In my quest to understand these habits I had a long discussion with my younger brother who holds a degree in clinical psychology. He educated me on eating habits and how they can easily turn into major eating disorders that may affect health, both physically and mentally.
Today, I would like to share a few of those things that he brought to my attention, mentioning only habits that can be controlled and do not need any professional interventions. Keep in mind that for me, balance is key.
The bad habit: Ever been watching your favorite program on the television or scrolling through your social media and munched a full, huge bag of popcorn, or pack of cookies without even noticing?
Researches have shown that we tend to eat more than we need if we are not concentrating, and this may lead to weight issues, and loss of appetite for real food, among others
The fix: If you must snack during those relaxing times do so in small quantities, use a small container for your popcorns, or put the cookies in a plate vs eating from the package.
Emotional, or “stress eating”
The bad habit: Finding comfort in food on a rough day is a common practice, and although it affects both sexes, it is believed that females usually deal with it more. It can be caused by stress, hormonal changes ( e.g premenstrual syndrome), or mixed hunger cues. A lot of people agree that they gain /lose weight during their stressful seasons because, although some tend to eat a lot more during those moments, some skip meals when stressed.
The fix: Finding other coping methods is often the first step towards overcoming this eating habit. Starting a food diary (logging in what you eat and when you eat it) may help to identify triggers that lead to emotional eating, which may be helpful as well. Another thing that may be helpful, is to maintain a healthy diet which helps in giving you the right nutrients, which in turn keep you emotionally and physically less prone to stress.
The bad habit: Do you constantly find yourself skipping meals because you are just too busy to sit down and eat? Or you are trying to cut off those last 5kgs before your wedding day to fit in your gown? Or are you struggling with body image and trying to achieve some unrealistic body shape?
The detriment of this is oftentimes you end up reaching for that whole bar of chocolate in the afternoon, or eating dinner enough for 2 people which slows down your digestive system. Also, this may lead to low productivity and low self-esteem.
The fix: Get up 15 minutes earlier to take your breakfast, pack your lunch, keep healthier snacks when you can’t find time for a full meal and hit the gym instead as your weight loss plan.
The bad habit: Some people find themselves heading to the kitchen at 3 am out of habit (and not hunger). Eating at late night hours is usually not good for your digestion because there is a less physical and digestive activity, and may lead to overweight issues and teeth decay.
The fix: Refrain from the urge of waking up, or give yourself 30 more minutes when the craving comes and see if it doesn’t go away – distract yourself with something else if all fails. Always brush your teeth before you go to bed, for it is less likely you will want to eat with a freshly-brushed mouth.
Eating too quickly
The bad habit: Our bodies send signals that you are full after 15 minutes or so after you have started eating, so when you shove down food in a snap, your body doesn’t get enough time to catch up with your stomach which can result into overeating.
The fix: Put down your fork between bites, take smaller portions and be sure to chew thoroughly (at least 32 times).
The bad habit: We all know people that practically live on snacks instead of eating real food, and this is detrimental to our health since snacks contain empty nutrients. It is common in children where you find them feeding on mostly processed juices, packed snacks or fried foods.
The fix: Ensure you feed children 3 ‘main’ meals a day and leave space for them to get hungry; provide healthier snacks like smoothies, yogurts, fruits and vegetables in between meals, instead of chips, cookies, and other processed foods.
A lot can be said but what is crucial is to always remember to eat a balanced diet.
Drink enough water, get the recommended hours of sleep, and exercise regularly, to keep your body and mind in shape.
This will usually combat all the bad eating habits that may lead to more serious health disorders.
The writer is an enthusiastic and border-line obsessed foodie, with a background in Economics and the Culinary Arts.
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