I was reading the magazine ‘Experience Life’, which I receive as part of my membership to Lifetime Fitness. This is one of the best magazines in print, as it not only provides some excellent ideas for health and fitness, but it there is also a lot of articles about the mind-body connection. (And no perfumy ads either.)
One of the articles in the January/February edition is titled “Tangled Up In Food”. This article discusses bad eating habits, why certain eating habits are unhealthy, and ways to fight each bad habit. I felt there was a lot of good information in the article, so I am listing the titles of the 5 Unhealthy Eating Habits, and my take on each one:
- Eating too fast. It is thought that when you just gobble down food, you are depriving your brain of sensory pleasure that should come with food. You end up eating and eating, and end up taking in way more calories than you should. I am incredibly guilty of this. I have always been a fast eater, and I think it is because I mainly regard eating as something that ‘must be done’. I don’t sit down and enjoy food, I eat because I have to. Until I read this, I never really thought about how this may be a chicken and egg situation for me. Do I not enjoy food much because I eat so fast that I don’t get a chance to enjoy it? Or, am I just bored with eating, so I eat fast so I can move on to something else?
Action: I am going to consciously try to slow down eating, and not be distracted when I am eating. I am going to see if I find eating to be a more pleasurable experience when I take my time, and I will also pay closer attention to if I am full or not
- Secret Snacking. Got a stash of Oreo’s hiding behind the Quaker Oats? Are you hiding your snacks because you are ashamed? Well, that is not a good idea because secret eating leads to all kinds of negative feelings. The more negative you feel, the more you eat, and a vicious cycle is born. Not to mention you don’t get those happiness endorphins that get released in greater quantities when you are enjoying your food, and endorphins affect your metabolism.
Action: I am not a secret snacker at all as I will throw cookies down my throat in front of anyone at any time. (The only reason I would hide food is to keep it away from the other members of my family…) However, the article does suggest that if you have people in your life that make you feel ashamed for what you eat, then you need to tell them to stop commenting on your food choices. (Or, you could just tell them to shut up.) Also, pay attention to what food you hide and what triggers you to reach for that hidden food. Is there something else you are really hungry for? Could exercise or some other positive activity fix what ails you?
- Starving and Stuffing. Too busy to sit and eat a decent meal during the day and find you are eating everything you can get your hands on at night? Then this bad habit belongs to you! I KNOW it belongs to me, although I don’t wait until night to stuff my face. My metabolism runs like a racehorse in the morning, and I don’t always eat enough. Between getting the kid’s lunches ready, driving to school, work, blah blah blah, breakfast ends up being something quick and easy. Meanwhile, my body is racing inside, and it is starving an hour after I eat. So guess what happens? I am drawn to quick, convenient choices for lunch because my hunger will be satisfied quickly, and then I can get back to all the other exciting things in my life. I quite often find that I am so busy doing other things, I am missing my body’s hunger signals, and then I end up making some really bad choices.
Action: I have got to do something about this one because when I am hungry, I am mean, and I look for a quick fix. (Or maybe my family hopes I get a quick fix because I can be flat-out unbearable.) The article suggests that when you finish one meal, you should plan the next and maybe even start preparing it by cutting up some fruit or whatever. Also, you should eat some protein at every meal, and also have a protein pre-dinner snack. I already try to have some protein at every meal, but I am going to try and do better, especially with breakfast. I also need to add a protein-based mid morning snack so I don’t go insane at lunch time. I also plan to stay more hydrated so I don’t confuse thirst with hunger.
- Stress Feeding. This is a common problem for many. Having a bad day? Well, Doritos are the perfect remedy. You deserve it because you had a bad day! However, stress leads to the production of the hormone Cortisol, which turns all those nice little extra Dorito calories into beautiful belly fat! Cortisol does more bad things to you than create dangerous visceral body fat, it also affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and also to heal itself. So, eating while stressed is like adding insult to injury. The Cortisol caused by stress is bad enough, but then when you add all those extra calories to the formula, you are doing some damage.
Action: I am really not a stress eater. If anything, I lose my appetite when stressed. But for those that do eat when stressed, try to relax instead of finding something to eat. If you must eat, eat something healthy. Also, try to eliminate the cause of stress in the first place. Take more breaks during the day so the stress doesn’t build up as much. You can also try and accept that you are human and not stress out over every mistake you make. (My specialty! Good thing I don’t stress eat.)
- Mindless Munching. Talking on the phone while having some M&Ms? Watching TV with your chips by your side? Keep this up and soon you won’t be able to watch TV without your best friend Pringles, and the can will be gone before you know it. You need to pay attention to what you are eating and also notice when you are full. I actually realized this a few years ago when I had really been looking forward to eating a brownie. (Gosh that sounds pathetic…) I had just started my brownie and the phone rang. Next thing I knew, the phone call was over and the brownie was gone, but I had no memory of it. I didn’t even get to enjoy something I had been looking foward to. From the point forward, I promised to really pay attention to eating the things I truly enjoy. (But I don’t mind forgetting the green beans….)
Action: I really am not a mindless muncher, unless it is while watching the occasional movie or the Superbowl. But there is someone who lives in my house that just loves to snack while watching TV or reading the paper, and he isn’t below the age of 18 either. I know some of the following advice is old, but it is true: Don’t eat food right out of the package. Try to control your portions and not go back for more. If you are going to eat, focus on eating and put everything away when you are done. One great idea the article had was to put the healthier food in the front of the fridge or the cabinet so that is what you reach for first when you get the compulsion to snack.
So, how many of these habits pertain to you? Speed Eating and Starving and Stuffing must have been written just for me because I can identify with them so closely. I am really going to try and pay attention to these ‘trouble spots’ and see if I can make more healthier decisions. When you think about it, your body is the most complicated machine on earth, so why fuel it with fake food and drink?