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Bad Eating Habits, and How To Break Them

December 28, 2010 · 66 comments

in Health & Fitness

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:

  1. 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?
    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
  2. 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.                      
    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?
  3. 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.
    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.
  4. 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.)
  5. 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?

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

The Grouch December 28, 2010 at 7:51 am

I’m guilty of secret snacking (I have an uncontrollable sweet tooth from time to time) and occasionally starving and stuffing. When under stress I’m more inclined not to eat or eat small portions rather than stuffing.


Kris December 28, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Grouch, my sweet tooth is awful. Four out of five of us in this house have a sweet tooth. However, I have no problem avoiding chips. I have way too many sweets in the house right now because of the holidays and they taunt me all day…

What is your favorite secret snack?


Moneycone December 28, 2010 at 8:22 am

#3 is definitely me! I get caught up in what I’m doing, I skip a meal till I hear my stomach grumbling! Something I need to work on!


Kris December 28, 2010 at 1:38 pm

I guess we are just too focused! 🙂 The thing is, I get just ravenous and rip through the house eating anything I can when I get too hungry. I also feel real awful too.


Nicole December 28, 2010 at 9:12 am

I think it is important to make it easier for snacking and munching and stress eating to be on healthy foods rather than on junk. How many of us get our 5 fruits and veggies in each day? I found out that one reason I don’t eat fruit just randomly is because my teeth are sensitive to cold. Solution: keep a few pieces of fruit out at room temperature. Keep junk food in more difficult to get to places (preferably DH’s office on campus if we’re going to have any at all.)

I’ve gotten so used to 5 meals a day that my stomach growls in anticipation for my 10:30am banana and my 3:30pm apple/pear.


Kris December 28, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Nicole, we could meet for lunch because I am starving by 10:30 almost everyday, no matter how much I eat for breakfast.

Do you know why your teeth are sensitive to cold? My husband is starting to have that problem, but no idea why.

I am so happy when I have cut up vegetables in the fridge and easy to eat fruit!


Nicole December 28, 2010 at 8:05 pm

The current dentist says it’s because I grind my teeth, but I am doubtful since she pushes mouth guards on EVERYONE. And my teeth have always been sensitive to cold, even as a carefree youngster. It seems to run in my family on the side with the good teeth, not the side with the bad teeth.

Today I made the mistake of going to the grocery store at 3:30 before having my apple. I bought so much (on-sale holiday) junk food. I blame Donna Freedman and her recent suggestion to buy holiday sales even if you don’t need what you’re buying. It got stuck in my subconscious and decided my family needed chocolate covered pretzels. And peppermint cookies. And rum cake. And almond chocolate biscotti. And 4 kinds of ice cream. And some other stuff.


Kris December 28, 2010 at 11:04 pm

My husband does grind his teeth, but it is his front teeth that bother him most and I don’t think you can grind them. It drives me crazy how everyone needs a bite guard nowdays too. Don’t forget bleaching too.

Ooh, tough day at the grocery store, but I am sure the family is thrilled with what you brought home. I have spent so much in groceries between having the kids all home everyday for break and all their friends. I am going broke.

Now I want some chocolate covered pretzels…


Nicole December 29, 2010 at 8:42 am

Gah. Stepped on the scale tonight at 154 lb, which is the most I’ve weighed in a long long time. I’m hoping some of that was water weight because dinner was kind of salty, but something needs to change or I will have to buy size 10s and 12s before work starts. The problem with thinking about eating right is that it causes me to think about food…

But today I have to eat birthday cake no matter what.


Kris December 29, 2010 at 8:53 am

There is no better time than today to start eating better. But you can’t walk away from birthday cake as it would be insulting. Is it your birthday?


Nicole December 29, 2010 at 9:24 am

Nope. DS turns four. But don’t tell the daycamp he’s at this week (he was the only one signed up for his regular preschool daycare so the teacher there bailed and we both have a lot of work to do so this was a last minute emergency replacement), since we pretended to them that he turned four on Sunday.


DoNotWait December 28, 2010 at 9:41 am

I do basically all of them! From time to time… As I am aware of it, I try to control it and I am getting better and better with eating. I eat a lot more of fruits and vegetables than I used to AND I do enjoy it! I still need to be careful to make sure I don’t go back to my old bad habits.


Kris December 28, 2010 at 1:33 pm

I hate when I am low on fruits and veggies in the fridge. I love to eat both (well, at least I love fruit), but sometimes it just isn’t as convenient.

I also have to get all the holiday treats out of the house.


krantcents December 28, 2010 at 11:59 am

I definitely eat too fast! I tried to slow down, it doesn’t work. Amazingly, I don’t have a weight problem because I learned to balance eating with exercise. This is a wonderful confidence builder. I lost 35 lbs. a long time ago and kept it off.


Kris December 28, 2010 at 1:32 pm

That is impressive you have been able to keep the weight off, I know that is hard for a lot of people.

What exercise do you enjoy? Are you in a league of some kind, or do you go to a gym?


Money Reasons December 28, 2010 at 12:18 pm

I have problems with #4 and #5, but my real problem is I don’t move enough! Sitting in a cubicle is nice, but a very inactive form of labor…


Kris December 28, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Oh I totally think blogging is killing my activity level. Thank God I don’t mindlessly eat or else I would be in TROUBLE.


Aloysa December 28, 2010 at 3:08 pm

What I know from my own experience, if you eat fast you don’t feel the moment when you are full. If you eat slow and enjoy your meal, you can feel the point of being full. And that’s where we are all supposed to stop eating. 🙂 I love feeling this point because if I stop eating right there, I don’t overeat and feel great.


Kris December 28, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Aloysa, I am going to actually going to try eating slower at dinner tonight. I know part of my problem with fast eating is being so darn hungry. I have spent the day eating light snacks and I feel pretty good and it is almost dinner!


Squirrelers December 28, 2010 at 3:10 pm

For me, it’s #4 – stress eating. If I have too much going on and not enough time, I eat. At one time, not too long ago actually, I was quite fit. Not so now, due to busy work, commuting, etc. For me, it’s time management that needs to get more in balance, which will help with #4. I will get it done, and the new year is a great time to track this progress.


Kris December 28, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Squirrel – I am not nearly as fit as I once was either. I could blame the 3 kids, but I really don’t have an excuse other than I have not made exercise a priority. (Outside of playing racquet sports.) I do walk frequently on the treadmill, but I need to do more.

As an aside, I am working on ditching Coke. I am going to have the occasional coffee instead. I figure I can do without the bad stuff in Coke, even though I enjoy it so much. (I will allow myself one once in awhile though.)


Len Penzo December 28, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Number 3 definitely has my name all over it. Yep, yep, yep. Skip breakfast, a quick (and usually unhealthy) snack at lunch, and gorge myself for dinner. Absolutely a terrible way to eat, I know.
Still, I’m not sure I could get through the day any other way without severely altering my daily schedule, which would cause a whole ‘nother set of problems!

All the best,

Len Penzo dot Com


Kris December 28, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Len, I feel your pain! I consciously tried to fit the snacks in today, and it worked out great. But, I was home all day so it was easier. You need to carry a man-bag full of snacks like almonds and such. (Too bad Christmas is over, what a nice gift that would be for you.) Alternatively, you could just keep a stash of healthy snacks at work and have a snack when time allows.

I do think the planning the next meal during your current meal may help for people with crazy schedules. If you are already working on one meal, why not get something together toward the next meal? It may just work!


Deidre @ TransFormX December 28, 2010 at 6:29 pm


Excellent post as always! This subject has been near & dear to me for awhile now as I’ve lost many many inches and lots of lbs.

I think I was guilty of all of the habits you mentioned above and it was difficult to break them. Our fast paced society unfortunately fosters these bad habits and we must conciously strive to eat clean and keep fit.

Happy Holidays!
Deidre Lin


Kris December 28, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Thank you Deidre! How much weight did you lose, and what would be the one thing you changed that had the biggest impact? (If you don’t mind me asking…)

Happy Holidays to you too!


Deidre @ TransFormX December 29, 2010 at 10:36 am


I don’t mind at all! Since September 2010 I have lost 35+ lbs and 39.5 inches – yes really in 90 days!. Due to alot of life’s stress issues, work and etc I had gained a huge amount of weight. I got a lot of bad advice from a hormone DR I was seeing in Austin and that lead to even more weight being piled on – all in less than a year!! Nothing was working and I was up to 212! Yikes!

I heard about HCG from a friend of mine and decided to try it. HCG is a hormone that we produce during pregnancy and trace amounts, combined with a very low calorie diet can have profound effects. (Weirdly enough it works for men too!) I did the homeopathic drops.

So I decided to try it for one week to see what all the hype was about. I lost over 10 lbs in the first week with no hunger, deprivation or cravings; and have stayed on it for the full 90 days. More important than the overall weight loss is the key fact that HCG allows our bodies to ReSet the Metabolism level so that the weight stays off and no lean muscle is lost during this time.

I am currently in the ‘stabilization’ phase where you begin to eat normally again. ‘Normally’ = clean eating and the metabolism is ‘set’ at the new level.

The ‘diet’ is not new, in fact it was designed and tested over 60 years ago by Dr. Simeon who dedicated his life to this work. It’s becoming very popular and for good reason with typical results of 20, 30 and even 40 lbs lost in the first 30 days – Safely!

I really can’t say enough about it as HCG has had a profound effect on my life.
3 things I would tell anyone who wants to do the HCG Diet. Be ready to detox and cleanse lots of ‘junk’, have a clean eating program and fitness routine ready for the stabilization/maintenence phases. Of course it is common sense that if one goes back to bad eating habits the metabolism will not support this and weight will get put back on eventually.

Thats it in a nutshell 🙂 I have a ‘before’ and a 60 day photo up on my website and other info to browse through if anyone wants to check it out at TransFormX dot com. Thank you Kris for allowing me to talk about my TransFormation!


Kris December 29, 2010 at 10:44 am

I have read about the HCG drops, but never talked to anyone that had tried it. That is great you had so much success with the program. Losing that amount of weight must feel fantastic, and I am sure you have a ton more energy too.

Gonna find the pictures!


Kris December 29, 2010 at 10:46 am

I just looked at the pictures (I saw them before, but wasn’t sure if it was you or someone else). That is a big change, great job!

So did you create your website just because you were so happy with the results you got from the HCG plan?


Deidre @ TransFormX December 29, 2010 at 4:30 pm


Thanks! They are not glamour shots but it gets the point across 🙂 Actually I had created a different website for the HCG and then I had transformx dot com and yet a 3rd one!

After trying to maintain all 3 I decided to merge them all into one at transformx. So far I am happy with the ‘renovation’ and it’s much easier to maintain LOL. I finished the blog part of the site today as a matter of fact.

Yes, I decided to add the HCG Drops and info on my site because I am thrilled with the results and I feel great.

Have a great New Year!


First Gen American December 28, 2010 at 7:04 pm

I’m guilty of all of these unfortunately. Thanks for the coping tips. I will need to follow some of them.


Kris December 28, 2010 at 7:09 pm

I am majorly guilty of a couple, and am probably guilty of several that didn’t even make the list!!!


Lola December 28, 2010 at 8:37 pm

I’ve been guilty of all of these at one time or another, although I had to eat fast when my kids were little. Now that they’re grown, I can once again enjoy my personal “slow food” lifestyle.

I would say stress eating has always been my worst food habit. Again, with the kids gone, I definitely have less stress, but they still drive me nuts about some things. This is why the secret stash of Dove chocolates runs a close second to stress eating.


Kris December 28, 2010 at 11:06 pm

Oh how I love Dove chocolates. My favorite is the caramel ones. I love the Ghiradelli squares with Caramel too. It is all good.

You are so right about eating fast with little ones. You quickly cut their food, shove a bunch of uncut food in your own mouth, get them some more to drink, shovel in a few more bites, and repeat.

If I stress-ate, the would be able to make a new show called “The Half-Ton Blogger”…


Kaycee December 28, 2010 at 9:14 pm

None of the bad ones, LOL. I am often told that I am a slow eater. Which is funny because my mom is even slower than me and her mom was even slower. 🙂 I am a stress eater. I either eat or shop. And let’s face it, generally, eating is cheaper than shopping. 😉 I also can be a mindless muncher. But these are NOT daily or even weekly habits. Maybe once a month, max.


Kris December 28, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Kaycee- My husband was a slow eater and it drove me insane. He has since learned to pick up the pace by association I think! I remember in college we would be eating in the dorm and I would just wait, and wait, and wait.

You could make the most of your habits and eat and shop at the same time. Try to ignore the shame and just enjoy the happiness part of it.


First Gen American December 29, 2010 at 8:41 am

There’s one big missing one that is a new fauz pas on my list.

Finishing the food off your kid’s dinner plates. I grew up where food was not wasted and it kills me to throw out food. Well, now I can see it in my snug fitting pants. I have got to be okay with throwing food out as it’s better in the trash than on my thighs.


Nicole December 29, 2010 at 8:43 am

You could always compost it. That helps assuage some of my first generation guilt. Or you could stick it in the fridge for them to eat at the next snack, which I haven’t had the heart to do just yet.


Kris December 29, 2010 at 8:55 am

I never ate off my kid’s plates, so I didn’t even think of that one! (I do know a lot of people do though.)

You are right, it is much better to just get rid of it, unless you are still hungry. Perhaps you could get a smaller portion for yourself if you know you will eat part of the kid’s meals. Then you would have more leftovers!


retirebyforty December 29, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Speed eating is bad. The stomach is kind of dumb and slow and takes a while to communicate to the brain that it’s full. When I eat fast, I always over eat because I can’t tell when I have enough. I usually take my time, but when I’m really hungry, it’s really easy to gobble it down. 🙂
Now I eat 5-6 smaller meals so I don’t have as much problems with over eating. Portion control also really help. If there are tons of food in front of me, I overeat too.


Kris December 29, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Well, the stomach has a lot of work to do, so I can see why it needs time to catch up I suppose. I am sure it has a hard time keeping up with my pace, although I am trying to be better.

Do you take a lot of snacks to work in order to eat 5-6 meals a day? I remember when I worked in an office I couldn’t wait for lunch.


Little House December 29, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Out of all of these bad eating habits, the only one I have is the starving and stuffing one. I also get mean and cranky when I’m starving. I’ll drink my sugar-filled coffee, skip breakfast, then by lunchtime I’m famished! I’ll eat just about anything and that usually means something quick, like fast-food. I do much better when I eat oatmeal in the morning with cranberries and a bit of sugar!


Kris December 29, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Little House – If I didn’t eat with a cup of coffee, I think I would have to go in to isolation! (Nobody would be able to tolerate me!) However, we do have similar habits. Salty fries and a burger sound so good when you are starving!!


Lindy Mint December 30, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Stress eating is mine. And it doesn’t even have to be a big stress. When I’m at work and a little tired in the afternoon, if a frustrating email or task comes up I’m off to get snacks in the kitchen. Same thing if the kids are fighting all night, I’m in the kitchen scouring for cookies. It’s so much easier to pop something in your mouth rather than trying to de-stress with other coping methods.

I also heard that if you’re angry you crave crunchy foods, and if you’re emotional you crave sugar foods.


Alex@spa in kl February 17, 2011 at 10:30 pm

Excellent article indeed! My elder son indeed has lot of bad eating habits and this post is really helpful for me to guide him on it. He also got this secret snacking habit and it is sometimes uncontrollable. I have seen him when he is in examination tension or under any kind of stress he is inclined stuff himself more.


Kris February 18, 2011 at 10:38 pm

I have known others with secret snacking habits, and I think those types of eating issues seem hard to beat. Everyone handles stress differently, and eating is obviously a coping mechanism for him. Is there any way you could guide him toward making more healthy choices when he is having his secret snacks?


Albert@florist in kl February 19, 2011 at 11:00 am

Interesting post and its really well written. I must agree that breaking the habit related to bad eating is really not that easy but nothing is impossible. There was a time when i use to eat very fast and over stuff myself. But in past few years I have slowly tried hard to eat slowly and thereby eat less. Today I can say that i am successful to a great extend and also able to control my excess weight problem.


natural weight loss February 24, 2011 at 9:27 pm

What I learned about weight loss is to be able to succeed in your weight loss goals one should really reflect on how they run their lifestyle so that they will have an idea how to start their weight loss program. Then you can start to plan for your weight loss program. Motivate yourself about your weight loss program and always remind yourself that you don’t have to eat just to entertain yourself. You can find other leisures aside from eating. I’ve tried eating while reading and the solution to this habit is to change your lifestyle routines.


Alex@car hire kuala lumpur May 19, 2011 at 5:33 am

I must say it is a wonderful post. To suddenlly stop all your bad eating habit is something really difficult but with little effort we can achieve it. Secret snacking is something which is very common in all age group specially children.


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