Why do We Eat?

Do you ever wonder why you make eating choices which don’t align with your health goals? Do you ever feel that if you just got a boost in willpower all would be well? In my latest article I outline the many complex reasons why we eat, and I concluded that reflecting on why you eat, could make a significant difference in your approach to changing what and how you eat.  

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Our relationship with food is complex, it’s not as simple as hunger and satiation. Here are some variables which impact our eating:

  • social pressures (everyone else is having ice cream…)
  • celebratory (people eat cake on birthdays)
  • religion
  • ethics (vegetarians or vegans, fair trade, free range)
  • social status (kobe beef and caviar versus kraft dinner)
  • self medication (to make oneself temporarily feel better)
  • stress
  • boredom
  • habit (movies = popcorn)
  • where you work
  • where you live
  • food marketing
  • human physiology
  • food is designed to be extra delicious, salty, sweet, fat in balance
  • food is everywhere (banks, department stores, gas stations)

You can see how what we eat and when we eat are determined by reasons much more complex than simply a lack of willpower. To suggest otherwise is simply unfair to yourself and to others.

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If you want to change your eating habits you will have to pay attention to the variables which impact those habits. Jumping straight into change using willpower until you go blue in the face, simply doesn’t work long term. You eventually run out of willpower, it is a finite resource. 

It would be like trying to set up an Ikea shelf without first reading the instructions and gathering up all your materials needed. It can be done, but many will give up.

Asking yourself for more information about why you eat provides the insight needed to design goals which target the root of the behaviour.

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Here’s an example to show to value of these reflectons: A client tells me they have trouble snacking too much in the evening times (a common challenge). So before I send them off with healthy snack alternatives, I want to first make sure I know why they snack in the evening time.

Is it because A. they are under eating during the day and are genuinely hungry after dinner due to lack of calories earlier on?

Or is it because B. They have developed a routine which includes sitting on the same couch, same TV shows, and snacking each night even if they aren’t hungry?

You’d be surprised how many people aren’t sure which one is the cause of their evening snacking!

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Ready to start learning more about why you eat in the first place? Here are some questions to get you started on reflection:

  1. Are you physiologically hungry (stomach pains)?
  2. Are you mistaking appetite (desire to eat because something smells or looks good) for physiological hunger?
  3. Why do you eat?
  4. When do you feel like eating?
  5. What do you choose to eat?
  6. What environments, people, situations or things trigger you to want to eat?
  7. How do you eat (Location, speed of eating, chewing, with others, alone)?

The bottom line is, eating habits are formed due to many complex reasons, so don’t be so quick to assume that lack of motivation and will power are your downfall, absolutely not! The real strategy for success requires investigating further, and goal setting based on the reasons why you eat. I would also strongly recommend you don’t do it alone! This is where a nutrition coach steps in to help guide you.

Rebecca

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