Lifestyle Education Discussion

Change Your Eating Habits

What’s your eating style? Are you a stress eater, a convenience eater, or do you simply just have a difficult time with balanced portions? Most of us would answer “YES to the above.” There’s no guilt or shame in recognizing that you may be an emotional eater. We live under chronic stress in a food-abundant culture. As I always say, food is cheap, available and socially accepted as a way to enhance or soothe your emotions. The first step to changing any unwanted habits is to recognize the patterns.

Chronic Dieter

This person tends toward all or nothing thinking. They are either on the diet, or off the diet. They may use words like “bad” or “good” to describe their eating. “I’ll get back on track tomorrow… Or Monday.. Or after the holidays… Or once the kids go back to school… or when things settle down.” The reality is that we are all on the journey all the time. There is never a time when we are off track, and mistakes can be excellent teachers. Create a vision of yourself for next year, or 10 years from now. What do you see? If you desire health and quality of life, then make adjustments to your daily habits so that you will be healthy. If your goal is weight loss, then set your mind to it and make it happen. It’s not easy, but it’s not rocket science either.

Tips for the chronic dieter:

Get rid of the all or nothing, black and white thinking because it will weigh you down. Banish the word “diet” from your lexicon and instead focus on a tiny habits approach. Don’t major in the minors, but get serious about going after the low-lying fruit, e.g., worrying about gmo’s and gluten doesn’t matter much if you are overeating and not exercising.  Focus your energies instead on eating more vegetables, lean proteins and reducing intake of sugar in all of its forms (sugar, maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, etc).  Stay involved with Nutrition Solutions by coming to classes so you can continue to learn how to lose weight without being on a never-ending diet. The word for you is CONSISTENCY!

Emotional eater

This person uses food to cope with emotions. Whether happy or sad, stressed or angry, this person has learned that food can be a powerful way to alter their emotional state. Simply saying “no” to food without addressing the underlying emotion isn’t very helpful.  It’s not for a lack of willpower that these individuals stay stuck in unhealthy habits.  Eating habits start very early in life and so it’s likely that a person’s eating style has been ingrained for decades. Think about the way in which adults reward a toddler’s good behavior with a sweet treat. That child’s brain learns early on that savory foods are associated with feeling good.  The answer for emotional eating is to go after the root and address the underlying emotional source of overeating.

Tips for emotional eaters:

Identify alternative ways to cope with strong emotions. Instead of using food, try walking or exercise. Prayer, meditation, yoga and breathing exercises can be very helpful at reducing stress hormones. More than likely, a person will have to go deeper by restructuring their entire schedules so that they can live a more balanced life. You are in charge of creating the life you want and need. Come to the lifestyle group classes at Nutrition Solutions and draw strength from others by being supported.

Convenience Eater

This person’s eating habits are driven by a need for convenience. They have not created a space in their schedule for planning meals and snacks and so they rely on fast food and processed food products. They’ve outsourced the responsibility of deciding what to eat to corporations and as a result they eat high-calorie, heavily processed foods that ultimately makes them feel tired and sluggish.  Often times they skip meals or snacks and may eat only once or twice per day.

Tips for convenience eaters:

Plan ahead. Take pride in your body and all the ways it works for you.  Make the commitment to fuel it with high-quality foods. No one would think about putting economy-grade fuel into a Ferrari so don’t fuel your bodies with junk food.  Come to lifestyle group classes, particularly the ones pertaining to nutrition and meal prep. Attend as many grocery tours and cooking classes as you can so that you can develop skills necessary for meal planning.

The overeating health foodie

This person is knowledgeable about nutritious foods and they might describe themselves as eating very healthy. They tend to be well-read on recent trends in nutrition and they may even take pride in their meal planning and cooking skills, however, they simply just eat too much. This person also may not realize that even extremely “healthy” energy-dense foods must be eaten in moderation (olive oil, nut butters, and avocados for example).

Tips for the overeating foodie:

Practice using measuring tools and sticking to recommended serving sizes initially so that you can retrain your brain to understand what a balanced portion size is.  One tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil has 120 Calories. Two measly tablespoons of hummus contain about 50-60 calories.  Be aware of foods with health halo’s and nutritional buzzwords such as organic, gluten-free, natural, coconut oil, superfood, etc. Be on guard against marketing buzzwords and don’t assume it’s a free food just because you think it’s healthy.  In my opinion, raw and lightly steamed vegetables can be eaten without limitations, and in fact, it’s a good strategy to increase intake of fiber-rich foods due its effect on satiety (not to mention for the nutrition).

In general, changing eating habits is a process that occurs over time. It’s important to understand the internal and external factors that influence your eating decisions.  Healing your relationship with food requires planning, intention and mindfulness.  Put thought into what you will eat, how you will eat and with whom you will eat, but also make sure to employ balance.  Eating should be a pleasurable experience, but it should not feel out of control.  Check out thecenterformindfuleating.org and use some of their resources and tips to get you started.