I like to watch people eat. Okay, that sounds a bit creepy but I like to observe people’s eating habits because it really interests me. At work, I could probably write a list of which colleagues bring a packed lunch, which ones skip meals and prefer to eat when they get home and which ones buy chicken and chips every day. I also like to ask people questions about the way they eat and why. I have come to realise that those who are the healthiest are not healthy simply because they eat certain foods but also because of their healthy eating habits. And likewise, those of us who are not so healthy may be so because of our bad eating habits. Some of these things have been instilled in us from childhood and some we have just picked up along the way. Here are 4 of the habits that I have discovered:
1. The “I must finish my food” Eater
I know, I know, you grew up with a strict mother who repeatedly reminded you that “There are children starving in Africa” and told you that “You’re not moving from the dinner table until your plate is empty.” It’s a part of who you are and you struggle to leave food on the plate; I understand that. However, being determined to scoop up every single rice grain can actually be a bad thing because it means you fail to realise when you are full. Instead of listening to your body and stopping when you are full, you overeat and end up feeling tired, bloated and sick because you wanted to finish your meal. You don’t know what your body likes or needs, all you know is that your plate must be clean.
It’s okay to leave food behind! Yes, there are people who would love to eat that meal and yes, you paid for it but obesity and gluttony is not the answer. However, there are ways to combat this mentality. First, stop serving yourself huge portions. Put a small amount of food on your plate, eat that and then wait 20 minutes. If you are still hungry after that break, then serve yourself a bit more food. But, make sure it is actual hunger and not just greed, thirst or straight up “Eyes bigger than your belly syndrome.”
“But I spent time cooking that food! And it cost me money!” I hear you shout. Well, you should have thought about that before you cooked so much! Cook what you need and save the rest for another time. Alternatively, save the leftovers for another meal, freeze them or give them to a friend. Eating out? I know you paid good money for that meal but it’s perfectly fine to eat what you can manage and take the rest home – restaurants are happy to do that for you.
Listen to your body and do not force it to eat what it cannot manage. You can easily train your body to get used to eating smaller portions and surprisingly you will not go hungry or turn into a bag of bones. Eat what your body needs and nothing more. Don’t stuff yourself full in the name of money, taste and time and regret it afterwards because you’re so bloated you can hardly walk and gaining weight from your huge portions.
2. The ‘Treat-Yourself’ Eater
This type of eater can also be classed as emotional eater. I’ve written a whole blog post about ‘eating your feelings’ so take a look at that.
Now, ‘treat yourself’ eaters are not always drowning their sorrows in tubs of ice creams and packets of chocolate. Sometimes, it’s the complete opposite – you’re not sad, you’re completely happy and so you’ve decided that your amazing achievements deserve a cookie. You handed in an essay on time – let’s go to Nandos. You got a great grade on said essay – let’s buy Ben & Jerry’s. You made it to the gym 4 times this week – time to order a pizza. You haven’t seen a friend in a while and finally meet up – let’s go and get pancakes. See the pattern? There are going to be SO many fun times and great achievements in life but each event does not need to involve food. Imagine you hand in an assignment every month and get a really good grade every month and ‘treat yourself’ each time with food. That’s a lot of calories.
First of all, you are not a puppy – you do not need treats. Why must you reward yourself with food? Are you not worthy of much more? Some of us have been socialised to see food as a reward; maybe your parents only bought you Macdonalds if you behaved that week or after a great school report you were allowed cake. So we have grown up doing the same thing, we achieve something or have a great day and decide that because of that, we need to eat something sugar laden. Birthdays and celebrations and associated with good food and so we believe that whenever something good happens, we must reach for the takeaway menu or head to the bakery aisle. But, this is a problem.
Food should never be a reward. Like I said before, food should be fuel; something to give us energy to get through the day and keep our body alive. Instead, our culture sees food as treats or a standard of wealth. We’re quick to show everyone on Instagram that we’re at yet another restaurant because ‘we got money’ or payday automatically means we deserve a three course meal instead of just a main because ‘I grind so hard.”
If you think about it, we’re actually being quite silly. Our brain or body achieves something and so we reward it with something that will actually not fuel it well or maintain it but with something that will make things worse. We celebrate our good times with food that will eventually cut our fun times short. Sorry to be the party pooper but I don’t want to get to 70 and regret all of those ‘treat yourself’ times because I’m suffering from cancer or heart disease. I don’t want to be in a hospital bed and think, “If only I celebrated my achievements with something conducive to my health or learning instead of stuffing myself with additives.” We get out of bed and work so hard and then spend the money we earn on food that harms us instead of helps us. Is that why we work double shifts, wake up early and do overtime? To get one step closer to a cabinet full of medicines?
Yes, we work hard and yes we deserve nice things but we need to re-evaluate our idea of nice things. How about buying a new outfit when we do something well instead of a pizza? Or how about when we meet up with friends to catch up we go and do an actual activity instead of spending time stuffing our faces? We need less expensive restaurant date nights and more fun getting to know each other activities at the bowling alley, at the adventurer activity centre or at the crazy golf course. I’m not saying everything must be sporty or gym-based, I’m saying we need to love food less and our bodies more. Our reward for this life will be much more than chocolate and cheesecake so learn to put your value in things other than edibles. I’m sure it’ll be worth it.
3. The ‘FoMO’ Eater
FoMO – Fear of Missing Out. You might have heard of this in relation to people. This is a type of apprehension and is usually used when referring to a person that worries about not being present at social events because they would have missed out on something great. They have a fear of regretting not being somewhere or simply ‘missing the fun’ (and being left out of the Instagram/Snapchat stories). Maybe you have a friend that suffers from FoMO or maybe you are that friend.
I think this fear can also be applied to food. Some people have a fear of missing out on food. You find it hard to refuse things you are offered, struggle at buffets and probably spend way too much money on food. You have a strong desire to taste everything that they are given the opportunity to because you simply love food.You’re not hungry for desert but you just have to know what that cake tastes like and you don’t actually want fries with that but you get them anyway because you might regret not eating them later.
One thing you have to realise is that food is not running away. You don’t HAVE to have rice, dumplings, pasta, roti, roast potatoes AND potato salad at the Church potluck. Yes, they all looked delicious but does your body actually need all of that? How about just trying the rice and roti this time and maybe week you can have the potatoes? Learning to limit yourself and not having to eat all the food that is available can be a struggle – especially when food is free – but it is a mature and wise decision to say to yourself, “Yes, everything here looks great but I do not need to eat it all.”
Food tastes great but we have to appreciate what it does for our bodies. We need to learn to see food as fuel and eat what we need rather than what we want. I absolutely love cheesecake but I am trying to teach myself that my body does not need it. When I go to a new restaurant and they have a cheesecake on the menu I always think, “Hmm, I’m not actually hungry for desert but I just NEED to try this cheesecake because it might be better than all of the cheesecakes I’ve ever had.” Am I hungry? No. Do I need the cake? No. I just want to taste it because I don’t want to miss out on what could be an amazing cheesecake experience! (Yes, it’s that serious!) BUT, I have to convince myself that I will live without this potentially amazing experience and that there will be many more delicious things to come in my lifetime so missing out on this cheesecake will not kill me. It will in fact help me because I know cheesecake has little, if any, benefit to my body.
If you struggle with this too then you really have to learn self-discipline. You have to teach yourself that tomorrow is another day and that whilst everything at the buffet or on the menu looks amazing, you don’t need to try it all. This will not be your last ever time at a restaurant so you don’t HAVE to eat desert. You’ve had garlic bread before so you don’t HAVE to have it at today’s potluck. Learning to say no is hard but once you do it a few times it gets easier and you learn to stay strong whilst everyone around you is stuffing themselves with cake and you’re sipping a green tea. You’ll reap the benefits later so don’t you worry about missing out, besides – you’ve tasted hundreds of different cakes before. Learn to differieniate between what you simply desire and what your body needs and you’ll learn to eat a lot better. Tomorrow is another day with more food and new things to try so do not try and stuff it all into today.
4. ‘The Snacker’
Snackers – we all know one. You’re not fans of eating 3 meals a day as such, you simply eat what you feel like when you want. You’re not bad people and you mean well but you’re more spontaneous; you don’t like the idea of planning meals and packing lunches, you just throw what you feel like eating into your mouth at whatever time the urge hits you. You don’t know what you’re having for dinner tomorrow, or even tonight – if you feel like rice then maybe you’ll whip the pot out but if you simply feel like a Twix bar then that’ll do too. You’re just that flexible.
Snacking in itself is not an unhealthy habit but I’m talking about the ‘unhealthy snackers’ – those who nibble and pick at food depending on how they feel. For example, you might not have time for breakfast so you grab a chocolate bar at work and eat that and then throughout the day snack on biscuits from the office tin, buy a sandwich at lunch and then eat anything and everything all day until dinner time – fruit, crisps, another sandwich. You don’t think about what and when you eat – you just do it. You have good intentions (don’t we all!) – you don’t mean to eat fifteen biscuits a day but it just happens. You don’t want to skip breakfast but you just don’t have the time. You want to cook dinner every night but sometimes it’s just easier to eat toast or cereal.
How to get rid of the snacker mentality? Meal planning! You need to think about what you’re going to eat each day and when you will eat it. You can plan each day’s breakfasts, lunches, dinners and even snacks. For some, a detailed meal plan with eating times, portion sizes and ingredients works best, especially for those wanting to lose weight. For others, perhaps a mother cooking for her family, a roughly written list of what she will cook for lunch and dinner for the week works best. Meal planning saves time and money because instead of wandering around the supermarket aimlessly you will have a list of exactly what you need because you know exactly what you’ll cook that week. Also, it gets rid of that day-dream we all have around 3pm at our desks thinking about what to eat that evening. Rather than argue with yourself about whether you can be bothered to pop to Tesco and buy the ingredients for lasange or if you should just order pizza, you already have dinner plans. You can plan meals according to the ingredients you already have and according to your schedules. For example, if you know what on Wednesdays you get home late then you’ll plan a quick and easy dinner for that day. Alternatively you could meal-prep and actually cook the meal ahead of time so that it’s ready and waiting for you when you get home and you’re tired and hungry. I have a blog post all about meal prepping; it’s something that I do every week because I don’t like spending a lot of time cooking, it means I always have a healthy meal available to take to Uni or work and I know exactly what I’m eating.
If you’re a snacker then thinking about meal planning might seem like too much work. You might actually enjoy spending that half an hour every day figuring out what to eat for lunch but your body will thank you. Eating healthy meals and spontaneity just do not go together, you need to make plans. Once you get into the routine of doing it, it’ll get easier but you need to give it a try. Try meal planing, even if you just start off with planned dinners. Next week, try planning breakfasts or at least having breakfast ideas that you can choose from. And then, when you’re really organised you can take the plunge and start planning and preparing lunches from home. Your colleagues won’t recognise you! Go on, get organised and start eating meals instead of eating everything and anything. Respect your body and show it the love it deserves.
There are other eating habits that hinder us too; forgetting to eat, eating things that we do not actually like just because they’re trendy, eating huge portions and not spreading our meals out throughout the day. We all have different bodies and different habits work well for some of us and not so well for others but it is important to ask ourselves, “Is the way I’m eating hindering or helping my health? Is the food I eat and the way I eat it, the best I can do or is there room for improvement? Is God pleased with the way I am treating His creation, my body, or would He prefer I do things differently?”
Do what works best for you but do it to the best of your ability and do what is helpful to your body. #Loveyourtemple