If eating and knowing when to eat what seem like the easiest of all tasks, you’ll often be considered as one of a’lucky few’. To you, eating- and all related activities- might just be as easy as breathing or walking. Yet, for many of us it is not that simple. Just as breathing becomes difficult when we think about it too much, eating does, too.
We start regulating our eating habits for some reason or another, making it very hard to stay in touch with our bodily signals. It becomes harder to let go of our habits that have turned eating into less of a ‘natural’ activity. And suddenly, it takes a serious conscious effort to return to the way things were.
Most of us seem to overthink things when it comes to eating and food, which is also why we seem to have adopted some common habits, often without being aware of them.
Habit 1: We care a lot about the amount we eat.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to pay attention to the amount of food we put in our mouths. Yet, if you have turned this into an object of constant focus there is a good chance you have become distracted from your bodily signals and are, in fact, ignoring them.
Becoming too preoccupied with the amount of food we eat is a slippery slope; especially when we start seeking exterior indicators to tell us exactly how much, what, and when to eat.
Habit 2: We care too much about the things we put in our mouths.
This is a tricky one. Even though I strongly believe that ‘what’ we put in our mouths greatly affects our health, there is still a difference between having a healthy interest in the ‘quality’ of our food and developing an obsession with it.
I know the word ‘obsession’ seems quite scary. Yet, I often look around and wonder why we don’t point out our incessant preoccupation with food – it’s everywhere and it seems no one can stop talking about it!
Habit 3: We get distracted by others
Food and eating has always brought people together. Eating is one of our favorite social activities. And yet, as children, our parents used to repeat, again and again, that we were not to look in someone else’s plate. I used to do this to see if the person next to me got more fries than I did. But I still catch myself doing it from time to time, although for other reasons. I sometimes look at what people around me are eating and start questioning the food that is in front of me.
“Am I eating too much? Why am I this hungry? Should I be eating a salad, too?”
And there I go; I start listening to my mind, instead of my body. What happens next? I no longer know when I am full or when to stop eating.
Not only does looking at other’s eating behavior pose a problem, but so does listening to what they have to say about their (and our) eating habits. Most of us love eating, but since we cannot physically do it 24/7, we go for the ‘next best thing’: talking about eating. In fact, many people consider talking about how cutting out simple carbohydrates made them less bloated or how eating past 8pm made them gain 3kg in 2 weeks to be the best kind of small talk.
Even though most of us have probably been guilty of doing this at some point, we could also decide to:
No longer voice unwanted opinions on what others are eating and not to let what others say or do affect our own eating habits.
To Help You Do This
- Physically place your hand on your stomach and ‘feel’ whether or not you are hungry. It sounds crazy, but it works!
- Do not just eat because ‘it is time to eat’.
It is 11am and you are starving. So what? ‘Have your lunch and eat it, too’. In fact, don’t even call it ‘lunch’, just call it ‘fuel’ that is going to keep you going!
- Avoid feeling like you are only ‘allowed’ to eat when others are.
Really tune into your body and feel whether or not you are hungry. Find out exactly what you are craving at that exact moment and figure out if you are only craving food because you are bored or thinking about eating.
- Don’t be afraid to say no!
If someone offers you something to eat, do not be afraid to tell them you are not hungry. Do not be scared of the annoyed or strange looks and comments people may or may not give you. Many people need others to eat with them so that they can feel better about themselves.
- Trust that your body will guide you into making the ‘right’ choices.
Once you have gotten your tastebuds and body used to a healthy diet- without forcing it upon yourself- chances are you are instinctively going to make healthier dietary choices- your body will most-likely start craving these foods.
And if, occasionally-by that I do not mean ‘every month’, more like ‘everyday’- you are craving M&M’s, then go for it. Simply make sure to take your time and listen carefully to know exactly when you have had enough- it might be sooner than you think!