Change The Way You Think About Eating
To obtain optimal health, fitness advocates and health professionals advise us to change the way we think about food. After all, eating is the biggest battle in weight loss. Committing to a workout regimen won't do any good if we still have bad eating habits.
For example, if I did some strength training then hit a 45-minute high-impact aerobics class only to eat a fried fish dinner complete with cole slaw, hush puppies, and oh, a Diet Coke, I may as well had stayed home and sat on the couch. I'd be going in circles, wondering why I look the same. And yes, I've had this problem before.
So what exactly do we get wrong about food and how do we change it? Well, there are a number of things, and they are mostly customs that have been engrained in us from birth.
1. Associating food with events, comfort and happiness.
At weddings, holidays, parties, church events and even after a funeral, food becomes the center of attention. As Thanksgiving approaches, the questions many ask are not what are you thankful for or where is the family meeting, but rather, what are you cooking or who's doing the cooking?
Ice cream, cheesecake and chocolate are associated with comfort. For a lot of people, it's what they grab to be soothed following a stressful day or a trying experience. We often reward (or bribe) children with candy, cake and again, ice cream. So it only makes sense that as adults, they'll associate it with pleasure and contentment.
Kelly Hitchcock, owner of KH Fitness, has summed it up this way: "Since food is cheap, abundant, legal, completely socially acceptable, it seems to be the thing that we all turn to."
2. The clean-your-plate syndrome.
No one wants to waste an ounce of food purchased with hard-earned money. And we should be thankful to have an abundance of food. After all, there are people starving in the world (I'm guilty of this excuse).
So, if we're telling children to continue to eat until the plate is clean although they may be full, they won't be able to recognize when their body has had enough of what it needs. Dr. Valerie Smith, a pediatrician at St. Paul Children's Clinic, addresses this issue often with parents of small children. She recently said, "We want to help keep that internal thermostat that tells us 'I'm full' fully calibrated in kids."
3. Not being in tune with your gut.
This goes along with No. 2. Many of us believe we're supposed to the leave the dinner table feeling stuffed, to the point of unbuttoning our pants button. Throughout the years, we've grown accustomed to eating until we "can't eat another bite."
We have to recognize when we are no longer hungry and the body is satisfied. We ignore our gut by overeating and eating food fast. If you eat slowly, you'll recognize when you've satisfied that hunger and may even eat less.
4. Living to eat instead of eating to live.
There are so many fun things you can do with food, as I've found out by sitting next to our paper's Food Editor Christine Gardner.
Food cooked just the right way and paired with the right things can be excitable.
There's nothing wrong with being a foodie, but there is if food controls your life. Food should be the sustenance of life, not the source of happiness or the cure for boredom.
5. We're becoming orthorexics, too.
No one would argue that being consciously healthy is a problem. Or is it? Americans have become obsessed with health, hence orthorexia -- an eating disorder where people compulsively obsess about health food.
Instead of looking at nutrition as a whole, we've broken it down into a science. Fiber, protein, carbohydrates and macronutrients such as Omega 3 fatty acids and glucose have become regular part of our nutrition vocabulary.
Do we really need to tediously monitor calories, carbs and fat grams or avoid all foods with preservatives or foods that aren't organic? If we spend most of our time counting macronutrients, creating charts and logs for every bite, it takes away from the fun of eating -- and the other important things in life.
With all of the fuss about our health, we should be the healthiest country on the planet, but the obsession has done the opposite, thanks in part to a food industry that pushes "healthy" foods that are many times barely edible products dressed up as food.
This is not to say, 'Don't be health-conscious.' I'm saying, think about what and why you eat. Thinking before I eat has saved me many times. I've asked myself: 'Do I really want to eat this? Am I really hungry?'
Being health-conscious is about making the better choice. Debunking what we thought we knew was right about food is always the best choice.