Do you often catch yourself binge eating or eating mindlessly? Do you always struggle with the discipline in diet and quickly put on all the weight you have shed by your last diet?
If you get “Yes” as an answer, you need to understand your eating psychology. People often make the mistake of using will power to control their craving which doesn’t work in long term. But when we study our eating patterns and emotions attached to it, the results usually open up the doors for awareness. It can save you from eating mindlessly to managing your food choices better, and you will thank yourself for all the health benefits which come along.
Eating psychology refers to the psychology behind the eating pattern. We all have a particular eating habit which we follow blindly without even realizing. To understand this more, we need to observe our food habits and our relationship with food.
Early Conditioning & Lifestyle:
Our food choice is mainly based on our tradition which is in existence from generations and may vary as per various religions and places where we live (carb/ rice/ vegetarian/non-veg etc). Together with the above, early conditioning and current lifestyle are the factors that affect our choices. Early conditioning refers to our mindset. From our childhood, we see food as a way to celebrate. Birthday parties, festivals all end up with good food and sweet notes. We subconsciously start associating food as a way to get comfort and happiness. A classic example of early conditioning is ordering food over weekends or dinner at restaurants to unwind.
Our current lifestyle too has considerable impact on our food habits. We usually pick up food to save our time. In our fast-paced life, we eat what comes with convenience, easily available at stores i.e biscuits, bags of chips, lunch to go, corporate lunches, quick wraps/sandwich, cereal bars etc. When hungry, we eat whatever is available especially on a busy day. Most of the times, we don’t think about the impact of our food choices on our body. We continue eating out of habit.
Brainstorm your relationship with food. Think of it for a minute or two and write down everything that comes to your mind. What is that which you think is troublesome and not so troublesome? Don’t overthink and simply write down everything that comes to your mind.
Emotional Connect :
Another major point worth exploring for “eating psychology” is our need to manage emotions. Due to our early conditioning, we connect food with comfort and we use food as a coping mechanism to deal with stress, anxiety, boredom or even to get happiness. We don’t always eat because we are hungry. Often there will be much more to it. Eating to soothe emotions might be helpful in the short term but in the long term adds guilt, shame, anger and health issues.
After understanding the reasons behind our food choice, best is to explore each day what you eat. Write down in food diary for your reference. Do this for 3 weeks and see how it becomes easy for you to understand the impact it puts on the body. Once we understand, it becomes easy to find a solution. Most of the times, understanding the core issue shows a way to resolve by planning smartly.
Template for Food Diary:
With This Little Effort, You Will Thank Yourself Soon
Eating psychology is more of a mind game. One cannot get better by thinking;
- I need to lose weight
- I often cheat/binge eat and I need to control my cravings.
- I do not have self-control and I will start again from this Monday/new month.
You can manage better by constantly working on food habits and exploring emotions attached to it. Exploring food habits and emotions will help in planning smartly and smart planning will give you amazing results.
Tips to Plan Smartly at a Social Gathering or Eating out at Restaurants:
Food made outside has some concerning points; nutritionally deficient, refined oil, excess salt/spices/sugar, excess butter/cheese, artificial colours, additives for enhancing flavour and food preservatives for increasing shelf life etc.
The simplest thing to do here: “DO NOT OVERDO”
Next question comes,
How Much Is Enough and How to Control Portion Sizes?
- Usually, restaurants serve bigger portion sizes than what is actually enough. It is not necessary to finish all the food which you order. Last three spoons of food is better on the plate than in the tummy. So, Order wisely.
- Chew properly to digest better
- Usage of small plate/spoon/fork/glass helps controlling portion size.
- Consciously add one item which you feel is healthy i.e. soup, salad, veggies
- Do not go super hungry. Eat evening snack before you attend a dinner party.
- Add digestive bitters. Dandelion Root Tea, ajwain water, ginger, fennel helps digestion. Have them before or after a heavy meal.
- Do not miss exercise. If you have less time, think of 15 min walk minimum.
Life is fun with celebrations and social life. There is no need to cut that down. But, by being aware and planning smartly, you can manage it without worry, guilt, and weight gain. We do not need to diet hard. Just an awareness about our eating habits, usually makes it simpler to plan better. Remember awareness is the key!
Quick Tips to Manage Craving:
If you catch yourself craving for sweets or packaged/junk food, ask yourself the following questions:
Q1. Are you hungry?
If yes, offer yourself a healthy snack.
Q2. Are you thirsty?
Dehydration often leads to craving. Sometimes a glass of water stops craving
Q3. Are you tired after a long day of work?
A long shower is what you require.
Q4. Work is over and now I have nothing else to do?
Go for leisure walk before dinner, light stretching exercises/yoga or connecting with kids/family. Do not eat out of boredom.
Q5. Most common! “I have worked really hard today and it’s time to give myself a treat.”
Due to our early conditioning, we see food as a way to celebrate and to get happiness. But the best way to give yourself a treat is to follow your passion. If you are done with work, do what you love. Reading, funny videos, writing journal or doodling.
Remember, you never get enough of what you really don’t want. And eating when you are really not hungry will lead you to mindless eating.
The Author – Ms. Preeti Shah is a IIN New York and IAHC Washington Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach specialized in Gut and Hormone Health. She is also the owner of Plera Wellness Plus – A Salt Spa based in Mumbai, India.