Psychology of Eating
Updated January 2018
Whether we are trying to lose weight or just improve our overall health status, we know the drill; eat healthy, nutritious, whole food (especially those vegetables your mom always tried to force down your throat), exercise regularly, and practice stress management. What could be simpler?
Except that it’s never that simple. There are many factors that affect our ability to stick with the program. So let’s explore a few of them.
Poor Balance of Nutrients– When you look at your daily food intake, do you have enough servings of all the food groups at each meal, or are you saving all those vegetables for dinner. Perhaps, you eat fruit 3-4 times a day, and processed grains and dairy at every meal and snack and not much else. And what about protein? This doesn’t give the right balance of nutrients to really nourish our body and brain and maintain that all-day energy.
Cravings – Following a poorly-balanced diet causes a vicious cycle of cravings that is impossible to ignore. When you eat too many processed foods, you are getting far too many simple carbohydrates, which causes your blood sugar to think it’s on a roller coaster ride. Your body’s attempts to balance this blood sugar high causes a crash, so you receive an urgent signal to get that level back up to where it belongs as fast as possible – hence a craving for a quick energy source.
Hormones – Our hormones are these amazing chemicals that send signals through our body to tell it what to do and when to do it. When we are stressed we have hormones to help give us the energy and quick response to cope. Another set of hormones regulates our appetite and satiety. And still others that regulate our metabolism. It’s all about balance. Balanced hormones mean balanced appetite, energy and mood.
Bliss Point – This is a term used by processed food manufacturers to determine the level of fat, sugar and salt added to processed foods to trigger that “bliss point” in taste and ability to cause you to keep eating beyond when those satiety hormones would tell you to stop. This is high-tech science conspiring to keep you buying and eating as much of a processed food as possible. Lay’s says it best: “Bet you can’t eat just one”. Reading a bit more on this topic from the book "Salt, Sugar, Fat" by Michael Moss, food manufacturers go to great lengths (and spend millions of dollars) in their product development, marketing, recruitment of scientists and managers, to stay ahead of the trends in foods and convenience based on the needs of the day. The discussion around the product "Tang" brought back some memories for me and learning that adding vitamin C and promoting as perfect food for astronauts, catapulted it rise in popularity as an orange juice substitute was a revelation. The race to find and patent the magic formula for instant pudding before a competitor, was another interesting surprise that changed General Foods' mandate to keep food ingredients natural and additive-free to doing whatever it needed to stay competitive and in business.
Social cues – It’s not fun going to a social or family function and being the only one not eating the cake or pizza or having a drink. There is huge social pressure to fit in and join the crowd. Sticking to the program takes effort and planning and often seems to take all the fun out of social events, which are so often centered around food and drink. It isn't easy to get over the "oh poor me" syndrome when eating with family and friends.
So it’s not all your fault. You need to make the choice to plan to succeed in your health and weight loss goals. You need to be mentally prepared to resist those addictive processed foods and social temptations. Get help from experts as needed and support from family and friends. Plan ahead, including anticipating and preparing for distractions and temptations. Finally, don’t beat yourself up when you fall off the wagon. Just do your best with your own health now and in the future.
Contact me today to schedule your initial assessment to explore your stumbling blocks.
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Tanya Sullivan is a Holistic Nutrition Consultant with many opinions on the state of our food and health.
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