Are eating habits slowing down your weight loss progress? Are you currently attempting a diet and your habits are getting in the way? There are some solutions you can implement that can help you.
Firstly, what is a diet? A diet refers to the kinds of foods and drinks that people, animals, and communities habitually eat.
Secondly, what are habits? Habits refer to why and how people eat what they eat and even the ways they obtain food or who they eat the food with.
A variety of factors influence habits:
These can be created or influenced by already existing habits. For example, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov conditioned a dog to salivate at the sound of a bell. He did this by feeding the dog when the bell rang so the dog began to associate the bell with food and therefore, salivated. Pavlov found that he was able to initiate the response when the bell was rang regardless if he got the food or not. The experiment showed that eating in response to a stimuli is a fairly easy habit to get into.
Social influences refer to the way we have been brought up or who we surround ourselves with. This can also refer to peer pressure, income and work schedule.
Some cultures enjoy specific cuisines. For example, what one culture finds a delight, another may find repulsive. For example, the French enjoy snails and frog legs whereas Scandinavia and other parts of Europe enjoy horse meat. Although, these are enjoyable within these cultures, other cultures may disagree and vice versa.
- Religion – Certain religions prohibit the consumption of certain foods or disallow their consumption at certain times of the year. For example,
- Christianity – doesn’t have dietary rules
- Judaism – does not permit the consumption of pork, the meat must be ‘kosher’ (slaughtered and prepared by the rabbinic law)
- Hinduism – restricts the consumption of beef and the food must be offered to the almighty first
- Islam – meat must be ‘halal’ (slaughtered) and cannot eat pork. Ramadan occurs once per year and is a time of fasting where all Muslims from the age of 12 cannot eat or drink anything during daylight hours
Moral and beliefs
These refer to someone’s belief and disagreements. For example, some vegans and vegetarians became vegans and vegetarians because they don’t agree with the consumption of meats and killing of animals.
Mood, emotional status, psychological well-being, media campaigns and celebrity endorsements
The way food looks, smells, tastes and feels
The body’s requirement to stay alive eg: hormones, stress, pregnancy, illness. All of these examples can affect the food choices we make.
Before we get into different types of habits and their solutions, let’s take this opportunity to go over the worst habit of all; Hunger vs Habit. Do you remember earlier in this article, we discussed Pavlov’s experiment with the dog and how he managed to get the dog to salivate at the sound of a bell no matter if he got food or not? This is a great example in showing you how easy it is to get into a habit. Hunger vs Habit refers to the availability of food and the habitual way of eating and the way it has taken over our ability to distinguish between true hunger and just eating out of habit, some people may even struggle to recognise when they are full.
Are you one of those people who enjoy having something to eat with a movie? Or out with friends? These are very common habits and a lot of the time we don’t realise that we haven’t budgeted for these. Budgeting in this context refers to calories not monetary value. If you know that on a specific day you will be meeting with your friends or going to watch Netflix or some TV, you need to budget for it. Some people grab for food without realising they are grabbing food until they feel guilty after consuming it. This is the time to take a second to think, stop what you are doing, pause and think. Are you hungry? Or are you eating out of habit? No one else can answer that question for you.
Types of habits and their solutions
Adding salt before even tasting the food
Salt adds flavour and we get it, but a lot of the time there is enough salt in a meal, if you are cooking it, consuming a ready-made meal or eating out at a restaurant, these meals will have salt in them so take a second to taste it or check labels for the salt content. According to NHS, adults should consume no more than 6g of salt which is approximately 1 teaspoon. You need to remember, salt causes water retention which may lead to swollen hands, feet, legs and ankles, and even raises your blood pressure. This puts a great amount of strain on your kidneys, heart and brain. High blood pressure can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and dementia and kidney disease.
If you are eating fast you are not giving enough time for your body to recognise when you are full. This can lead to indigestion and overeating which can lead to weight gain. There isn’t a quick fix with this one, you just need to learn how to self-control. Try to think of a way you can pace yourself when eating, can you speak to a family member or do something during your meals, like drinking water every so often? It would help you to slow down a little.
Eating out with friends
A lot of the time peer pressure is involved when eating out with friends, so some people may choose a restaurant that lacks healthy options. A solution to this would be if someone cooks and they invite them to their house instead of eating out. Or, invite friends into the house and order a takeout. But ensure it is a takeout that has healthy options.
Hunger or habit
Before you bite into your habitual snack or meal, pause, take a second to think if you are actually hungry? If you come to the conclusion that you just want that snack, put it away, you don’t need it. Grab a fruit instead if you really need to nibble on something.
Watching TV and eating
Did you know that when you eat in front of a TV your brain is too distracted to register the signals your body is sending you to inform you that you are full? This means you are likely to overeat. A solution to this would be to get into a habit of eating with the TV being switched off. Listen to some music in the background instead.
Eating big portions
Quite a lot of people, especially men, struggle with this one. If you are eating large portions or you have been brought up to finish your plate completely, you should start eating from smaller plates or increasing the amount of fruit and veg you have on the pate which will mean that you will still eat a big portion but less calories since your plate has been filled with vegetables.
Life gets in the way of things all the time, let’s face it, something will always come up to upset you, stress you out and take you back a step. But that’s okay. In these kind of moments you need to remember where you are right now, what you have already achieved and remember how hard you worked for it and if you are ready to throw it away by binge eating? At the end of the day, it will only make you feel worse once the guilt kicks in, so, just take a moment to think before you allow your emotions to take over.
In summary, if you feel like you are suffering from any deficiencies or you are still uncertain on how to deal with your eating habits or ensure to give your body what it needs to function better or to reach your body goals then please check out our nutritional therapy programs or laboratory tests that may examine how your current lifestyle and diet is affecting your overall health and wellbeing. Some of the great tests that may be suitable is the diet and lifestyle test or health and lifestyle test.
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