External Eating – why do we use the outside world to guide eating?

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Why do you eat?

Simple question with a not so simple answer… there are SO many reasons why we eat and these can vary day to day and will change throughout our lives. When we were babies we mostly ate purely when we were hungry – babies tend to be very good at letting it be known they’re hungry. But as we grow older we tend to move away from using our hunger to guide our eating and rely on a whole host of triggers to tell us when and what to eat. This is where external eating comes in.

Subtle triggers

We use all our senses (there are some schools of thought that think we have 10-20 different senses) whether consciously or not to guide our eating behaviours. Our senses tell us so much about what’s going on in our bodies and about how our body interacts with the outside world. You might not always be aware that they are influencing how you eat, but let’s look at some that do just that:

Smell – we can probably all think about a time that we’ve been walking past a bakery and as the aroma of fresh baked pastries and bread wafts towards us suddenly started to salivate, whether we just ate or not.

Sound – have you ever been having a conversation with a friend or colleague or whoever and when the talk has turned to food all of a sudden your stomach starts to niggle? Just talking about food and conjuring up delicious images can cause us to want to eat.

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Sight – this is a powerful one as I guarantee you’ve been tempted to eat too much by the sight of a hot, cheesy pizza or shining, gooey chocolate cake.

Touch – the touch of warm, crusty bread as you make lunch or the feel of the soft fuzz on a kiwi can stimulate our hunger.

As well as these there are subtle influencers such as misdirected comments from loved ones like “are you sure you need that extra slice?” We also use these to tell us what to eat, instead of listening to our bodies that might be telling us we do need that extra slice.

The not-so subtle triggers

Then we have the not-so subtle external influencers that surround us day to day that we choose to put in place to tell us what, when and how much to eat. This can be for a host of reasons but commonly because people feel ‘out of control’ with eating or like they have to change their bodies so need help achieving this. Examples of such influencers are meal plans, calorie trackers, articles and videos, clever marketing of food products and many more.

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Online tools (e.g. meal planners, weight loss tools) are some of the worst. One shocking example of how bad some of these tools are is when I tested out NOOM which is an online weight loss plan helping people to ‘Lose Weight for Good’. I wanted to see whether online tools that are ‘supposed’ to help make people healthier would have safe-guards in to keep people’s goals realistic.

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Clearly this one DID NOT as I was able to get it to make me a plan so that I could end up with a BMI of 7.3 (WTF). DO NOT TRUST THESE SITES – they don’t know you, what you like and dislike, how busy your life is, how much money you have to spend on food etc. And clearly they don’t know anything about healthy relationships with food or bodies.

Basically my point is that there are a heap of variables in our day to day lives that try to tempt us to eat when we’re not hungry, convince us that we need to eat less to be ‘worthy’ or mislead us into unnecessary diets that don’t fit with our lifestyles. Although external eating has its place and can still lead to satisfying enjoyable eating, it’s important to be aware of the pulls for our attention when it comes to food and to say no or yes when it’s right.

Enjoy eating food. Not too much, not too little. Mostly what satisfies you” – Michael Pollan in In Defense of Food: An Eating Manifesto, adapted by Tribole and Resch in Intuitive Eating.

For the keen readers and evidence checkers amongst you

BBC (2014). Psychology: How many senses do we have. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20141118-how-many-senses-do-you-have

EUFIC (2014). Why do we eat what we eat: biology of food choice. Available at: https://www.eufic.org/en/food-today/article/why-do-we-eat-what-we-eat-biology-of-food-choice

Houa et al. (2001). External eating, impulsivity and attentional bias to food cues. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2011.01.019

 

RE-POST: The Morality of Food

Angels and Devils

When deciding what to eat day to day do you choose the foods that you love, that give you the most enjoyment and satisfaction? Or do you see your favourite foods yet deprive yourself? Have foods become divided in your mind into go and stop, fake and real, right and wrong?

For many people foods have become just this; firmly placed into separate camps that either welcome and nourish or tempt and erode health. However, as I’ve touched upon in previous posts (see the dangers of dichotomising food) there is absolutely no need to draw these distinctions and place morality and emotions onto our food. So why is this something that we see every day?

Continue reading “RE-POST: The Morality of Food”

RE-POST: Diets don’t work. Deal with it.

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If you look up the word ‘diet’ in the Oxford English dictionary you get different definitions, two of which are below:

Noun: “the kinds of food that a person, or animal, habitually eat”

Verb: “to restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food, in order to lose weight.”

Continue reading “RE-POST: Diets don’t work. Deal with it.”

Body size and shape doesn’t matter as much as you think… go figure.

Bodies of All Shapes and Sizes

Ever heard someone describe themselves as a pear, apple, spoon or diamond? These terms are commonly thrown about to describe the shape of our bodies and are often done so with a roll of our eyes at the inevitable misfortune that we don’t have the longed for female hourglass shape or male inverted pyramid. There’s a lot of talk about how diet and exercise can help to sculpt our body into the perfect shape which many of us fall for as we wage perpetual war on our bodies. We don’t try to fight our shoe size… our height… or our eye colour. So why do we fight so hard against our body shape and weight?

Continue reading “Body size and shape doesn’t matter as much as you think… go figure.”

7. Enjoyable eating culture – because food should be enjoyable!

Enjoyable eating culture

Food, diet and eating habits are part of a bigger picture that includes cultural contexts of eating that, in part, inform our behaviours. In order to have a sustainably healthy and enjoyable diet the context of eating should also be taken into consideration. Food should give us pleasure, it’s biological, we can’t (and shouldn’t) deny it, but how we eat our food and who with plays a role in this. In this finale of the 7 principles of sustainable eating I look at what, from my point of view, is one of the most important aspects of food – pleasure.

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Eating what YOU want this Christmas

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Christmas is a time of plenty. It seems the holiday season these days has become synonymous with eating lots, drinking lots and having all of the things the rest of the year we’re ‘not allowed’.

But how about this year NOT having one last splurge before the January diet kicks in? Why not treat it as a time to really enjoy festive food and drink in a way that still makes your body feel good?

Continue reading “Eating what YOU want this Christmas”

The Morality of Food

Angels and Devils

When deciding what to eat day to day do you choose the foods that you love, that give you the most enjoyment and satisfaction? Or do you see your favourite foods yet deprive yourself? Have foods become divided in your mind into go and stop, fake and real, right and wrong?

For many people foods have become just this; firmly placed into separate camps that either welcome and nourish or tempt and erode health. However, as I’ve touched upon in previous posts (see the dangers of dichotomising food) there is absolutely no need to draw these distinctions and place morality and emotions onto our food. So why is this something that we see every day?

Continue reading “The Morality of Food”

Eating the Mindful Way

shutterstock_168648482Without knowing it my first experience with true mindful eating came one Food Technology class when I was in high school (shout out to Miss Cooke, such a legend!). Dissecting a Mars Bar is how this particular class was sold and it entailed slowly, consciously unwrapping the mars bar and using a scalpel to remove each layer of firm chocolate, sticky caramel and gooey nougat. Paying attention to all details of textures, aromas, sights, flavours and mouth-feel of the chocolate.

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5. Minimally Processed Food Preference (we sure about this…?)

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So, this is the one principle of sustainable nutrition that I take the most issue with. Processed foods have received a fair bit of press over recent years and most of it extremely negative. I want to uncover with this post why this might be and present some alternative realities around processed foods.

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The dangers of dichotomising food

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This might seem a tad controversial to some, especially coming from a nutritionist, but I’m going to say it… ALL foods have a place in our diet, that’s right all of them. The World Health Organisation defines health as not just being free of disease but being in a state of physical, mental and emotional wellbeing – this, to me, is a really powerful statement and opens up the argument of what health really means.

Continue reading “The dangers of dichotomising food”