Why We Eat

All About the Science

When I finished my nutrition studies I was excited to get out into the world and start imparting my knowledge to anyone who would listen (and even those who didn't want to listen!). It didn’t take me long to realise that I only had part of the picture. You see I knew all about the biochemistry, the anatomy and physiology, the chemical pathways in the body and the nutrients required to increase their functionality. I knew how many macro and micro nutrients should be included in diets which encompassed all kinds of variables – age, gender, activity levels, illness, hormones, gut health and the techniques needed to assess and analyse nutritional intakes and deficiencies. I knew a lot about what people should eat to improve their health but I very quickly realised that there was a whole other side to nutrition which was the WHY.

Why didn’t people eat what I told them to?

There are many reasons why people eat and being hungry is way, way down the list. According to research at Cornell University, we make over 250 food decisions every day, yet many of them are reactionary or instinctive - made unconsciously without consideration, triggered by events and emotions that we never even consider. Some of the reasons why we eat include:-

Emotions: - bored, happy, sad, depressed, stressed, lonely, upset, angry

Habit: - popcorn at movies, snacking in front of the TV, hot dog at the footy, a break from the computer. Have you heard the one about the popcorn? Researchers at Cornell University gave cinema goers free small and large cartons of popcorn. The people who got the larger cartons ate more than the people who were given the smaller cartons but the real kicker is this – ALL the popcorn was stale but everyone still ate it anyway. Habit.

Principle: - Don’t leave food on plate, don’t waste food, be rude to refuse

Greed: - you know that separate dessert stomach? It’s not really true, but we really want that piece of chocolate hazelnut cheesecake despite the fact that we've already consumed way too much food and are feeling a little bit sick......

Association: - The best example for this is a personal one. My mum is very sick and on hearing some bad news a few weeks ago my choice for lunch was a bowl of rhubarb crumble. This was a particular favourite of our whole family and a reminder of some really happy times. The taste, smell and texture took me to another time and place. Food can be incredibly evocative.

Reward: -I’ve been to the gym, I worked hard today.

Addiction: - Many processed and packaged foods have chemicals in them that lead us into overconsumption for example sugar, caffeine, MSG

Thirst: - Sometimes we misread hunger when we are really thirsty. Try having a glass of water first and wait to see how you feel.

Sometimes we need to take a step back and think about what we are eating and why, particularly if we are over consuming foods that are low in nutritional value and high in chemicals, sugars and saturated fats. A lot has been written about mindful eating which is the process of  taking the time to appreciate the food we are eating and paying attention to the many benefits that food provides to our overall health and wellbeing. To get started t ry asking yourself these questions taken from Dr Susan Albers – Eating Mindfully

Do I:-

1.        Stop eating when I am full?

2.       Eat when I am hungry rather than emotional?

3.        Not pick at food?

4.       Taste each bite before reaching for the next?

5.        Think about how nourishing the food is for my body?

6.       Be non-judgemental of myself when I accidently overeat?

7.        Not multitask when I eat. When I eat, I just eat?

8.       Be able to leave some food on my plate if I don’t want it?

9.       Eat slowly, chewing each bite?

10.    Recognise when I slip into mindless eating?

 If you would like help with your nutrition,  email  awright@alimentary.com.au to book a one on one consultation.