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  • Rebecca D'Alton Goode

What do your eating habits say about you?

Have you ever heard the phrase 'eating your emotions'? It is more true now with all the stress and bombardment of rubbish food we are surrounded by than ever before.

In my opinion it is not that we have stopped thinking about food and that we used to all be health conscious fitness go getters, but rather that we now HAVE to think about food because of the state of the food on our shelves in the supermarket, the advertising we are constantly subject to and the unrelenting diet industry who (again in my opinion) are massively taking advantage of people desperately wanting to beat their own obesity epidemic by offering them quick fix bullshit solutions that will ultimately screw their system up even more.

So what is the answer!?...

Understanding!!! To be able to be happy in yourself and the ultimately get to where you want to be you must first understand not only who you are, but how that translates into your actions. We all eat differently, but each of us is definitely guilty of 'using' food whether it be through over eating, under eating, eating through stress... I could go on.

So here I will identify the 7 main types of eating as I see them as a way for you to get a handle and some insight into what your eating habits may say about you.

Emotional eating

Everyone knows this one. Some people end up with chronic hand to mouth syndrome when they are stressed and it is totally understandable. They are searching for something to calm them down through the hormonal responses that eating sugar and carbohydrate will give them. It is a biological reaction and if this is you then you are probably not even sure why when you are full and not even close to needing another meal that you continue to eat. You might immediately reach for the biscuit tin when you feel like you need to a good cry or find yourself diverting to the supermarket when you have had an argument with someone at work.

If you are an emotional eater it is time to get really really honest with yourself. Finding a different way to tackle your emotions and to actually feel them without letting them overwhelm you is a real life skill. It might sound cliché, but keeping a diary and using it in replacement for the evening trip to the cake cupboard might be helpful. And know it is ok to have emotions... you are human!

Habitual eating

Again, one I am sure we are all guilty of from time to time or everyday!!

Breakfast is a really good example of this. You might really not be hungry when you get up, but eat because it is what you do. Or do you ever go out for a big lunch, but feel a compulsion to still have the dinner that you planned? Habitual eating can be a safety net for some people, but it is also mindless. Your body does not have the same needs every day or week. It depends on so many factors from how much exercise you have done that week or how much sleep you have had to where you are in your hormones cycles.... and yes we all have them!

Trying to be mindful with your food and asking yourself whether you are really hungry can be super helpful. You could also try keeping a food diary detailing on a scale how hungry you are before and after you prepare your food to give you a clue as to how much and what you might want to serve yourself. Habits can serve us, but they can also inhibit our ability to make our own decisions, so start getting in touch with your REAL hunger.

See food eat food syndrome

This definitely fits into the same mindless eating bracket as habitual eating, but is much more sporadic. If you are one of these eaters you may find that you call yourself a 'grazer', but with no real idea of when you eat or why. No two days are the same, but this is not because you are being honest about your hunger, but rather that when foods come on your radar it manages to make its way into your mouth. This could form another form of emotional eating if you have a constant low mood or are suffering with depression because it could mean that you have lost any connection with the food choices you are making, or more worryingly, no longer care.

How to overcome this eating is much the same as with habitual eating; trying to eat mindfully and actively asking yourself if you are hungry. You might also find it helpful to write a food plan for yourself if you find yourself falling into this bracket in order to lift the pressure off of the constant decision making around food and get back in touch with your natural hunger levels. This is actually a very common eating pattern in our current society due to the pressure on every other aspect of our lives and the result is a very poor diet, poor energy and more than likely, weight gain.

You are worth thinking about and your body does not need to be constantly fed to function so try taking the time to plan your week and stick to it until you feel about to slowly give yourself more room for choice.

Bored eating

Student-it is right!? WRONG!! Soooooo many of us eat because we are bored. If you are bored eating, again another mindless eating style, then it is normally an indication that you are totally under stimulated and something needs to change. If you find yourself eating everyday at your desk and at home in the evenings then your focus needs a shift.

We all bored eat from time to time, but if you are eating daily just to fill the gap then its time to reassess. Life is out there for the taking and trust me when I say that no amount of eating is going to fill that gap so make a list of life goals, start ticking things off your bucket list and get other people involved to keep you accountable. Food will always feature in your life, but it doesn't have to be THE feature.

Excuse eating

This one is some what of a modern phenomenon and it all links back to the stressed lives we lead. SO many of us have lost touch with our natural hunger cues, so much so that a lot of people genuinely have no idea when they are hungry and when they are not, but what they do know is that it is universally accepted that people need to eat and so they use it as a pressure valve. They go to lunch or break a meeting as a way of getting out of work, not because they are hungry.

We lack the ability now to say what we actually need. What we really should all be saying in that situation is "I need a time out. I'm going to take 5". Go for a walk, go to the gym, find a quiet room to sit and meditate in, and don't feel this is limited to the appropriate and accepted meal times that society dictates are acceptable. I realise what I am saying here is very much work restricted, but remember you are a human and there are more reasons than just food that you might need to take a breather...and even if you do end up using this as your excuse to the board room, you do not have to use it in that way. Don't get me wrong, eat if you are hungry, 100%, definitely, but if you aren't there are other ways you could spend that time.

Pressure eating

We've all been at the party when everyone else is eating or the seven course meal comes out that you are expected to partake in. I know this might not be a lightening bolt moment, but guess what... you don't have to eat!! People tend to go one of two ways in this situation. They either eat everything or they eat nothing. There doesn't tend to be much of a middle ground.

Social eating can be a minefield if you do not have the confidence to know yourself or what you want and don't want. This is why in a work situation these two reactions are normally much more noticeable...people are less relaxed, they are aware of expectation and they may or may not know how they fit into the work dynamic with the rest of the team. It basically boils down to confidence and self believe and it can manifest itself as an inability to say what you need and don't need physically as well as emotionally.

People use this kind of eating to bond, which in itself seems like a lovely thing, but being able to eat happily and comfortably within your own remit of what is acceptable for you is so important. It is empowering to be able to make these decisions for yourself despite possible pressure from outside influences, and it is sometimes very difficult for other people to swallow (excuse the pun) if you begin to assert yourself in a way that you haven't before, but it's a very powerful step to take for your own self belief and can be a first step towards a more confident you.

Hungry eating

Yep, real actual eating. I mean eating because you are biologically hungry...your stomach has fully emptied and your blood sugar levels tell you your are hungry. This can get a bit confusing because if you are stressed the messages from stomach to brain can get a bit muddled. If you fall into the 'stressed' category then my advice would be again, to write yourself a nourishing plan for you to stick to while you work on reducing day to day stress. Easier said than done, I know! But being aware that this could be an issue for you is the first step.

Getting back in touch with true biological hunger takes time and mindfully eating in order to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full is a goal rather than something than any of us will achieve at every single meal, but it is something to be aware of. Your body will thank you for it!

There is no doubt that we all have elements of one or all of these eating traits, and they could also display themselves inversely to the way I have described with food refusal and los of interest rather than over indulging, but starting to unpick them can be very helpfully not only for your waist line and energy, but also for your wider psychological health as it can offer insight into your deeper thoughts and needs.


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