Are Your Eating Habits Helping or Hindering Your Health Goals? – Leslie Bonci
Posted July 28, 2021
Are Your Eating Habits Helping or Hindering Your Health Goals?
When you hear the words- diet, meal plan, or eating well you probably think about foods you should be eating as well as those you should limit or eliminate. While it is certainly true that food quality is a critical component of health, eating habits are just as important.
Your food choices may be quite good, but if you race through meals, multitask while eating and upload calories, your eating habits may derail or sabotage your body and health goals.
Let’s start with the WORST eating habits. So why are they on this list? If you regularly practice these behaviors your weight loss may stall, your health may not be as good, your energy levels may tank, and you may notice more digestive issues during and after meals.
- Rushing through meals- life is hectic enough, but eating shouldn’t be. Eating quickly may lead to overconsumption at mealtimes and gut discomfort (fullness, bloating, indigestion).
- Being a distracted eater- eyes on the computer, phone screen, or TV while eating. If you don’t get the visual stimulation of the food, your body misses out on some of the appeal of the meal. You may find yourself not even knowing what you eat, or worse, if you have a bag of pretzels, a box of crackers, or sleeve of cookies, you may plow through them and not feel full or satisfied.
- Eating out of boredom. Sometimes when we are tired or bored, we look to food as a pleasant distraction and something to do. If you are reaching for an apple, ok, BUT if you are facing a long afternoon of work and find yourself making several trips to the vending machine or raiding a co-worker’s candy jar- you end up consuming several unwanted calories, and guess what, you still need to get your work done.
- Uploading calories. If you find yourself eating minimally during the day and large amounts at night you may notice that you are more fatigued during the day and find it harder to concentrate or get in a good workout and you may be more likely to overeat at night.
- Erratic eating patterns. If you eat 3 meals a day during the weekday and only once on the weekend, or a continuous buffet on Saturday, it is very hard for the body to establish any consistency and regularity with calorie intake which may sabotage your body goals.
So, what to do? Here are the BEST eating habits. If these are not part of your routine, start with one, and practice it daily. It takes about 3 weeks to establish a new eating habit and 3 months of repeating and implementing a new eating habit before it becomes routine.
- Sit at a table to eat meals or snacks. This puts you in the moment, so you are aware of what you eat, the taste and aroma of the food, and the degree of hunger and fullness. Plus, if you sit to eat, you are in one place with the food in front of you instead of walking around the kitchen opening the refrigerator and cupboards, and grabbing and grazing.
- Slow down your eating. Take the time to chew, taste, and swallow. Eating more slowly can help you to feel fuller sooner and decrease the total amount of food consumed,
- Distribute calories over the course of the day. Aim for even distribution rather than the roller coaster look to the day. Try to make breakfast and lunch similar size and dinner slightly larger instead of minimal eating earlier in the day followed by a buffet at night. You may notice your energy levels improve, blood glucose and blood lipids may normalize, and you will be less likely to experience heartburn/bloating with more evenly sized meals.
- Stop when full. The goal is not to eat to the point of being stuffed but rather, on a scale of 1-5, where after a meal 1 means you are still ravenous and 5 means the button is ready to pop off the pants, aim for a 3- in other words, you could eat a little more, but you feel quite comfortable.
- Be consistent. Try for the same number of meals/snacks every day of the week. So, you may find 3 meals and 1 snack works well, or perhaps 2 larger meals and 1 smaller meal. Notice how you feel eating at regular intervals. Does your hunger abate? Do you feel more productive during the day? Are you better able to achieve weight goals?
There is not one ideal meal plan, and nor is there one best eating habit, but if you are committed to treating your body right, consider a habit do-over to complement food choices and augment your health.
Contributed by Leslie Bonci, MPH, RDN, CSSD, LDN, owner of Active Eating Advice. Reach out to her through her website for more nutrition information.