Eating behavior and habits are influenced by many factors such as culture, habits, friends, family, emotional cues and physical cues and are thus very complicated. At its core, food is simply fuel for our bodies activities and its main purpose is to sustain life. However it is hard to think of food as just fuel nowadays.
Food has become an experience, a bond, a celebration, a tradition, a therapist and yet it can also be an enemy, an obsession, and a problem.
Over time, the associations we have with food become solidified. We celebrate birthdays with cake, we celebrate school events with pizza parties, and we make ourselves feel better after a breakup with a pint of ice cream. Because it’s so commonplace, people don’t take the time to think about their own eating habits such as what they eat, when they eat, and why they eat.
Beyond that, people might not have a good gauge on when their eating habits are entering a danger zone.
And the fact of the matter is that half the U.S. population has issues surrounding food. Moreover, over 30 million Americans live with an eating disorder, more than 70 million Americans are obese and 99 million Americans are overweight.
When you know that U.S. consumers spend more than any other country on fitness, it seems that the problem doesn’t lay so much in the exercise we’re getting as in our food and our very lucrative diet culture.
True Costs of “Dieting”
One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight, one of the common goals before a wedding, reunion, or a holiday is to lose weight.
Losing weight is not inherently bad but going on a diet is not the solution either.
A lot of the diets we turn to in these circumstances are ones that are quick and effective, but also not sustainable.
Never eating your favorite foods again and only eating certain set meals cannot fulfill your cultural, emotional, and mental needs from food.
We think about diets being this forced plan that will have an end date. You go into it with fierce determination hoping to be the size you want. Yet as soon as your event is over and you go back to your old ways of eating or when you “fall off the wagon”, you gain all that weight back and some. To go through the same cycle and start again for the next event or occasion.
This type of yo-yo dieting is wrecking your body.
Have you ever noticed that the next time you try to lose weight it is harder or you lose weight initially and then progress halts?
This is called metabolic adaptation and is a response to our previous dieting history, our body likes homeostasis and will adapt for survival.
Basically, our bodies are still programmed for us to be cavemen/cavewomen and can’t differentiate between dieting on purpose and famine caused by lack of food source.
When we all of a sudden have a drastic deficit in calories or lose weight rapidly, our bodies go into survival mode and slow down our metabolism, minimize the amount of calories we burn in daily life and activity, and hold onto any fat that it can for the next famine.
That’s why losing the last 5 lbs can be extremely difficult, why we hit plateaus and also why these quick fixes don’t last. Quite the opposite, they create long term damage that is extremely hard to undo.
The solution is to focus on gradual nutrition improvement and mindful eating, to include “refeed” days or to approach a lifelong relationship with food and your diet.
We are all on a “Diet”
Everyone is on a diet. I’m not saying we are all on either keto, vegan or celery juice FAD diets; what you eat is what is in your diet.
Definition of diet :
a: food and drink regularly provided or consumed
b: habitual nourishment
c: the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason
d: a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight
It is our cultural connotation that makes us feel like dieting in restrictive, boring, and punishment. Yet being on a diet literally just means eating.
Relationship with Food
I would argue that instead of putting all the emphasis on macros, calories, and eating chicken every day, that we focus on our overall relationship with food.
Changing what we eat to lose weight is only working on our symptoms and therefore can only ever be a short term solution. As soon as our punishment is over and we are off our diet we go right back to our ways.
Instead if we dig to the roots of our eating behavior and learn WHY we eat, when we eat and what we eat, then we can make actual changes for the long term health.
If you only eat junk food when you’re stressed and learn to deal with the stress in a healthier way then you might not even CRAVE the junk food.
Supposing that eating behavior is influenced by everything around us (friends, culture, physical, emotional and mental factors etc.) then we need to start changing our diets with those same factors. When we begin to look at a diet as a lifestyle and not as a punishment to be “thinner,” or any other cultural shaming, then we can have a healthier, happier life overall and not just be eating more carrots than cake.
If you or a loved one are suffering with an eating disorder or unsure if you are dealing with one seek help. Know that you are not alone and that there is no shame in struggling or seeking help.
If you enjoyed this post and would love to learn more, joining us at our 2022 Marina Wellness Week, January 3 to January 8!
Marina Wellness Week will be a chance to meet local health and fitness professionals, enthusiasts and newbies, exercise together and learn about the options you have to make 2022 YOUR year.
Programming features workshops and seminar style sessions by Monterey Bay Moves, CSUMB, the Blue Zones Project, Na Haumana and the Monterey Stinging Jellies Disc Golf club.