What is Influencing our Eating Behaviours?
With the holidays quickly approaching, I wanted to share a little bit about what influences our eating behaviours.
There are three main factors that tend to influence our eating behaviours: environmental influences, bodily influences, and learned behaviours.
Let’s break them down a little bit.
Environmental Influences: The environment has an influence on our health, weight, and lifestyle. These factors are all EXTERNAL! These influences are happening as a result of our surroundings, and not what is happening internally.
- For example, think about how convenient fast food is. Look around and tell me how many advertisements you see telling you what you should do/eat/buy, essentially how you should live.
- Bodily Influence: Healthy eating is more achievable if we understand how our body works so we can work with it, rather than against it. Our eating patterns and lifestyle can influence our body’s metabolism, production of hormones and chemical messengers.
- One example is being on a low-calorie diet, which includes skipping meals, going long periods of time without eating, and consuming inadequate portions. These are all lifestyle choices that we can control. Low calorie diets signal a severe hunger in our body, which typically results in overeating, eating large portions, eating too fast, or making poor food choices.
- Activity plays a large part as well. When inactive, our body produces hormones and chemical messengers that influence and increase food cravings.
- Chronic stress and lack of sleep will also have control on your eating behaviours: the body interprets both of these the same way. Your body produces a hormone called cortisol, which when increased too much will cause your body to store more calories as fat.
To summarize, our stresses, food choices, and physical activity will affect our body, which then affects our eating behaviours.
Learned Behaviours: We learn to associate food, exercise, lack of sleep, or overworking with something else. The more often the pairing occurs, the stronger the relationship.
A trigger is a stimulus, while the learned response is the behaviour or emotion that results from the repeated pairing. For example, if food was consistently used as a treat, distraction, or soothing tool in childhood, we can learn to associate feelings with food, even into adulthood.
- If a child does well on math test and the parent gives them ice cream for a reward, that child learns that accomplishment will trigger a response of a food reward. On the other hand, if a child doesn’t do so well on the math test, and the parent gives the child ice cream to make them feel better, the child learns that food will help when dealing with hard and uncomfortable emotions.
- Other learned behaviours can be formed without a trigger. They can be formed by family, friends or cultures.
- Being aware of the reasons behind our actions will help us understand what needs to be changed, and how we can change it.
I have adapted the following information from the craving change program. I hope you find it useful.
The cognitive-behavioural approach suggests that our experiences can be broken down into thoughts, behaviours, and emotions – all which strongly impact each other. The way we think affects the way we feel, and in turn affects how we act. (Thoughts → feelings → behaviours)
NOTE: I will be providing many different strategies, and keep in mind that not all strategies will work for everyone. I encourage you to sit down and pick three of the above strategies to work on over the course of the next week. Be specific.
Goal: try all strategies, and keep up the strategies that are effective for you!
- Nurture yourself
- Adopt an 80/20 mindset
- Eliminate unwanted thoughts
- Distract yourself
- Manage your stress
- Put your cravings on hold
- Journal your thoughts and feelings
- Ambush your triggers
- Assert yourself
- Solve your problems effectively
- Quench your thirst
- Renovate your environment
- Quit sabotaging yourself
- Use positive affirmations
We hope that you have a lovely holiday season, eating mindfully and intentionally.
Written by Diane Tuerke, Registered Kinesiologist, Certified Nutritional Practitioner and founder of Nourished Movement.