Overcoming the Habit of “Rationalizing” Reasons to Eat

For my latest U.S. News Eat+Run blog post, I chose a seemingly simple topic that many people struggle with: eating when hungry… or shall I say, not hungry… or even more specifically rationalizing reasons to eat that may have nothing to do with real physical hunger.

What is Hunger, Anyway?

Hunger is our intuitive signal that tells us we need to eat. That little rumble we feel in our stomachs, a dip in energy, as well as the growl we hear, is hunger speaking to us. These feelings and noises are a good thing because they helps us regulate our food intake and our body’s digestion process.

Hunger for Food or Something Else?

However, many of us ignore our intuition and instead listen to other factors that lead to self-sabotage. We most often eat for reasons other than hunger because we justify excuses to ourselves. It is important to realize that telling yourself that you can eat whatever you want because you had a bad day or because you already ate something unhealthy is only hurting yourself.

If you are reading this and realizing that you have used self-sabotage in the past, here are some ways to squash it:

  • Make a list of all the “rationales” you have told yourself about reasons to eat. Write down next to each one whether it is realistic for positive self care or if it allows you to pursue bad habits.
  • Whenever you begin to think one of these rationales, pause, write it down again and ask yourself if it is the best choice you could make right now.
  • Pay attention to your hunger signs! Be able to decipher if you want a certain food because you are hungry or if you are just craving it or trying to avoid something uncomfortable. If you are actually hungry, then go eat. Your body needs nourishment. If not, address what emotions you are feeling.
  • Be patient! It takes time to change but finally learning to listen to your hunger will help you live a healthy life!

For more tips on how to help squash self-sabotage and listen to your hunger read the full article here!

Resources: Check out the book Intuitive Eating if you really want to build different eating skills. I studied under one of the authors, Evelyn Tribole for nutrition supervision and it completely changed my outlook on eating habits.

These People Need Food, Dammit

I know I tend to focus on the overweight aspect of weight management and healthy eating on this blog. Amidst the media stories of “the obesity epidemic” and a few weeks later “obesity rates are leveling off” a story like this New York Times article comes along to shock me and give me a bit of a reality check. Food banks are running out of supplies – and fast. Fewer donations and less government funding has put the squeeze on most of the nation’s food banks and now they are rationing out foods.

“Donations are down, and people who need help is up,” said Liz Carter, executive director of the food bank. “So what are we going to do. We just made the decision that instead of giving people six or seven days worth of food, we’re going to give them three or four days of food, which is a drop in the bucket.”

I hate the thought of people going hungry in America, the “super size country”. I talked about the hunger/obesity paradox in this country in an earlier post. What’s the picture of a hungry person. It’s probably not what you had in mind, the poorest of the poor. In some cases, people have jobs but food costs are so high and their pay is so low they just need help making ends meet.

Consider volunteering or donating to a local food bank or America’s Second Harvest. They need you now more than ever!

The Paradox of Food Insecurity, Yo-Yo Diets, and Obesity in the U.S.

It seems that the obesity discussion far too often leans toward over-consumption of food and calorie balance (I’m personally guilty of that…)

But we’re not talking enough about the links between food insecurity (i.e. hunger) and obesity.

This new article in JAMA highlights the issue well in plain English. It also has references to top organizations, such as FRAC, that are trying to bring the latest research into the forefront.

Many people who are overweight now believe that years of yo-yo dieting has contributed to excess weight gain. It seems science is catching up to real life experiences as mounting evidence supports over/under consumption cycles and weight gain. Researchers believe that food insecurity yields a similar inconsistent food consumption pattern and hence a “hunger and obesity paradox”.

It is quite perplexing. America is a developed country. Food is cheap. Yet people go hungry.

Here’s an excerpt:

In adults, food insecurity has been associated with type 2 diabetes (Seligman HK et al. J Gen Intern Med. 2007;22[7]:1018-1023). “Patients with diabetes require special diets, and yet the ability to be consistent with those special diets was compromised by food insecurity,” said Mark Nord, PhD, of the Food Assistance Branch at the Economic Research Service of the USDA.

Food insecurity also has been linked to overweight and obesity, particularly among women (Townsend MS et al. J Nutr. 2001;131[6]:1738-1745; Wilde PE and Peterman JN. J Nutr. 2006;136[5]:1395-1400). This apparent paradox may be explained by the fact that high-calorie, processed foods often are less expensive than fresh, perishable foods such as fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.

“One of the first food groups that’s cut out of an impoverished person’s diet is produce,” explained David H. Holben, PhD, RD, of the School of Human and Consumer Sciences, at Ohio University, in Athens. “Generally speaking, they often choose high-fat, high-sugar, low-cost foods that taste good,” he added. Re searchers have found that marketing can also influence consumers, who are bombarded with advertising for unhealthful food and receive inadequate nutritional information, especially in restaurants (Hayne CL et al. J Public Health Policy. 2004;25[3-4]:391-407).

Food insecurity can also set up a scenario in which access to food is inconsistent, leading to periods of underconsumption followed by compensatory overconsumption. “There’s good evidence that yo-yo dieting is associated with a higher risk of overweight and obesity, and it leads people to wonder if involuntary boom and bust cycles in food intake could also be associated,” said Parke Wilde, PhD, of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, in Boston.