You’re rushed in the morning, so you totally skip breakfast. Because you haven’t eaten, you’re ravenous at noon, so you splurge on a Big Mac, fries and a super-sized soda for lunch. Midafternoon you hit the vending machine for a Snickers and a small bag of pretzels. In the evening, you’re dining with friends. At the restaurant you indulge in a T-bone steak, twice baked potato and a “sliver” of cheesecake for dessert. Congratulations, you’ve just consumed about 200 grams of fat, about 4 times the healthy amount allotted for a 170 lb. male.
Why do we resort to these kinds of reckless eating patterns? We live in a fast-paced world where everything must be accomplished in a rush. Instead of taking time to make sound nutritional choices, we turn eating into just one more task to scratch off our “to-do” list. Once we form these sloppy, unhealthy eating habits, it’s hard to break them.
What most people don’t realize is that there are psychological components behind our eating patterns. Most of us develop our taste for food when we are kids. That’s when we’re introduced to the typical American diet of fast-food and super-sized portions. It’s tough to change behaviors that are formed when we’re still in diapers.
There is another psychological component involved in overeating bad foods. I call it the “comfort element”. Ever wonder why holidays are such trying times for weight gain? That’s because high fat and sugar foods like cookies, cakes, pies and other refined carbs make people initially feel happy, festive and comforted. These rich, fattening goodies become associated with celebrations and good times. People simply forget about the weight gain and clogged arteries that are also the results of such feasting.
What can you do to change bad eating habits especially with the holidays approaching? Here are a few easy, practical steps toward developing healthier taste buds and controlling that precarious waist-line:
- Cleanse your palate. Try replacing fatty foods with choices that are healthy and nutritious. Substitute a banana instead of a candy bar for that mid-morning snack. Keep nuts and fresh fruit in your desk at work.
- Try eating at home more often where you can control portion size and how food is prepared.
- Read labels when you shop and be conscious of calories: 1 gram of carbs = 4 calories; 1 gram of protein =4 calories; 1 gram of fat = 9 calories; 1 gram of alcohol = 7 calories.
- Eat less fat. You need some fat in your diet, so try to get it from healthy whole grains, lean chicken and fish. Avoid processed fast foods. High protein foods are more filling.
- Think of food as energy. The cleaner you eat, the better your body will run, and this’ll make you feel better and live longer!