Remember when you were two?
Me neither, but pictures of that time of my life show me smiling, laughing and eating an ice cream cone while wearing a bikini and standing in my baby pool. That was long before I knew that ice cream was 'fattening' or that you had to look a certain way to wear a bikini, and eating ice cream wasn't the best way to achieve that look.
I'm not sure when it happened for me, but research suggests that somewhere between the ages of 2 and 5, most of us lose our ability to eat healthily and naturally on our own. Rather than listening to what our bodies are telling us that we need, we learn to eat for:
Over time, we begin to ignore internal cues (i.e., hunger), and pay attention to external cues (i.e., taste, smell, variety; especially high fat and/or high sugar foods). In fact, 30-50% of us engage in unconscious or ‘mindless’ eating on a fairly regular basis and all of us have done so at one time or another. This can cause “conditioned hypereating” and make you twice as likely to be overweight. Or we make 'rules' about what we should and should not eat to look a certain way. Or because we think our way of eating is 'correct.' I certainly fell into this latter category. As a result, many of us start to view food as the enemy. We forget the way we used to eat with joyful abandon. And instead food becomes not fuel for our bodies, but something we think we should have control over - or alternatively, feel that food controls us.
According to Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, this alters our relationship with food in such a way that we form different types of eating personalities.
- The Chaotic Unconscious Eater - very busy people. They usually have an overbooked life and will eat whatever is available. They recognize that nutrition and diet is important but they don’t have time to focus on it. They may go long periods of times without eating due to their hectic schedule. So when they do eat, they often over eat because their bodies are deprived of calories and nutrition.
- The Refuse-Not Unconscious Eater - very vulnerable to the presence of food, whether they are hungry or not. If food is lying around at meetings, candy dishes, or on a counter, it will be gone in no time flat! Most of the time they don’t realize they are eating or the quantity of food they are consuming. Thus, social events centered around food are problematic because they will mindlessly over eat passed the point of satiety.
- The Waste-Not Unconscious Eater - often grew up in poverty or in a nutrition-deficient household. They focus on the monetary value of food and are driven by getting as much food as possible for their money. As a result, they will clean their plate and possibly others, so as not to waste any food.
- The Emotional Unconscious Eater - uses food as their primary coping mechanism, especially when they have to deal with uncomfortable emotions, such as stress, anger, and loneliness. Their ‘coping’ ranges from eating a single candy bar to chronic binge eating.
Now that you know what problems you may have with food, it’s time to focus on what to do about it. According to Tribole and Resch, there are 10 steps to recovering a healthy relationship with food.
They call these the 9 principles of intuitive eating.
What step will you take today to repair your relationship with food?