I’m going to just jump right into this topic. Too many of us are eating for reasons other than physical survival and I want to shed some like on that so that we can become more self-aware of our food choices relative to our health and longevity.
First of all, I am not a food guru, health junkie, or clean eating freak by any means or stretch of anyone’s imagination. I am, however, a natural health enthusiast that lives in a relaxed world of free eating. I also like to observe people, downright watch them, if you will, because at times I find human behavior quite fascinating, including my own. That, combined with my desire to help, is why I have gotten into coaching. But, I digress….
So, WHY ARE YOU EATING?
1. Well, let me tell you this true little-known story about myself to illustrate point #1. A few months ago, I was one of those people you’ve heard about that craves, absolutely craves, weird stuff. In fact, what I craved was chalk. I craved it like I crave chocolate sometimes–a lot of the time. I craved it so bad sometimes that I’m so glad that I didn’t have any around because I’m not sure that I would not have tried it! So, to substitute for the chalk, I looked for things that were actually food items that would be of a similar consistency and safe to consume. What I ended up eating instead of chalk, was aspirin and flour–but usually aspirin, and only one at a time–and I had the nerve to try to savor it! So after a few weeks, I realized this craving wasn’t going away, that it was getting worse. So I discussed it with my mother, a registered nurse, who told me that my body was probably lacking something it needed which caused the craving.
Duh! I knew that! But, I had somehow forgotten all about that. So, being who I am, I went to the internet and started researching this topic based on what I knew of my medical history. What I discovered was that I had “pica.” Pica is when you crave something to eat that really isn’t edible and it can be attributed to your body lacking something that it needs. In my case, it wasn’t that I was losing my mind, it was because I had become anemic again. Iron-deficiency anemia is a condition that I have suffered from repeatedly throughout the years. It’s easily manageable by taking supplements, but in my case I build up too much iron after awhile and have to stop taking the iron supplements. Quite an inconvenient cycle, it is. But, for whatever reason, this time I developed pica from my anemia. Once I started taking iron again, within maybe a week or so, the craving for chalk completely went away and has not returned.
Moral of this story? Step awaaaay from the chalk! If you have weird food cravings, go see your doctor asap.
2. Another reason people eat is to stuff their problems and anxieties down; almost like they are eating their problems. You’re scared about making that big speech? You stuff down a cupcake. You don’t know how you’re going to tell your husband you crashed the car? You stuff down a bag of chips. You’re lonely? You eat the cupcake AND the chips. It’s almost like trying to plug up an anxiety hole, a way to “comfort” yourself. Fact: Emotional eating is why 80% of overweight people are overweight. Just think: if this applies to you, and you recognize this about yourself, you have the power to change it. That’s pretty exciting! Learn to recognize your triggers and plan in advance how you will respond, and in what way, when you feel emotional.
3. People eat to swallow their insecurities. You don’t think you’re pretty enough? Pass the ice cream…that’ll make you feel pretty…for a minute. You don’t think you’re smart enough? Pass the soda…you’ll be so wired on sugar and caffeine you’ll show ’em. Another hole, but this time, not an anxiety hole, but an insecurity hole. Another way to “comfort” yourself. Again, come up with a more constructive way to handle your insecurities besides eating a lot of unhealthy food. Your body will thank you for it.
4. People eat ignorantly, out of habit. What I mean about this is that people do not eat according to their health and body type, but because they are accustomed to eating what they want to eat without regard to what particular foods do to their bodies specifically. For instance, if you don’t go to the doctor, you may not know that even though you are skinny, you have extremely high cholesterol, and should therefore, limit your intake of cholesterol, fatty foods, greasy foods, etc. before you have a stroke, even at the age of 30. Or, if you don’t go to the doctor regularly, you don’t know that being 50 pounds overweight has put you in danger of developing diabetes, so the last thing you need daily is that slice of cake at lunch and that brownie at dinner. (Hint: Go to the doctor for an assessment.)
5. Social eating. We are of a culture that likes to eat to mourn, eat to celebrate, go out to lunch, out to dinner–we just FIND reasons to eat with other folks! And we eat without even thinking. Just eating to be eating. The trick here is if you’re going to do it, “do it responsibly.” Eat healthy and in moderation.
As always, I hope this helped to increase your self-awareness or gave you some insight as to what may be going on with someone you care about. I didn’t go into eating disorders—that’s something far more serious, and if you know of anyone who has an eating disorder, if they have not reached out for help, please encourage them to get help.