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How can the way you eat influence your health?

Eating habits … how often you eat, when you eat, why you eat, what you eat, where you eat and how much you eat.

Answering these questions will help you understanding your pattern of eating.

It will also give you insight as to how your pattern of eating is likely influencing your health.

How we eat can and does influence our health.

Let’s first look at some examples.

Understand what and why you eat

How often you eat or when you eat can have a direct impact on how you feel during a day.  For example, irregular eating (not eating regular meals during the day) can disrupt blood sugar levels and lead to fluctuations in your energy and vitality.  Think back to those times when you skipped a meal or did not eat until dinner, did you find you felt a little shaky, were you unable to concentrate, did you find you suddenly had a craving for a sugary snack or did you become impatient or a little irritable?

Why you eat can have a strong influence over how well you digest and absorb your food.  For example, when you are stressed how do you eat?  Do you eat quickly because you have 10 minutes spare in between meetings or the things you need to do?  Eating quickly can mean we almost ‘inhale’ our food undermining our body’s ability to digest and absorb what we are eating.  Have you eaten quickly and experienced flatulence, burping and bloating after a meal?

How much is “too much” or not enough?

What you eat can influence your health.  For example we know not having sufficient ‘good’ fats in a girls/ladies diet can undermine hormone balance or promote an environment in our bodies conducive to inflammation.  We also know not having sufficient quality protein in our diet may manifest as low serum iron levels or anaemia or not having sufficient foods containing zinc can help undermine our immunity.
How much we eat is a common topic discussed in the mainstream press.  There is regular comment and discussion indicating continuous overeating leads to overweight or obesity issues.  We know an increased waist line in men and women is associated with increased risk of heart disease and we also know that carrying too much weight together with other key factors may increase our risk of developing diseases such as type-2-diabetes.

How to balance the what, the how and the why of eating

So is there such a thing as normal eating?  My answer is yes and no.  Yes from the perspective that there are guidelines on recommending eating.  The guidelines for adults vary based on things including your body size, age, life stage and level of activity, however in general your aim should be to:

  • Eat a variety of fresh food.
  • Seek to eat 2 serve of fruit and 5-6 serve of vegetable each day.
  • Include 1-2 daily serve of quality protein.
  • Include quality carbohydrates in daily meals relative to such things as height, size, age, sex, energy needs and level of activity.
  • Seek to include 2 serve of dairy or dairy alternatives in your daily diet.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Include sources of quality fats and limit saturated and Trans fats.
  • Limit alcohol intake if you choose to drink.
  • Limit added sugar in your diet.
  • Stay active; try to include 45-60 minutes of moderate exercise 3-4 times per week.
  • Eat according to your energy needs.

However on the other hand I do not think there is a specific definition of normal eating.  I believe it is normal for example to eat a little more one day and a little less the next, have the occasional glass of wine with our meals and have the occasional treat or craving for a chocolate fix.  I also know we each have our own food preferences and of course we know each of us has the potential to respond to food in different ways.

A balanced approach leaves guilt at the door

I believe it is important not to develop guilt or anxiety around the food we eat.  Our food is to be enjoyed, it nourishes us and it is also forms part of our daily rituals and habits.  I believe it is perfectly okay that sometimes we enjoy eating food in our own company and other times we enjoy sharing it with friends and family.

I recommend a balanced approach.   I believe the right amount of nourishment and the right lifestyle choices is the safest way to achieve and maintain good health

So seek to eat a variety of fresh food daily, get outside in the sunshine, enjoy regular exercise, find activities in life you derive pleasure and enjoy a balance of time in your own company and with your family and friends.

Take care, stay safe

ciao Jan