When I was a child I would stuff my face full until I was on the verge of being sick. A satisfying stretch in my stomach quickly became a painful swelling that would last for at least an hour after I finished my meal. I used to tell myself I needed all the food I could get to grow, however, that isn’t particularly helpful when you’re a fully grown adult. I recently thought about the bad eating habits I used to have and what I did to stop them to try and help myself feel healthier and ultimately, slimmer. The bad eating habits I used to have lasted over two decades so it’s fair to say it’s taken some time to break them.
In this post, we’ll go over some of the bad eating habits we all pick up and what you can do to break them. After all, if you’re trying to lose weight, for example, it’s usually these repetitive habits that are holding you back from reaching your goals.
This post won’t just assume you’re trying to lose weight as that’s not the be-all and end-all of being healthy. Instead, we’ll go over what I believe to be bad eating habits that are unhelpful for your overall health, what I have done and what I have done to fix these bad eating habits.
1. Rapid eating
This is a difficult one because there are certain times when you may need to eat your meals quickly. For example, if you get short lunch breaks at work or you do shift work, you may need to eat your food quickly. However, eating your meals rapidly doesn’t give your brain enough time to realise you’re full. So, you may end up eating twice as much as you would have if you eat your food much slower.
In fact, one study found that 60% of the children who ate their meals rapidly overate and they were also 3 times more likely to be overweight.
How to fix: If you can, try and take smaller bites, chew your food fully and slowly before swallowing and then listen to when your stomach tells you that you’re full.
2. Fast food munching
This is an obvious one to most people but fast food is usually junk food full of junk calories. I’ve always known that fast food like chips and burgers are not good for you but it’s taken me a long time to understand the way these make me feel. As mentioned, I used to stuff my face for years and would accept the painful stomach afterwards to be just part of the experience.
However, I now pay more attention to how food makes me feel not only when I’m eating it but also after I’ve finished my meal. Does it make my stomach hurt? Do I feel energised or uncomfortable? Do I get tired after I eat? Understanding how I feel when I eat has led me to make better food choices overall.
Fast food in general always makes my stomach hurt to some degree. I find I suffer for some time after I eat it, unlike when I make a cooked meal with fresh ingredients.
How to fix: The next time you eat a large fast food meal, pay attention to how you feel not just whilst you’re eating it but afterwards and the next morning. Do you feel a large degree of discomfort? Do you need the toilet more than you usually would? Being mindful of how fast food affects the way you feel physically and mentally. Is it worth the discomfort?
3. Mindless eating
Mindless eating is when you look down and realise you’ve just demolished an entire family bag of chips. You don’t remember how you go there but you know you don’t feel great and you wished you’d slowed down. It’s an easy thing to do.
However, it’s probably one of the worst eating habits you can have because you end up overeating all the time. Part of the problem with mindless eating is having the right foods at your disposal, to begin with.
If you find yourself mindless grazing throughout the day, pay attention to the foods you have in your cupboards and better still, get rid of all the junk food snacks.
How to fix: make a food plan and find some meal ideas you like the look of. Get rid of snacks in your cupboards so that even if you’re tempted, you can’t grab them when you want to.
4. Adding extra sauces
It can be hard to eat things like fries without sauces, especially when you’ve done so all your life. After all, foods like fries are pretty bland with nothing added to them. However, even when you’re trying to be healthy, things like added sauces can set you back. That’s because some everyday sauces are more unhealthy than you realise.
For example, one tablespoon of ketchup contains 15 calories. If you love your tomato sauce, you could easily pack in an extra 50+ calories per meal! Not only this but a single tablespoon of ketchup contains 4 grams of sugar and this can obviously quickly add up.
And it doesn’t get much better with sauces like salad dressing which contains a whopping 40 calories per tablespoon on average. It’s understandable that you might pour it on your food thinking it’s healthy because it has the word ‘salad’ in its name. In my experience, most bottled sauces are pretty calorie and sugar dense.
How to fix: if your tastebuds don’t mind it, consider buying a chilli sauce like tobacco sauce to give your bland food some more flavour. Tobasco sauce contains only 2 calories per serving so it makes it flavourful and yet it won’t increase your daily calorie count much each meal.
5. Avoiding cooking
I’ll admit, I used to hate cooking. Not because I don’t enjoy it, I just wanted to eat straight away without waiting for my spaghetti to cook. However, these days I’ve got much more into learning how to cook and prepare most of my own food from scratch. I don’t eat a lot of junk food and when I do, I keep it to a minimum or as a rare treat.
Learning to cook is a good eating habit because you’re not only more likely to prepare healthier food but it also allows you to develop a better relationship with your food in the long run. When you throw your food in the microwave, you have no relationship with it, it’s simply a commodity. When you cook it yourself, you’re forced to learn about your food and what different food types include in terms of nutrients and what they add to a dish when it comes to flavour and texture.
How to fix: start making your own meals with fresh ingredients. It doesn’t have to be expensive either or take any skill. There are plenty of free resources where you can find simple yet delicious recipes to cook.
6. Not understanding nutrition
The more you don’t understand something, the less likely you are to have a good relationship with it. For example, I always hated maths at school, I didn’t understand it and therefore had a terrible relationship with it. Understanding how nutrition works is vital in avoiding bad eating habits, in my opinion. That’s because food isn’t just there to fill you up, it’s a tool to nourish your entire bodily system. If you pump junk in, it’s like putting diesel into a petrol car.
It’s fair to say that understanding food nutrition for a regular Joe is difficult considering scientists themselves are forever learning new things about how food affects us. However, it’s pretty clear at this point you need a balanced diet to be properly nourished. This means covering all micro-nutrients, minerals and vitamins basis so each part of your body can function effectively like your eyes and brain, for example.
How to fix: Make sure you include lots of veggies, proteins, slow-release carbs, fibre and water in your diet.
7. Jumping from one diet to the next
I don’t think all diets are terrible however I do think that most diets encourage bad eating habits when it comes to heavily restricting foods causing you to have a bad relationship with what you eat. When you fall off a diet, you usually end up feeling like a failure or that ‘it’s impossible to be healthy’. The truth is, diets are big money makers which is why there are so many of them out there.
In my experience, boring is best but I don’t mean that in terms of bland food, I mean in terms of repetition and consistency. That means finding meals you enjoy, meals that you can eat over and over again throughout the week and not eating too much of them whilst still feeling full.
How to fix: do some research. There are plenty of recipes out there for free. Have fun and experiment with cooking meals you like the look of. When you’ve got 5 or 6, keep cooking them so you can master the flavours and cooking times. When it becomes a habit to cook these meals, it won’t feel like such a big deal to prepare the ingredients anymore. You’ll have a bunch of meals you love that you know are also good for you.
8. Not planning ahead
To avoid bad eating habits like snacking and mindless grazing, it’s important to plan ahead. This means making a meal planner, removing junk from your kitchen and planning your meals ahead of time if you’re going out with friends. Before you go to the store, write down a list of the things you need and stick to it. There’s a tonne of junk that is designed to grab your attention when you go to the store so sticking to your rigid list is important.
How to fix: create a good meal planner and stick to it. When you go to the store, make sure you buy all of your ingredients so when it comes to cooking your meals you have very little to do.
9. Cutting entire food groups out
If there’s one thing I’m sure of when it comes to food it’s that cutting entire food groups out can create an unhealthy relationship with food. For example, I’ve seen many people I know cut carbs out of their diet completely, only to feel so hungry that they end up binging and putting more weight on than they lost. Sure, there are people who cut things out for certain health reasons but when it comes to bad eating habits, this is one of the worst, in my opinion.
I personally find that eating a little bit of everything works well. After all, each food group contains nutrients that your body needs, just not in excess.
How to fix: try eating a little bit of each food group without overdoing it. Pay attention to how you feel. For example, if you love bread, find one that makes you feel good but just don’t overdo it.
10. Eating on massive plates
How big are your plates? It sounds kind of silly but the size of your plate could be making you overeat, this is according to several studies. I used to think this was nonsense but I got thinking about going out to eat at fancy restaurants. In general, the plates are much smaller than the ones I have at home and often times the food looks a lot less than what I expect for the money I pay. Regardless, I’m usually completely full by the time I’ve finished my meal.
This goes back to my old habit of wanting to stuff my face and wanting to maximise my fullness, especially if I’ve paid a premium for my food. However, it’s a reminder that more isn’t always better, or, needed.
How to fix: Use a smaller plate. Pay attention to how full you feel after you’ve finished your meal. Do you really need to go back for seconds or is it just more of the taste you’re after?
These are the top ten bad eating habits that I have been working on. Do you have any you think are worth mentioning? Leave them in the comments below.