Food Cues: Understanding Your Eating Habits

Eating HabitsThe concept of mindful eating sounds good: Eat in a calm state. Chew your food. Use proper food combining such as eating high-protein foods and non-starchy vegetables. Don’t eat in front of the TV and give every delicious bite the attention it deserves.

What you eat is always important for your health. Are you aware of the details of your food, and how it positively contributes or how it can potentially harm your health?

How often do you open a bag of potato chips or chocolate bar and you get a weird feeling. You purchased the junk food on impulse, and that weird feeling is your instincts trying to warn you of the harmful effects it may cause. Here are four questions you should ask yourself to help you be mindful of your eating habits.

1. Am I Even Hungry?

Some people may eat at dinner, or eat when offered food, and they are not even hungry. They may follow a set schedule when they eat, and it could cause you to overeat.

One of the main concerns with overeating is how it affects your digestive system. People tend to relate overeating with gaining weight; however, consider the strain the extra food puts on your digestive system. When you indulge in three triple cheeseburgers just because you can, you exceed the capacities of the digestive system, and all undigested food ferments and becomes food for bacteria. Disease may occur from the build-up of toxic byproducts entering the bloodstream. Also, the liver may be damaged when it is overworked with too much food. The next time you are about to eat that second helping of dinner, consider your digestive system.

2. What am I Eating?

Your food sounds simple enough. It’s just food right? But, do you know what you’re eating? Think about it. Is a cookie just a cookie? No. It may contain dextrose, soy lecithin, artificial flavor, coconut (sulphites), vegetable oil shortening (soybean or canola, modified palm, modified palm kernel), and ammonium bicarbonate, just to name a few ingredients. When you research some of these ingredients you discover soybean and canola are common GMO foods, and artificial flavoring may contain MSG (monosodium glutamate), which may cause headaches, ADHD, autism, and other health issues.

So consider dissecting your food a little further. Where did your food come from? There is a difference when it comes to animal products from your local farmer and from a factory farm. When you ask these questions you can proactively take positive steps. You can avoid processed food and also buy more food from farmers’ markets or straight from the farmer.

3. Why am I Eating This Food?

Do you know why you eat the food that you do? Often you’re given the choice between an apple and a bag of salt and vinegar chips—and in that moment the salty snack reigns supreme.

Food cravings often have their way with us. It may not even be your fault. You may be craving certain foods because you’re eating what you consider familiar in taste. You may also want to eat your poison. Often people crave what they should not have because of food allergies and sensitivities. And there are many unhealthy foods that are associated with a time or a place, and they are often what we are told we should eat. The social situation may call for the particular food, such as cake at a party, or coffee with a friend when you’ve already had three that day. Ask yourself why you are eating. It may have little to do with hunger.

4. Will I Feel Good After I Eat This Food?

There are many processed foods that shouldn’t be part of our menu, yet they end up in our stomachs anyway, and our stomachs don’t like it. You may feel terrible after that takeout burger and fries, or that chili cheese taco. Your body lets you know its displeasure with symptoms of gas, bloating, diarrhea, heartburn or headaches.

The foods you eat may also cause some emotional distress and you will be upset at yourself because you think you’ve made a bad choice. It may not only be processed or fast food that is the culprit for your digestive issues. Look into what foods are causing your food sensitivities or allergy symptoms. A good first step is a trial elimination diet, where you eliminate a specific food for a week or two and note how your body responds and how you feel. Other ways to detect your sensitivities include muscle testing or blood tests.

How do you like your food now? Finding out more about what, when and why you eat can help you change your eating habits—and get the most out of your meals and snacks.

Rowland, D., Digestion: Inner Pathway to Health (Parry Sound: Rowland Publications, 2006), 29.
Kennedy, K., “The 4 Questions to Ask Yourself,” HuffPost Healthy Living website, May 22, 2014;