No diet, no detox: how to relearn the art of eating | Bee Wilson - Deepstash

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The art of eating

The art of eating

... is a question of psychology as much as nutrition. We have to find a way to want to eat what’s good for us.

We make frequent attempts – more or less half-hearted – to change what we eat, but almost no effort to change how we feel about food: how well we deal with hunger, how strongly attached we are to sugar, our emotions on being served a small portion.

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Food preferences are learned

Food preferences are learned

All the foods that you regularly eat are ones that you learned to eat.  Everyone starts life drinking milk. After that, it’s all up for grabs. 

But in today’s food culture, many people seem to have acquired uncannily homogenous tastes: food companies push foods high in sugar, fat and salt, which means we are innately incapable of resisting them but that the more frequently we eat them, especially in childhood, the more they train us to expect all food to taste this way.

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0.3% of young women are anorexic

... and another 1% are bulimic, with rising numbers of men joining them.

What statistics are not particularly effective at telling us is how many others – whether overweight or underweight – are in a perpetual state of anxiety about what they consume, living in fear of carbs or fat grams and unable to derive straightforward enjoyment from meals.

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Healthy vs. New

Healthy vs. New

Consumer scientists have found that when a new product is described as “healthy”, it is far less likely to be a success than if it is described as “new”.

Many people have absorbed the lesson from childhood that vegetables and pleasure – and more generally, healthy food and pleasure – can never go together.

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Once we accept that eating is a learned behaviour, we see that the challenge is not to grasp information but to learn new habits.

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Viewed through behavioural psychology

Viewed through behavioural psychology

... eating is a classic form of learned behaviour:

  • There is a stimulus – an apple tart, for example, glazed with apricot jam.
  • there is a response – your appetite for it.  
  • finally, there is reinforcement – the sensory pleasure and feeling of fullness that eating the tart gives you. This reinforcement encourages you to seek out more apple tarts whenever you have the chance and to choose them over other foods in the future.

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Food and dopamine

Food and dopamine

Food-seeking learning is driven by dopamine, a neurotransmitter connected with motivation.

This is a hormone that is stimulated in the brain when your body does something rewarding, such as eating. Dopamine is one of the chemical signals that passes information between neurons to tell your brain that you are having fun. It's one of the mechanisms that “stamps in” our flavour preferences and turns them into habits.

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Changing food habits

Changing food habits

There are 3 big things we would all benefit from learning to do: 

  • to follow structured mealtimes
  • to respond to our own internal cues for hunger and fullness, rather than relying on external cues such as portion size; 
  • to make ourselves open to trying a variety of foods. 

All these three can be taught to children, which suggests that adults could learn them too.

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For our diets to change...

For our diets to change...

... as well as educating ourselves about nutrition, we need to relearn the food experiences that first shaped us. The change doesn’t happen through rational argument.

It is a form of reconditioning, meal by meal.

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CURATED BY

mar_b

Technology helps but it doesn't solve everything. I want to understand my own body.

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