Bad eating habits start with Pavlovian conditioning

Some of our bad eating habits come from childhood, and consuming (processed!) carbohydrates is certainly one of them. When we did well in school, our reward at home was a chocolate bar. One of our friends had a birthday, and the celebration included sweet, butter cream cakes. After a cold, windy day we ate a big bowl of hot soup with pasta or potatoes, and fresh bread. And if childhood wasn’t enough, it likely continued like this: we went on a date to a pizza restaurant, popped over to the pub for a beer after a long day at work, or binged on a sugar–frosted cupcake, in front of the computer for an afternoon pick me up.

Seemingly it all felt normal, most people were doing the same around us. With years passing by, we conditioned our brain to associate carbohydrates with reward, achievements and relaxation. An endemic of sugar and carbohydrate addiction was created that wasn’t judged or recognized as a problem for a long time. We learnt to avoid fat at all costs, but nobody talked about the poison called sugar.

Today the scientific proof is there, many health complications are caused by high sugar intake such as being overweight/obese, developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, liver disease, and various types of cancer.

Sugar and carbohydrates go hand in hand! Let’s eliminate (some) carbohydrates!

Avoiding carbohydrates isn’t the solution! There are many healthy foods such as vegetables and fruits that contain carbohydrate (and sugar). The ones causing trouble to our health are specifically the carbohydrates that are refined.

What is the difference between refined and non-refined carbohydrates?

Refined carbohydrates are basically forms of sugars and starches that don’t exist in nature. Hence, the base product needs to be refined into something else such as milk chocolate, soda and fruit juices, cookies, pastries, cakes, ice cream, and canned goods…etc…just to mention a few.

How to avoid processed carbohydrates?

  • The first and most important step is to consciously focus on food quality. Read your labels. Don’t get jaded by magic words such as organic, low sodium, reduced salt, natural coloring. These all sound like a good start, but none of them are a guarantee for unprocessed food.
  • If you don’t buy it, you can’t eat it! Don’t fill your cupboards with junk. Instead plan your meals ahead, and write a shopping list before you go to the market.
  • Eat healthy fats and proteins so that your blood sugar stays balanced, and you less likely to give in to food cravings.
  • Eat small portions of food more often during your day, and don’t let your (hormonal) system go on a rollercoaster ride.
  • Choose clean, organic and whole meal foods.
  • Drink water: assign a good, reusable bottle for your daily consumptions, and keep it always at arm’s length. Ensure that you drink at least 2L of water every day (ideally I would suggest to go for 3L, but that might not be everybody’s cup of tea. It is better to set sustainable goals here instead of over-achieving and under-delivering.)
  • Control your portions! Over-, or under-eating both can cause spikes and lows in your hormonal balance, hence it is best to keep it stable by eating smart.

Create new, healthy habits:

Apart from walking the stairs at work, or eating your lunch away from your computer screen, I also do recommend to add new eating habits to your everyday life:

  • Avoid sugary breakfast so you start your day with a more stable blood sugar level.
  • Drink your choice of morning cup with no sweetener, this may take a little while for your taste buds to accept. Slowly decrease the amount of sugar/sweetener you put in. You will find you will really taste and enjoy a good quality coffee or tea much more without the sickly sweetness.
  • Use your hand as a measuring device for your daily food intake:
    • Protein: not bigger than the size of your palm
    • Non-refined carbohydrates: the size of your fist
    • Fats: the size of your thumb
    • Fruits: the nutrients and fibre in fruits is good for you, but generally I don’t suggest to consume it in the evenings due to the sugar content.
    • Greens: there are no limits to veggie consumption, the more, the better.

Easy, everyday tips:

  • Cook at home, and eat out less. If you can’t evade going out, make a list of things that you will avoid when eating in a restaurant.
  • Always order your salad dressing on the side if you are not sure about what you get
  • Use olive oil as a dressing, instead of heavy, cream based dressings
  • Order fruit instead of a cake as your dessert, or even better, drink a cup of peppermint tea at the end of your meal
  • Don’t go to a restaurant starving
  • Eat slowly, chew your food thoroughly

Choose healthy fats like:

  • Olive or coconut oil
  • Almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pine nuts
  • Avocado
  • Omega rich, fatty fish such as salmon or mackerels
  • Flax and hemp seeds

Eat healthy carbs such as:

  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Legumes such as peas, lentils, chickpeas and beans
  • Fruits such as berries, pears and apples

If you haven’t started your new eating routine yet, start it today! Don’t wait for tomorrow or for another day, your health is your wealth as cheesy as it sounds. Especially with aging, your diet will make a significant difference in how you feel, and what you can accomplish on a daily basis. If you want to learn more about creating smart eating habits, read my previous post about nutrition mistakes that you can avoid. If you need help, and not sure where to start, reach out, I would love to help you!