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The first step towards making changes to your diet is to understand why you eat the things you do now.
This gives us a starting point to finding the best way to adjust those underlying reasons. There are so many factors that influence the food choices we make. Some of these are more obvious, for example: the price, the appearance, the taste, your cravings in that moment, the smell, the portion size. Or even the current situation, does it need to be easy to eat because you have to eat it while walking to your next meeting, or while driving to work in the morning, or do you need to pick something less messy while on a first date because slurping that spaghetti might not be the first impression you’re going for.
Whatever the reason, most people aren’t consciously aware of the reasons why they picked the food they did in that moment. In addition to those “in the moment” reasons, we also have a ton of past experiences in our lives that also play a role in what we choose to eat. This usually stems all the way back to the types of foods our parents and caregivers used to eat and offer to us. Your parents’ preferences and restrictions are usually passed along since they determined what foods came into the house. Family traditions and culture also impact food choices, this impacts which foods you associate with family celebrations and holidays, as well as which foods you see as comfort foods.
The types of foods we were offered as a child play a role in our preferences and food choices now.
In our teen years, we begin to have more of a say in what we choose to eat, and this is where experimentation with foods not previously offered in the family setting occurs.
This can also mean that the foods that were only allowed as treats at home, are more easily accessible and end up being our choice of foods when we’re out with friends. Food aversions, foods that we avoid, are also created throughout our life depending on our bad experiences. For example, that time you got food poisoning on vacation also impacts the choices you make now, because let’s be honest, you can never really look at that food the same way again after you’ve seen it come back up.
Throughout our adult years, we continue to build on the habits we created as children and teenagers, while adjusting our food choices based on the factors in our environment that we mentioned earlier.
My first tip for anyone looking to make changes in their diet would be to take a moment before every food choice and think about why you’re choosing this particular food or meal. Is it because it makes you feel good, because you’re trying to be healthy, because it’s on sale, because your mom used to cook it for you when you were young, or because you’re having a bad day and it will make you feel better. Whatever the reason is, don’t worry so much about changing it right away, just start to be more mindful of the reasons why and who knows, you may even surprise yourself.
The final word: Being aware of these experiences that have shaped our current feelings about food is the first step toward having a better relationship with food and perhaps making small and manageable changes to our current eating patterns later on.