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Are You Overweight Because You Have Unhealthy Eating Habits?

When people say they have unhealthy eating habits, they are usually talking about eating junk food, fast food, greasy fried foods, candy, sodas, cakes, cookies, pastries, and more. Most people think they can recognize an unhealthy food when they see one.

Sadly, the habit of eating flesh foods, eggs, and dairy products is also an unhealthy eating habit.

It is a bad American habit.

Even worse, U.S. food corporations are spreading unhealthy food and bad eating habits around the world.

Ethical vegans sometimes have poor eating habits.

They eat any processed food that tastes good, as long as the food didn't come from an animal.
candy

These vegans eventually get fat and/or sick, just like meat-eaters.

Have you ever wondered why some people eat junk food and others eat healthy foods? Bad habits or good habits, what is a habit and how do we develop them? 



Forming our habits


Habits are behaviors that we do almost unconsciously. We encounter a stimulus and we respond. Our alarm clock (the stimulus) goes off in the morning and we get up (the response). We wash our face and brush our teeth. We get dressed. These habits don't require much thought. We do them every day and we have for years.

Habits are useful because they save us time and mental energy. We don't have to think about other possible responses to the stimulus. We don't have to make any decisions. We just act automatically. It is easy and not stressful. We can think about other things or talk to people while we act.

We form habits by repetition and practice. The first time we respond to a stimulus in a certain way, our brain creates a neural pathway linking the stimulus and our response. If we get a reward for practicing that behavior, our brain makes the pathway a little stronger. Getting up, getting dressed, and going to work enables us to earn money to live on.

The second time we respond to a stimulus the same way, our brain strengthens that pathway a little bit more. After a number of repetitions and rewards, we have formed a habit. Many habits are good, but some can make us fat and sick, like unhealthy eating habits.


Eating habits


The first time we see an unhealthy food and decide to eat it, our brain creates a link (neural pathway) between seeing that food (the stimulus) and eating it (our response). If the food is delicious and fun to eat (our reward), the link gets stronger. If we repeat this behavior often, eating that food becomes a habit.

We eat certain foods in a given situation because we have eaten them many times before in that situation:
  • We eat popcorn and candy at movies.

  • We eat ice cream while we watch TV.

  • A friend offers us a snack. We accept it and eat it.

  • When we visit our parents, we eat foods that we ate when we lived with them.

The more we practice habits, the stronger the habits become. If we have any hope of changing our unhealthy eating habits, we must become consciously aware of every food decision we make. This conscious awareness is difficult. We have to think about our actions, make different decisions, and actually plan in advance how we will respond to common stimuli. 

A team of psychologists studied people who successfully made important lifestyle changes. The six-stage program they created teaches people step by step how to break bad habits. You can use it for unhealthy eating habits, alcohol, drugs, and many other bad habits.

Eating the wrong foods is a bad habit. But even if we usually eat the right foods, there are some other lifestyle habits that can make us fat:


Fattening habits


  • oatmeal and berriesSkipping breakfast. Studies show that people who skip breakfast do eat fewer calories during a day than those who eat breakfast. However, they gain more weight than people who eat breakfast!

    How can this be? Researchers think it is because breakfast-skippers go too many hours without eating; their body senses it is entering a time of famine and it slows their metabolism to save calories.

  • Going out for lunch. Restaurant food is guaranteed to make you fat. Nearly all restaurants add extra fat, sugar, and salt to food to "hook" you on their meals. They create food with intensely good flavors so you will become a repeat customer. It's all about the money, not about keeping you healthy and slim.

    Going out to eat might trigger old eating habits you are trying to break. You may plan to order a salad but change your mind when you see and smell the meals your friends order. Begin forming a new habit: bring a brown bag lunch to work. It reduces temptation and you will save money too.

  • Going out for dinner. You know that restaurant food is unhealthy. Don't let it be a habit. Save it for special occasions. Keep some cooked brown rice, beans, and vegetables in the freezer for nights when you are too tired to chop a vegetable. 

  • Snacking after dinner. Make a rule that you will not eat anything after 8 pm. If you have formed a habit of eating in front of the TV, create a new habit. Read, work a puzzle, or call a friend on the phone. You don't need extra calories late at night. You will sleep better and you will be hungry for breakfast.

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