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Eating healthy: teaching healthy eating behavior

23.07.2019 Author: psiholog pavel horoshutin

It is often difficult for us to control our eating habits: we eat reflexively without noticing the taste of the products, without thinking about their benefits or harm.

Sometimes we subconsciously try to “solve” psychological problems with food: people become emotional eaters or, on the contrary, refuse to eat.

The state of our physical body affects our mind and behavior.

However, there is the overside of the process: the body demands what we’ve got it accustomed to. A healthy state encourages us to stick to the right diet — simple, light, and healthy. This means that it is possible to change food habits if you approach the task consciously. [1]

In this article, we’ll talk about how to learn to eat well to be healthy.

Contents:

  1. Why it’s important to eat healthily;
  2. Basic principles of a healthy diet;
  3. Healthy eating to solve weight problems;
  4. Habits that prevent you from following healthy diet;
  5. How to learn to eat healthily;

Why it’s important to eat healthily.

Why it's important to eat healthily

The simplest answer to the question of why you need to choose the right diet is to be healthy. A healthy diet consists of food that ensures human growth, normal development and vitality, contributing to the health of a person and disease prevention. Poor nutrition causes a deficiency, excess or imbalance of energy value and nutrients in the diet.

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Let’s reveal a few reasons as to why you should carefully choose your diet and follow healthy eating habits:

1. Proper diet helps you lose weight

Let us immediately note that we are talking about the problem of obesity, and not about obsessions that lead to serious diseases such as  anorexia and  bulimia. It is important to understand that proper nutrition is not a strict diet, but a balanced one that helps you to remain slender.

2. Proper diet helps to build muscle mass

A well-developed musculature is necessary. It’s not just modern ideas about the aesthetics of male and female bodies: a strong muscle frame supports the correct position of internal organs, allows us to be more resilient and protects against injury.

3. The appearance depends on the diet

The state of health of a person can be determined by how their skin, hair and nails look like. Any imbalance of internal processes is reflected in the appearance: calcium deficiency makes hair and nails brittle, lack of fat in food leads to the skin becoming pale and dry.

4. A proper diet helps to stay fit.

Even if for some reason you can’t exercise regularly, a balanced diet will help you stay fit. You can calculate the weight rate corresponding to your height using  the BMI formula (body mass index).

5. A healthy diet is a key to being calm

Haphazard eating leads to digestive difficulties, stomach heaviness and stool disorders. Recent studies have shown that the state of the digestive tract indirectly impacts the central nervous system. [2] If you not only experience regular discomfort after eating but are quite often agitated or irritated for no apparent reason — it is a reason to think about changing eating habits.

6. A healthy diet is an important factor for healthy sleep

Eating heavy food at night directly affects our condition when sleeping. The body has to spend more energy on digesting food, while all vital processes slow down during sleep. It is equally dangerous to follow the “don’t eat after six” rule if you are not used to falling asleep at 9 p.m. The rhythm of life of a modern resident of metropolis is such that often the going-to-bed is postponed until late night. After 3-4 hours of keeping awake after eating, the body begins to require more energy. If the energy does not arrive with a new portion of food — the body begins to draw it from internal resources, which prevents undisturbed sleep.

7. A healthy diet supports immunity

An unbalanced diet is one of the factors influencing the decrease in immunity. If you often suffer from colds, it may be worth adjusting your diet.

8. A healthy diet is delicious

Do you consider healthy diet as full of constant restrictions and never tasty or varied? The fact of the matter is that it’s only necessary to change preferences a little: to eat whole grain bread instead of white one, drink bitter chocolate instead of milk one, eat fruits instead of pastry and oven-baked meat instead of fried meat. Even small changes will have an effect and make way for big changes. 

9. A healthy diet is economical

A conscious approach to nutrition involves planning the menu a few days ahead. This allows you to refrain from impulsive and ill-considered purchases. An easy way to make sure of this is to calculate the amount you save every day by passing by shelves with chips and soda 

10. A healthy diet has a positive effect on the psyche

For many, food is a source of physical and aesthetic pleasure. But it often happens that a person begins to blame themselves for excessively abundant and square meals. A minute’s pleasure quickly turns into self-torture. To prevent such breakdowns, it is necessary to eat in a fractional and balanced manner, paying due attention to the regime. Positive changes in appearance, which are sure to appear when the eating behavior will return to a normal one, will have a beneficial effect on mood and self-esteem.

Basic principles of a healthy diet

Basic principles of a healthy diet

A proper diet for a healthy lifestyle is based on three principles: moderatism, diversity, adherence to the eating regime. [3]

Moderatism 

“To eat less, I have removed large plates from the set on the top shelf of the kitchen cupboard and now use only small ones. They hold less food, whereas saturation seems the same, triggering the so-called psychological “indicator”: “I ate a plateful!”

-Alla adheres to the principles of healthy nutrition

Moderatism in nutrition is the balance between the energy flowing from food and energy consumed in the process of life. The physical law of energy conservation also works in our physiology — in organ and tissue cells. Energy costs in the body depend on body weight, age, sex, mobile or sedentary lifestyle and individual metabolic characteristics.

Try to listen to your body’s reactions to every meal. If you leave the table with a feeling of excessive fullness, reduce the serving size next time. When at the end of the meal you feel comfort or slight echoes of hunger (you will immediately forget about them, as soon as you begin usual activities), you can assume that’s the optimal serving size for your body. Another way to decide on serving size is to imagine whether a serving taken at a time fit in your hands put together.

Diversity

“Summer is a wonderful time for me! This is a great time with the widest breadth of fruits and vegetables! Every day I try to buy everything fresh and pamper myself: I can buy nectarines or peaches, cherries and greens! I like different greens.”

–    Maria leads a healthy lifestyle.

All the variety of food is made up of different combinations of substances that the human body needs: proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water. But not all foods are equally nutritious. If you choose a variety of foods, you are more likely to digest all the necessary nutrients, the lack of which can subsequently lead to chronic diseases. However, striving for diversity, do not forget that some products may be not only unhelpful but also harmful.

Special attention should be paid to the planning of the diet in the presence of chronic diseases. In such cases, it is necessary to get medical advice and follow the physician’s recommendations regarding nutrition.

Adherence to the eating regime

“When I became a student and moved away from my parents, it was difficult for me to observe the regime and eat regularly. I was not a “hungry student” in the general sense – I always had enough money for a normal meal. However, lectures, training, meetings with girls and hanging out with friends broke the rhythm of life so that sometimes I just did not have time or forgot to eat. Then the stomach problems started, and I had to take care of myself. That’s how I took it upon myself to eat healthily.”

– Oleg is an athlete and adheres to the principles of healthy lifestyle.

Regular meals allow the body to work in a healthy biorhythm. The best option is four meals a day when the meal takes place at 4-5 hour intervals at the same time. The share of daily intake between meals should be distributed as follows: breakfast – 25%, lunch – 35%, brunch – 15%, and dinner – 25%. Dinner should be at least 3 hours before sleep. [3] Have a good breakfast, a solid lunch and a modest dinner. In between, make a light meal with fruits, drink a dressing or kefir before going to bed (if you have no problems with increased acidity in the stomach). 

Following such principles, you will not feel hunger or heaviness in the stomach and will be able to control the quantity and quality of food.

Healthy eating to solve weight problems

Weight problems are pathological conditions arising from poor nutrition. They are divided into two groups:

Problem Malnutrition Overnutrition
Consequences Weight loss (weight is constantly decreasing and below normal as per BMI) Overweight (obesity)

Weight deficit (insufficient weight  
in relation to height and age)
Absence or lack of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, and trace elements) Excess of certain nutrients (due to frequent consumption of unvaried food)

Keeping the principles of proper nutrition for a healthy life eliminates this number of problems.

But sometimes a person lacks internal resources to master healthy eating habits on its own. In such cases, it makes sense to work out through existing problems and adjust behaviors through behavioral psychology techniques.

The 7Spsy behavior modification technique is one of the most effective ways to develop healthy eating habits.

Habits that prevent you from following a healthy diet

Habits that prevent you from following a healthy diet

“Are you members of the clean plates society?” Vladimir Ilyich asked loudly, addressing the girl Nadia, who was sitting next to him.

“No,” Nadia said softly and looked at the other children in confusion.

From the story of V.D. Bonch-Bruevich “Clean Plates Society”.

Food behavior has been shaped in us since childhood, and largely depends on how the process of eating was organized in the family. Echoes of difficult times in history, such as hunger, forced removal of surpluses, total deficits, still affect our society. Jokes about grandmothers, which at first do not allow you to leave the table and then simply make it impossible to leave the table, have bitter basis: several previous generations learned to eat as much as they could if there is food available for fear that tomorrow they may have nothing to eat. These are the parenting attitudes that have led to the formation of habits that prevent us from eating healthy. 

1. Clean Plate Syndrome

If you, like many children of the post-Soviet space, were forced to eat everything on the plate, not paying attention to the sense of fullness, this habit could take root in the mind so much that as a conscious adult you stop eating not when you’re full, but only when your plate is empty.

2. Emotional eaters

No matter how much psychologists and nutritionists say that you shouldn’t try to avoid emotions or cheer yourself up with food, in difficult periods many tend to forget about these recommendations. It’s hard to resist the temptation to chew something when you’re tired or nervous.

3. Unconscious eating

Returning home after a hard-working day, you open the refrigerator in search of a quick snack. Then you settle down at the TV with food and eat much more than you need, not tracking what you consume, completely engrossed in what is happening on the screen. It is the food that we choose unconsciously that often turns out to be the most caloric one. It is especially dangerous if it is perceived as a light snack, which does not nourish the body sufficiently. These products include chips, snacks, sandwiches and sweets.

4. Tight control over what you eat

The excessive control over food intake is another extreme. Constant calorie counting provokes anxiety, the body receives a signal of danger and begins to consume more energy. Once again you feel hungry, and when you quench it, you regret exceeding the norm. It is like an endless circle.

5. Addiction to fast food and semi-finished products

The frenzied rhythm of life pushes you to miss breakfast. It becomes easier to buy a hamburger or pizza on the way to work, to eat on the run or at the desk when plodding through stacks of emails. When you return home late at night, you indulge yourself with fast food and go to bed shortly after dinner.

How to learn to eat healthy

How to learn to eat healthy

“When I am asked how to learn to eat properly to lose weight, I answer that all limitations and opportunities are in our heads. Yes, I know, it sounds corny. However, realizing this truth has helped me change a lot in my life. I quit smoking, started watching what I ate and got rid of toxic thoughts. What did I do? I just turned my head on straight.”

–    Anastasia, fitness model

Here are some tips to help you learn how to eat healthy:

  • use fresh natural products – give up foods containing preservatives and flavor enhancers; 
  • limit refined foods – purified foods are devoid of the fiber needed for intestinal microflora;
  • eat protein foods – meat, fish, nuts, beans, etc.
  • eat fresh vegetables and fruits daily;
  • use various oils – olive, sesame, linseed and others;
  • limit your intake of fast carbohydrates such as baked goods and sweets;
  • adhere to the regimen — at least 4 meals per day;
  • cook food correctly – do not overcook cereals and pasta, it is better to stew or steam meat and fish or cook them in the oven;
  • add less salt – excess salt causes fluid retention in the body;
  • drink more water – give up sugary sodas. [4]

You may have been thinking about how to strengthen the habit of proper nutrition in your consciousness for a long time, but so far you have not been able to achieve tangible results in this. Maybe you’ve just made a firm decision to stick to a healthy diet for weight loss and want quick results.

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In both cases, you can turn to the методу модификации поведения по технологии 7Spsy. This is a unique modern technique, the principles of which are based on behavioral theories of I. P. Pavlov, A.A. Ukhtomskiy, B.F: Skinner.

The technique allows forming and strengthening positive attitudes towards following the diet schedule, choosing healthy food, giving up fast food, the ability to solve psychological problems directly, instead of becoming an emotional eater.

The program is designed for a period of 2 to 6 weeks – you can start training immediately after diagnostic testing.

The course process is supervised by a psychologist. He/she will be in touch with you by phone, messenger or e-mail.

Take a step towards yourself today – start with a healthy diet for a healthy life.

References:

  1. Evdokimova O., Vasiliev V., “Conscious nutrition”, The First Model Printing house, 2016.
  2. Enders D., “Charming intestines. How the Most Powerful Body Governs Us”, Bombora, 2019.
  3. Basic principles of healthy eating (http://46cge.rospotrebnadzor.ru/info/68173/).
  4. 10 healthy eating rules that everyone can follow (http://www.psychologies.ru/wellbeing/10-pravil-zdorovogo-pitaniya-kotoryie-mojet-soblyudat-kajdyiy/).