And how to overcome unhealthy eating habits. Do you have a healthy relationship with food? Do you always consider what, how and where you are eating? I certainly don´t and realized my unhealthy habits more and more over the last few months. Now I want to talk about what helped me – at least most of the times – to still maintain a rather healthy lifestyle. I´m talking about intermitted fasting.
However, getting into intermitted fasting and realizing that I might not necessarily have the healthiest relationship with the food I eat was a long journey. I had to examine my eating behaviour thoroughly and the results were not that easy to swallow. Who would like to admit to themselves that they basically mistreated their bodies for quite a long time?
Fast life and cheap food
In our fast living society where we ´re always busy and occupied, food has become more and more neglected. We lost the connection to our food, a lot of us don´t even cook by themselves anymore. We have exchanged standing in the kitchen for hours and cooking our meals with our own two hands far fast food stands and quick snacks in-between. I sometimes had the feeling that I didn´t even realize what I put into my body anymore as I would eat that hectically that I couldn´t even enjoy my meals properly. Only after a few hours I would crave more again.
Nowadays we have food at our disposal no matter where we go and when we want it. Food is, at least in the western world, there for us in abundance. We die because we are too fat, and not because we are starving. Living in this abundance therefore also means being confronted with a lot of temptations day after day. A lot of ads for fatty and sugary sweets appearing in front of our face everywhere on the streets. The temptation lays everywhere, it is our daily companion. Not giving into it – that´s the hard part.
Body image and eating habits
Another big influence when it comes to eating is, of course, body image. I want to discuss this in a separate blogpost though, as I have struggled with my body image for quite some time as well. Eating and body image basically go hand in hand for me – if you are satisfied with the one you will be satisfied with the other as well. I, as many other people of my generation, have been heavily influenced by the internet. Even though we might know better than comparing ourselves to people with seemingly “perfect bodies” we still do it subconsciously when we get floated with “perfect” images.
Even if I am trying to be critical when seeing these images, they did leave an impression on me. To overcome this, I needed to work on myself a lot. I wanted to be fitter and healthier and if I wanted to achieve this I would to seriously have to reconsider my eating habits. Sometimes just cannot seem to handle what I put into my mouth – and realizing that you lost control can be frightening. Some days I would come home and eat everything I could find at home – favourably sweets and lots of sugar.
As a kid – and as a teenager – I was always super skinny. I could eat whatever I wanted and wouldn´t gain a single pound. Evidently, it didn´t go on like that forever. From the point I turned 18 I slowly started to gain weight. At first I didn´t mind – what are a few kilos anyways? But then it got a little more until the point other people started to notice it. That´s when it got uncomfortable for me. No matter how you objectively might look, when people who should love you how you are like your family tells you that you´re a little too fat – that´s not comfortable. Well, my family might not have said “you´re fat” – a little nicer but the message remained the same. That was also quite frustrating. Funny enough is that I was never that at peace with my body and my appearance now than ever – and now I am the heaviest I ever was.
However, being at peace with my weight didn´t necessarily mean being at peace with my eating habits as I knew that I could also feel way healthier than I did if I would just make some small changes. I was a little stuck in my habits I had formed over the years and getting out of something you used to do every day without thinking about it any further, can be hard to accomplish.
How to get out of the unhealthy cycle
I am still not perfect and on some days I still binge on sweets and sugar. But it got a lot better with awareness and over time. For me binge eating attacks come and go in waves. Sometimes I just cannot resist the temptations. At a certain point I noticed that I didn´t even go one day without sugar for a very long time – which should be alarming. I also always ate quickly and not really appreciated the food I was putting into my mouth, already thinking about the next task of the day. Not being in the moment and appreciating what I ate at that point in time led me to soon crave something again as I didn´t even properly realize what I just had eaten.
In some situations, food had also become something soothing for me. When I felt bad or a little sad, I would eat chocolate, when I came home from a long and exhausting day I would look for something sweet to eat to relieve stress. Food turned into a reward I soon was dependent on. It started to influence my mood with getting grumpier when there was no food at home – a development I didn´t want to let happen anymore. It couldn´t be that something like that could influence me that heavily. Something need to be done.
All of this led me to think: what can I actually do to change this? What can I do to drastically transform a habit that deeply rooted? That´s when I thought about trying out intermitted fasting for the first time. Engaging in this type of fasting means that you choose a certain time frame of the day to eat and the rest of the day you´re fasting. When I started out I set myself a time frame of 8 hours to eat and the rest – 16 hours – I am fasting. These time frames transformed the way I felt drastically. I noticed that I felt better from the first day on as my body didn´t need to use that much energy on my metabolism. Now I can use this energy in another way.
The first two days I might have been craving something sweet or some more food in the evening as I was used to it. But that longing for food quickly went away. It didn´t feel like a burden for me to fast – indeed, I enjoyed it and want to keep going. It also helped me control my binge eating attacks as I would simply not have enough time to eat that much. Fasting really helps – you just need to be consequent enough to really do it. Everything afterwards will come by itself.
Drinking a lot is also important when it comes to fasting. My habit of eating a lot of food when I came home from a long day I now switched for drinking tea which is also working for me. It´s maybe just another little habit to have something to do after coming home, to have something that calms you down and helps you to relax. Just drinking a cup of tea after work and university was one of the best things ever. Drinking water is equally important. A lot of water will keep you full for a very long time. Even if I turn hungry during the time I´m fasting drinking a lot of water usually does the trick.
My body also gets used to the interval of intermitted fasting quite quickly. Whenever you try it out, you just have to “survive” the first one or two days. Especially if you had, like me, a habit to binge eat when you get home that might be a bit difficult. However, for me these cravings for food usually go away after the first few days. Endurance and patience are the key – but you should already feel a little different after the first few days. If you notice how much better you can feel if you give your body time to digest your food it will soon be very easy to stick to this new habit.