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Are These 5 Eating Habits Sabotaging Your Healthy Relationship With Food?

Are These 5 Eating Habits Sabotaging Your Healthy Relationship With Food?

Eating is needed to satisfy hunger, but it is also a natural, healthy, and pleasurable activity. In the food-abundant, diet-obsessed culture we live in, our relationship with food can fall on a broad spectrum ranging from mindless and non-existent to guilt-inducing and all-consuming instead. Overall we have a love-hate relationship with food driven by the media, stress, body image issues, how we were raised with food, and more. But our relationship with food should be a positive one! After all, we were made to eat, and eating is one of the most intimate things we do. What we eat becomes us.

Our food choices should fuel a SuperLife – but they can just as easily prevent a SuperLife. Every bite counts.

If you don’t have a healthy, positive relationship with food, the first step to bringing your eating back to an intentional, life-giving process is figuring out how you eat. Read through this list of five different types of “eaters” and identify what type of eater you are (you can be more than one!)! Then use the suggested tips to get you started making eating a more mindful and meaningful experience again.

So what type of eater are you?

 1. Speed Snarfing

Eating too fast — or speed snarfing — is common in our fast-paced, highly demanding lifestyles. It is important to slow down and chew your food! Swallowing half-chewed food puts a tremendous strain on digestion. I always say that “Digestion begins in the mouth,” and it does! For example, the enzyme that breaks down carbs, amylase, is present in our saliva as we chew, which starts the digestive process inside our mouths as we chew.

Chewing, and getting your food coated with digestive enzymes right away, creates better digestion and nutrient absorption. Believe me, you want the enzymes in your mouth to create stronger enzymatic action!

“A lack of enzymatic action causes incomplete digestion of the foods we eat. We don’t extract from them all the nutrition they contain, and what we don’t take, we still need to metabolize and excrete,” (SuperLife, pg. 31).

Also, when you eat too fast the brain skips over the sensory pleasures of food. Research shows this actually slows the metabolism and diminishes your body’s ability to burn food as fuel. This is because when you do anything fast you stimulate the fight-or-flight stress response and your body interprets the stress as a priority concern when compared to digestion.

Here are three ways to break free from this habit:

  • Guard Mealtime.

This means making time to sit down at the table and savor your food.

  • Take 5-10 slow, deep breaths.

This stimulates a relaxation response in your body and will aid digestion.

  • Pace Yourself.

Instead of taking five minutes to eat breakfast – take 10 minutes (or more if you can create it). Your long-term health is worth a few extra minutes!

2. Secret Snacking

Hiding your chocolate in the drawer, trail mix in the closet, and labeling these foods as “bad.”

When you eat in shame, fewer endorphins are released. Endorphins aid digestion and fuel metabolism so you want them around when you’re eating! When food comes from a place of guilt, the nervous system minimizes the amount of pleasure perceived so you are driven to eat more to become satisfied.

Here are three ways to break free from this habit:

  • Notice the foods you stash or squirrel away.

Note what triggers the desire and which foods create the greatest guilt. Next time you feel this way, ask this question, “What is your body hungry for other than the food?” Also, “Why are you prompted to hide the food away?” Take a closer look. The answers, if you get still enough to listen, might surprise you.

  • Don’t allow others to shame you into hiding food.

Tell people who judge what you are eating that you appreciate their intention but would also appreciate it if they would stop. Claim responsibility for every bite you put in your mouth and don’t give anyone else that power. Even if they disagree with what you are eating, they should respect your choice.

  • Redirect your inner rebel.

Sneaking food can be a thrill. Instead, find other ways to openly express your authentic self and create adventure in your life.

3. Starving and Stuffing

With this type of eating, you ignore hunger signals during the day, but this almost always leads to uncontrolled eating later.

When your body is deprived of food, your blood sugar levels drop. This triggers uncontrolled eating for quick-energy foods. These foods are normally carbohydrates. This kind of eating can also lead to weight gain.

Here are three ways to break free from this habit:

  • When you finish one meal, plan for the next.

Use advanced planning to arrange meal plans. For example take time to prep a healthy breakfast the night before, pack your lunch before you leave the house, have some healthy snacks waiting in the car, etc.

  • Factor a protein source into every meal and snack.

Adding a small amount of protein will help stabilize blood sugars.

  • Plan a preemptive strike against the postwork binge.

When you feel too busy to eat or too distracted, eat a high-fiber, high-protein pre-dinner snack to curb the hunger and stop from binging later on at the full meal.

 4. Stress Feeding

Do you notice that you are eating without feeling hungry? When you are stressed, your body releases the hormone cortisol in response, which increases your appetite for sugar and/or fat.

Stress damages your health in many ways. For example cortisol triggers your body to put extra calories into deep abdominal fat – which is NOT where you want it to go! Stress also reduces your gut’s acidity, making it harder to absorb nutrients, digest properly, and decrease your body’s ability to heal itself.

Here are three ways to break free from this habit:

  • Exercise your options.

Remind yourself that eating won’t erase the stress. Find other ways to deal with stress such as a hot bath or exercise. Post a list of alternative stress-relieving ideas you like on your refrigerator door to remind yourself the next time you want to grab food for stress.

  • Conserve your energy.

Notice when you are becoming stressed (negative self talk, taking frequent deep breaths, etc) and find ways that help you to handle the stress (everyone will find different things that work for them), such as taking more frequent breaks, doing a five-minute breathing exercise, talking with a friend, and viewing photos of loved ones. Even coloring is back in style for adults! There’s something for everyone.

  • Cut yourself slack.

Instead of beating yourself up after a stress-induced eating binge (which will fuel negative feelings and more unhealthy eating!) acknowledge what happened, be kind to yourself, and move on. But try to employ new techniques the next time stress pops up, knowing that what you tried before did not work. Being too hard on yourself “feeds” a negative relationship with food.

5. Mindless Munching

Ever sit down at the computer with a bag of chips and before you know it the whole bag is gone?

Mindless eating is when other things are competing for your attention and food drops to the bottom of the list. When other things have your attention (computer, TV, driving, etc.) you are more likely to overeat and continue eating until the show is over or you are done checking your email which leads to continually eating even though you are full.

Here are three ways to break free from this habit:

  • When you eat, just eat.

Eat your meal or snack before you sit down to do something else. It is hard in today’s multi-tasking, go-go-go lifestyle, but make eating the only thing you are focused on. Be present and enjoy your food! It changes the whole experience!

  • Make the mechanisms of mindless eating work for you.

If you overeat the first thing you see in the cupboard no matter what it is, make the first thing you see something low-calorie and nutritious. Don’t chow down on calorie-dense almonds when you can eat a low-calorie veggie or fruit! If you overeat by eating three or four servings of dinner, leave the serving bowl on the stove or put the leftovers away before you sit down to eat.

  • Never ever eat out of the package or storage container.

Put everything on a plate. This increases your awareness of the portion size.

Which food eating style(s) do you find yourself doing? What does your relationship with food look like? Share in the comments below the tips you have used to overcome these mindless eating patterns.


Guthrie, Catherine. “Tangled up in food.” Experience Life Magazine. January/February 2011


About SuperLife:



Darin Olien’s health and wellness company, SuperLife, headquartered in Malibu, CA, shares resources and breaking research that demystify health, fitness, nutrition, and longevity into simple daily actions. Olien’s fad-free, super simple rules of healthy eating and living create life-long wellness and the opportunity to live a SuperLife – the greatest expression of life possible!


About Darin Olien:

Nicknamed “The Indiana Jones of Superfoods,” Darin Olien is a widely recognized exotic superfoods hunter, supplement formulator, and environmental activist who travels the planet discovering new and underutilized medicinal plants. He works closely with thousands of international farmers, growers, and manufacturers to get high-quality, fair-trade superfood and herbal commodities out to market. Since 2005 he has sourced more than 300 foods and ingredients from around the world, working directly with the people of Peru, Bhutan, the Amazon region, the Himalayas, the South Pacific, and many other countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa.

Olien is a renowned authority on nutrition, hydration, and the potency of foods and herbs, which he writes about in his new book, SuperLife: The 5 Forces That Will Make You Healthy, Fit, and Eternally Awesome. The book offers resources for simple lifestyle changes that create long term-health. It is a fad-free, myth-busting, individualized approach to health developed from Olien’s 20+ years of travel and research around the world.

1 Comment
  • Andrew
    Posted at 16:27h, 14 October

    This is all good. But what about if I want to eat the bad foods and be healthy at the same time? If I train hard can I not eat what I want?

    I know the answer is no but my brain always wins with this argument before I binge snack.