Do you find that when you are rushing about like a lunatic you either forget to eat or just eat because the clock says so? You are not alone!
Food has become more functional than ever. Something to keep us going, so we can do the next thing on our list, so we can work that bit harder, stay up that bit later. Sound familiar? It's right though, food has a purpose - it provides energy, so we can carry out life's essential tasks, fight illness, grow, develop, enjoy life and age gracefully. Without it we'll collapse in a heap at the end of the day - oh you do that too? It should also be enjoyable! In my book if you really don't look forward to food, you are missing out!
I've received several questions recently asking if we should eat at certain times? Does it matter if we skip meals? Let's find out.
We've fallen out of love with food. We don't see it as a priority, just something to fuel the body so we can get to the end of our To Do List, not that we ever do. Other things seem more important, more exciting and lets face it, food isn't like it used to be.
I think we've lost touch with what real good food is. Relying on those on-the-go breakfasts, snacks and ready meals feed us with artificial flavours that real food can't 'compete' with. Highly seasoned, salty, sugary foods give off a taste explosion in your mouth. Your taste buds get wired and high - nothing else will hit the spot other than more, more more (think Pringles!)
It's one of the reasons our junk food habit is so hard to break. We've lost those creative brain cells to sugar and we've forgotten how to cook. The healthier options often don't hit the mark and all we can think of is salad. We assume Healthy food = rabbit food, healthy food = hassle X £££. So we do what's easiest and go for more quick and easy crap.
Food is an effort - to think of something we'd really like and then to find the time to make it? Now we've all been there and ended up nipping to the chippy, dialing your favourite takeaway place or just opting for a bowl of cereal and that's OK. The problem comes from doing this 2,3,4 or 5 times a week. Not making time to eat is a recipe for disaster.
I know this from experience: family + work = get stuff done, eating comes later
My day used to go something like this:
Get up, sort the kids out: get them dressed, give them breakfast, get ready for work, do the school run, damn I didn't even notice I was hungry until I was stuck in traffic late for work.
Drive past the garage and shops thinking I could just nip in..........keep on driving
Get to work, find that old box of cereal in my desk, find I have no milk. Can't be bothered to go buy some milk, I have too much to do.
Sit in a 2hr meeting trying to prevent everyone hearing the gurgling going on in my stomach.
Starving - hit the office biscuits.
Lunchtime and realise I've left my sandwiches in the fridge at home. Go to canteen, choose something suitably stodgy and return to eat it at my desk whilst answering emails.
Clock watch until I have to dash to collect kids from school.
Play with kids, feed the kids, clean up, tidy up etc.
Hubby get's home and I say "whats for dinner?" We go through the fridge and play ready steady cook with the contents. Hubby creates a gourmet feast or if I do it, fingers crossed. It'S 50:50
I also know from experience that irregular eating and poor food choices result in immense tiredness that means you are less likely to find the energy and motivation to correct this situation. This leads to more fatigue, moodiness, lack of concentration and general productivity. We are human, not robots so it will come and bite you in the arse at some point.
Let's get back to my 2 questions from the start:
1. Should we eat at certain times?
2. Does it matter if we skip meals?
My answer is it depends! It depends on what you want to achieve.
- If you battle with energy crashes, you may find you need to eat more regularly: little and often. Knowing how often you need to eat can really help you spread your meals and snacks throughout the day.
- Eating small meals every few hours may also mean your mood is better - again it depends on YOU
- Although easier said than done, eat when you are hungry, not when someone else says it's time to eat. This can be tricky with set lunch hours or eating with the family but going into automatic pilot at meal times does nothing for your appetite control or weight management.
- If you are looking to put weight /muscle on, you may have to stick to a more regimented schedule that works along side your training programme for example. I have actually set an alarm on my phone to remind me to eat (at a time when I was dealing with immense stress and at a time when I was training for an event)
- Don't skip meals if you are looking to lose weight or are struggling with fatigue - the rebound effect it not helpful as your body goes into storage mode.
What can you do?
1. Make time to eat. Your health is your wealth so if you don't look after yourself, who will? Set reminders, create a plan or schedule to follow.
2. Get organised. Meal planning and preparation can save a huge number of headaches in a busy schedule. Investing some time at the weekend for example means it's one less thing to worry about and sort out in the week.
3. Get creative. Make food interesting! Colours, textures, presentation (no you are not going on Masterchef), anything to get your taste buds going and your eyes popping. Who wants to eat boring food? Exactly.
4. Slow down. Getting more organised is one thing, but knowing when you are truly hungry is something else entirely. Are you really hungry (or bored, or fed up?) Have you just gobbled down that meal and don't even remember eating it? Fast eating and eating whilst distracted means we ignore our cues to stop eating, leading to over eating.
5. Drink plenty of fluids - if we are dehydrated our body can get confused and so we think we are hungry. More often than not we are just thirsty. This can be a useful first step with appetite management.
If you'd like to find out how you can better manage your eating and make food more interesting in your busy life, why not have a chat?