When and Why Should I Eat?

This is part 2 in the series of “When should I eat”. Answering, “Why should I eat?” helps you to uncover what drives the way you eat. At some stage in your life you may have lost touch with your natural appetite and satiety signals, or you handed the power of eating for you over to a DIET. Perhaps you have never really considered the value of eating well. On top of these conscious or unconscious choices, we share our lives with others, and have commitments that impact on what, when, why and how we eat.

Heart of why should I eat

Why Should I Eat?

#1 Hunger

Eating to satisfy your hunger is the number 1 answer to why should I eat. Hunger is our survival mechanism, but as I’ve previously discussed, hunger can be distorted by a lack of sleep or our stress and other emotions.

Real Life Tip

What happens if my meal break at work doesn’t coincide with my natural hunger?

Your current level of satiety is related to what you have eaten before, your recent level of physical activity and the quality of sleep. A once off occurrence of this mismatch between your meal break and appetite is not a concern, but if it is an ongoing problem then consider the following:

  • Do you need to eat less prior to your break?
  • Can you delay your break?
  • Can you swap your break time with a colleague?

Keep a 24 hour eating and lifestyle diary to monitor your appetite and energy levels. It is possible to vary the amounts of food you eat to match your activity and commitments during the day. Mindful eating is about adjusting to your current situation, not eating the same type quantity of food because it’s healthy or convenient. Health and convenience are important considerations, but they are not the only factors. Your might like to read my post on how to reclaim your time.

Real Life Tip

Are 2, 6 or more meals and snacks a day best?

The number of meals and snacks that you require is a personal choice. It may not be the same everyday due to your activity levels or your ability to stop and enjoy your food. The best way to decide what is best for you is to keep the eating and lifestyle diary recommended above. Usually 2 to 3 meals work well for adults. Snacks are not essential unless you are very active and require additional energy (kilojoules).

The guidelines I suggest are:

  1. Eat when you feel hungry and stop before you are full
  2. Monitor your energy levels
  3. Take notice of any post eating digestion issues, such as bloating, wind or constipation
  4. Aim to eat most of your food by 3pm and stop eating by 7pm
  5. Aim to have at least a 12hour break from eating, usually overnight unless you work night shift. If you work regular shift work, especially overnight, then consider an individual consult to assist with your eating and health requirements.

#2 Nourishment

Our survival requires us to meet our hunger, but our quality of life requires us to nourish ourselves. So whilst I listed hunger first, nourishment is of equal importance—they go hand-in-hand. Nourish yourself well through:

  1. Eating mindfully
  2. Choosing healthy, nutritious foods
  3. Eating foods that you enjoy
  4. Balancing your lifestyle choices—exercise, sleep and time for reflection and friendships
  5. Prioritising nourishing activities in your day—music, art, reading, meditation, aromatherapy, balneotherapy and other activities that replenish your mind and body.

“Food is neither our enemy nor savour, but it is certainly our friend.”

For some of us food has become the enemy, and the ownership of eating has been passed over to restrictive diets designed by someone else. For others food has become the savour for all stresses and upsets in life. The question “Why should I eat? “helps us to refocus on the gift of food for our basic needs for survival and nourishment. Food is neither our enemy nor savour, but it is certainly our friend.

Image by Jamie Street


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