Rules for better eating habits:
You can do much to
minimise the damage that your eating habits do to your stomach by following
these simple rules.
1. Eat Slowly. People often stuff food into
their mouths at an unbelievable rate when they are under stress. A medical
friend of mine, whom I worked with in a hospital, used to be spooning up the
last smear of custard while the rest of us were still finishing our soup. He
always had indigestion afterwards and had to sit for half an hour to allow the
pain to disappear.
Try and put small forkfuls into your mouth. Stuff huge
amounts of food onto your fork and you'll end up failing to chew your food
properly. Chewing is an essential part of the digestive process and the saliva
in your mouth contains enzymes which help prepare your food for the secretions
produced by the stomach.
Try to taste each mouthful of food that you eat.
That way you're far less likely to eat unnecessarily or too quickly.
you are a fast eater put down your knife and fork between mouthfuls. That will
slow you down effectively.
2. Concentrate On What You Are Doing
Don't try eating while you're reading or watching television. A little mild
and gentle conversation probably won't do much harm but you should concentrate
as much as you can when you're eating. Only by concentrating on what you are
doing will you be able to tell when your stomach is talking to you. And if you
listen it will talk to you, and tell you when you're eating something that is
going to upset you, or eating too much. Incidentally, it's a good idea to keep a
notebook in which you jot down the details of any foods or drinks which upset
you. Anything which appears in your notebook more than once (i.e. upsets you)
should disappear from your regular diet.
3. Be In Charge Of Your Own
Don't let other people push you into eating when you aren't
hungry or when you don't want a second helping. And do be prepared to leave food
on the side of your plate if you've had enough to eat.
4. Rest After
When you've finished a meal have a short rest. Give your stomach
time to do its job before you start chasing around again. But don't lie down.
You should not eat a large meal before you to bed. Give your stomach an hour or
two to digest food before you lie down.
5. Find Out What Upsets
Try to find out what sort of foods upset your stomach most - and
avoid them. Different people are badly affected by different foods, so it is
impossible to offer a comprehensive list of foods to avoid but if you do have a
"weak" stomach it is likely that any of the foods on the list below will
exacerbate your symptoms:
All fried foods
Strong tea or
curry, peppers, mustard
Broad beans, brussels sprouts, radishes and cucumber
Very hot or very cold foods
Coarse bread, biscuits or
Nuts or dried fruit
Any tough food (meat for example) that can't
be chewed easily
You do not have to avoid all these foods if you have
stomach symptoms. But do be aware that these foods can cause problems. The
important thing is to find out which foods upset you and avoid them. Do remember
that when and how you eat probably affects your stomach more than what you eat.
6. Listen To Your Appetite Control Centre
Your body has an
impressive appetite control centre which can make sure that you never get
overweight or underweight. It can even make sure that you eat the right mix of
foods - so that your body obtains all the protein it needs and the right mix of
vitamins and minerals.
You can do a lot to look after your stomach and
keep it healthy.
To begin with it is a good idea to learn to listen to
your stomach and to get into the habit of eating when you are hungry rather than
just because the clock tells you that it is time to eat.
You may not
know it but you have an appetite control centre which is designed to control
your eating habits quite accurately.
A study published in America some
years ago showed that when newly weaned infants just a few months old were
allowed to choose what they ate from a range of simple, natural foods they
selected balanced diets which were just as good in nutritional value as the
carefully balanced ideal diets worked out by nutritional experts.
study published in America showed that young children automatically choose foods
that enable them to avoid digestive upsets and constipation.
study, done on soldiers during the Second World War, showed that when allowed
access to unlimited supplies of food, troops ate what their bodies needed
according to the outside temperature and that they automatically chose an ideal
mixture of protein, fat and carbohydrate.
Unfortunately, most of us have
lost the art of listening to our own bodies and we tend to eat three meals a day
whether we are hungry or not, stuffing our bodies with food not because we need
it but because the clock says it is time to eat. In practice the stomach does
not adapt well to huge meals taken at lengthy intervals and it can cope far more
effectively with smaller meals taken at shorter intervals.
of the appetite control centre in your brain was first identified in research
work done by Dr Clara M Davis of Chicago in the 1920s. Dr Davis's initial aim
was to find out whether newly weaned children could choose their own food and
eat enough to stay alive, select a good balance of different types of food
without being told what to eat and pick foods designed to keep them healthy.
The infants in Dr Davis's experiment chose excellent and well varied
diets. Their growth rates, development and appearance were just as good as those
of babies who had been given foods selected by nutritionists. The babies chose
the right food - and just as important - ate them in the right quantities. And
they stayed healthy.
Later Dr Davis reported that in an additional
research project she had studied 15 infants between six months and four and a
half years and had come to the conclusion that they all were able to select a
good variety of satisfying foods, ensuring that they ate neither too much nor
too little. Their eating habits were, of course, unplanned and may have looked
rather chaotic to the trained eye but none of the infants ever developed stomach
ache or became constipated. None of the children who were allowed to choose
their own diets became chubby or fat.
Subsequently further research,
this time done with soldiers, showed that when adults were allowed access to
unlimited supplies of food they ate just what their bodies needed. Even more
startling was the fact that the soldiers varied their diet according to their
environment, quite naturally selecting a mixture of protein, fat and
carbohydrate that was ideal for their circumstances and needs.
conclusion has to be that the presence of the appetite control centre means that
if you listen to your body when it tells you what - and how much - you need to
eat and you will stay slim and well fed for life.
Despite the existence
of this astonishing appetite control centre most of us do get fat, of course. We
eat the wrong types of food. And we eat the wrong quantities. There are several
reasons for this. Some people eat because they are depressed or anxious
or miserable. They eat because they are bored. And they don't stop eating when
they are no longer hungry. They become overweight - or ill - because they have
overridden their appetite control centres.
There is evidence that babies
who are bottle fed are more likely to put on excess weight than babies who are
breast fed. And, of course, fat babies often grow into fat children who then
grow into fat adults.
The appetite control centre is directly controlled
by the amount of sugar circulating in your blood and is designed to ensure that
you eat what your body needs, when your body needs it and in the quantities
required. Things go wrong because you ignore your appetite control centre and
instead of eating according to your needs eat according to behavioural patterns
imposed on you by the society in which you live.
Our eating habits are
usually established when we are very small. We are taught to eat at meal times
(whether or not we are hungry). We are told off if we don't clear up all the
food on our plates (whether or not we need it). We learn bad habits and we learn
to ignore our appetite control centre.
These distorted behavioural
patterns all help to ensure that your appetite control centre is ignored and
overruled. Your eating habits are controlled not by your body's genuine need for
food but by a totally artificial conception of its requirements. By the time we
reach adulthood most of us have learned to eat for all sorts of bizarre reasons.
We have learnt to eat when we are sad or lonely. We have learned to eat when we
are happy or want to celebrate. We have learned to eat simply because it is an
official meal time and everyone else around us is eating. We eat what the
advertising copywriters want us to eat and we eat it when the boss says we
should eat it.
However, you can break all these bad habits. By nibbling
instead of gorging you can allow your appetite control centre to re-establish
You can find out more about healthy eating
from Vernon Coleman's book Food for Thought - available from all good
bookshops or directly from the shop on this Web site.
Copyright Vernon Coleman