Rules for better
You can do much to minimise the
damage that your eating habits do to your stomach by following these simple
1. Eat Slowly.
People often stuff food into
their mouths at an unbelievable rate when they are under stress. A medical
friend of mine, with whom I worked 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 anf 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 (i.e. upsets you) more
than once should disappear from your regular diet.
3. Be In Charge Of
Your Own Stomach
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.
Rest After Eating
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
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 coffee
Pickles, curry, peppers,
Broad beans, brussels sprouts, radishes and cucumber
Very hot or very cold fruits
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.
published in America showed that young children automatically choose foods that
enable them to avoid digestive upsets and constipation.
A third 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
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 for between 6 months and
4 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.
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
Copyright Vernon Coleman 2004
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.