What can we do to eat healthily?

What can we do to eat healthily?
close up photo of man eating burger and french fries

What can we do to eat healthily?

Here are some simple approaches. When you feel full, stop eating. Pay attention to the energy content of the foods you eat.

Eat a balanced diet and eat many different types of foods.
Eat at least five fruits and vegetables a day.
If you eat too much at one meal, eat less at the next. Get enough exercise every day to stay fit – mobility minimizes morbidity.

Try not to eat too late in the evening – excess food is more likely to be converted to fat while you sleep. Enjoy your food; pause to enjoy the taste, texture, feel, and color.
Eat slowly – this gives your stomach more time to send the “enough” signal.

Control your eating so it does not become control over you.
If your eating is out of control or harming you in any way, seek professional help. The sooner you address your eating problems, the better chance you have of keeping them from getting worse.

Why do we eat too little, too much, the wrong foods, foods at the wrong times? What can be done to restore balance?

Obesity is a huge problem, by any measure.

In 2021, 1.9 billion adults were overweight and 650 million were obese, according to the World Health Organisation. 380 million children and adolescents were overweight or obese. In the United Kingdom alone, the most obese nation in Western Europe, 63% of adults are obese. The consequences of obesity are severe. A significantly increased risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, depression, low self-esteem, and more.

In the vast majority of cases,

the cause of obesity is the intake of more energy from food than is consumed. A remarkably small daily excess of 100 kcal can cause a person to gain 0.5 kg per month or 6 kg per year. That is, a person can become obese by eating just one too many slices of bread a day.

The other extreme, anorexia nervosa, in which eating too little can also be fatal, but for different reasons. While cases of obesity are relatively balanced between the sexes, 80% of people with anorexia are female. The same figures apply to weight loss as to weight gain. An energy deficiency of only 100 kcal per day can result in a weight loss of 6 kg per year. About 5% of people with anorexia die within a decade. This is a six times higher risk factor than in the general population. Approximately 3 million people are affected worldwide.

Bulimia involves binge eating followed by what is euphemistically called “purging.” That is, the person makes himself vomit to get rid of the food eaten during the binge. Approximately 3.6 million people exhibit bulimic behaviors, and women are about nine times more likely to be affected than men.

There are many other types of eating problems,

such as OSFE (other specified feeding or eating disorders) and ARFID (avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder). Unhealthy eating can also be considered problematic given the long-term health consequences of eating harmful “foods.”

What are the causes of the various eating disorders?

There is no one cause. The development of eating disorders appears to be a complex interaction of multiple factors, including trauma, psychological, social, cultural, emotional, biological, genetic, economic, and other causes. There is no known trigger.

Trying to understand the etiology of eating disorders seems to be a snapshot of the challenges in studying all human problems. When so many variables are involved, it is very difficult to determine the specific causes or to separate direct causes from mediating variables or from consequences. Since there are no single causes for the multitude of eating problems, it is fair to ask: Why? Probably because there is no one cause. Perhaps the path to eating problems is different for each person: idiopathic. Or all of the above variables play a role in some cases, but not in others. We do not understand how or why. Maybe some of the factors listed can be triggers, while one of the main causes is in the person’s thought or belief patterns.

In healthcare,

the word ‘idiopathic’ is used as a cover for: ‘We have no idea what the cause is, and attribute it to unknown individual factors.

Some of the most common factors that seem to play a role are a first-degree relative with an eating problem. Not surprisingly, a history of dieting is associated with binge eating.

In societies and cultures where “slim” is highly valued, eating problems are more common.

If I had to make a bet about causes, I would say that only a tiny handful of eating problems are genetic and that the vast majority of eating problems are caused by a combination of thoughts, emotions, and beliefs in response to social, economic, and cultural cues or triggers.

A famous comedian once quipped, ‘The only cause of jiggling down here [points to stomach] is eating up here [points to mouth].’

Although this is a joke not found at PC, it may hold some wisdom. People become obese when they eat too much and exercise too little. At the other extreme is the fear of gaining weight, which is known to be involved in the development of anorexia and bulimia.

For the vast majority of the world’s population, food is balanced: neither too much nor too little. In school and at home, many young people learn to eat a balanced diet, which sets the pattern for healthy eating throughout life. In rich countries, affluence and easy access to so many delicious foods seem to be leading to increasing obesity. That is, even good education about healthy eating has not prevented 63% of the UK population from being overweight.

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