Eating Habits - Breaking the Top Three From a Midlife Childhood
Breaking the Top Three Eating Habits From a Midlife Childhood
Do you think about where your eating habits come from? I got thinking about this recently when I was watching a great TV programme recently called 63 Up. It’s a documentary that has followed a group of children from 1964, when they were 7 years old, catching up with their lives every seven years.
The programme sets out to challenge the Jesuit quote: “Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man”. The idea is that who you are at seven is pretty much who you will be in adulthood. I guess the documentary is trying to find out if that is true. Having watched the 7 Up series over the years it was fascinating to be reminded of what the various children thought they would do, who they were influenced by and how life has turned out for them.
Of course, it tends to get you reflecting on who you were at seven and whether any of those early dreams were realised in later life. But, for me, I found it got me thinking ... about food and the messages we learn about eating from a very young age.
Are Eating Habits from Childhood Still Influencing Your Eating?
If a lot of our food messages have been ingrained since childhood, is that one of the reasons why they can be so hard to break away from in midlife? On the face of it life has moved on in ways our seven-year-old selves could never imagine. Yet, how many of us still hold onto some core beliefs about what we should/shouldn’t eat from what we were taught as children?
Today I thought it would be an idea to look at three of the most popular childhood beliefs and suggest easy ways to help break the eating habits of a midlife childhood. How many of these sound familiar and how many are subconsciously still affecting your eating habits today? Let me know!
Childhood Eating Habit 1: You must eat everything on your plate
I’m a fully paid up member of the empty plate club! I lost count of the number of times I sat at the family dinner table struggling to eat fish or mashed swede (foods that I now love). In the 70s/80s especially it was frowned upon to leave anything on the plate. How many of you were regularly reminded of children in Africa who were starving and you were lucky to have a meal?
On the plus side, I learned to try any food. But on the flip side, I never really learned to gauge my true hunger levels and to stop when I was full. Instead, I stopped when the plate was empty.
As a result, even now, I find it really difficult to leave anything on my plate. It somehow feels wrong! And I see this in my husband and friends too - an empty plate is somehow considered a sign of having enjoyed the meal whereas leaving something suggests there was something wrong with it.
Midlife Mantra: You don’t need to eat everything on your plate. Better to eat until you feel comfortably full or better yet, until you’re no longer hungry! Look at portion sizes and cook/serve less. If you think that will make your plate look too empty then swap the plate size for ¾ of a dinner plate.
At restaurants consider order a starter and a side dish rather than a main dish as portion sizes at restaurants tend to be very large.
Childhood Eating Habit 2: To Lose Weight You Need to Go Low Fat
Low fat spreads, tasteless low fat yoghurts - when we went on a health kick in the 70s/80s the rule was, the less fat the better! To be fair, this was the health message at that time when the advice was focused very much on fats and not much attention was paid to reducing sugar and carbs intake.
As a result, like many other midlifers I really struggle with the idea of having full fat products in my diet because it is so ingrained into me that fats are bad.
Midlife Mantra: As I’ve said before, it’s not fat that’s bad, it’s making sure you’ve got good fats in your daily eating rather than bad ones. So, reduce your saturated fats and remember that the more processed or heat treated a fat is, the harder it is for your body to process it; go for avocado, nuts, seeds, oily fish and cold pressed oils. And also have a look at my popular blog post on other easy ways to reduce belly fat.
Childhood Eating Habit 3: If you don’t eat your dinner, you won’t get pudding.
This was a major threat in our house. If that plate wasn’t empty then pudding was definitely off the table. And there was yummy pudding up for grabs at most dinner times. I would make sure that fish or mashed swede was eaten just because I couldn’t bear the thought of not getting pudding or, even worse, having to watch my brother have pudding and me not!
I’ve managed to break this habit by going as low sugar as I comfortably can. But from talking to one friend, the consequences for her in midlife is that she tends to eat her meals far too quickly! (her words, not mine) Although she has quit dessert during the week she says she still tends to see pudding as a reward for getting through the main course, so her enjoyment of a main meal is reduced. In fact, another fellow midlifer admitted to me recently that often she looks at the dessert menu first in a restaurant, anticipating that more than the main event! And this is something I would do: plan my restaurant meal backwards, choosing dessert first and then deciding how much main course I wanted to eat to still enjoy dessert.
Midlife Mantra: It’s a hard habit to break (believe me, it has taken a while) but you don’t need to have dessert! See it more as a now and again treat or swap it for a coffee/tea if you feel that need to round off your meal. Focus more on the main and eat it slowly, enjoying the textures and tastes. And have a look at my blog post with some easy tips to avoid overeating.
Help to Break Those Childhood Eating Habits
One of the reasons I work to help midlifers sort out their eating it because I know how difficult it can be to get rid of those habits of a lifetime. In theory everyone knows how to lose weight, get fitter and eat more healthily but sometimes it’s just not that easy to achieve. So, if you feel you’d like more advice on this, why not join in my free webinar on 24th June when I tackle the issue of midlife weight gain and what to do about it. Sign up below. And let me know what childhood eating habits (good or bad) have followed you into midlife, by adding a comment below.
The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this blog. Midlife Menu Ltd disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this blog.