Why you need to form healthy food habits
By Faith Kariuki
6 months ago | 3 min read
I recently attended a workshop and was privileged to interact with people from all walks of life. I especially loved our interactions during lunch break.
I noted with a lot of concern, just as I have noted on many occasions, the huge portions of food on people’s plates. It goes without saying that most of the afternoon sessions had participants dozing off.
Overeating is not uncommon in our society. We are consuming more than the body requires, fueling the rise of obesity and related non-communicable diseases.
Much of our food habits stem from past experiences and socialisation. In most African cultures great emphasis is placed on the quantity of food.
Serving people small portions might be perceived as disrespectful. Threatening and punishing children to finish their food even when full is not uncommon even in modern-day society.
Most people form food habits in early childhood. As children interact with food, they start to shape habits that affect their dietary habits in adulthood.
Such habits are seen as normal and harmless and are usually hard to break. Stuffed is equated to satiety and large quantities are seen as the answer to satiety.
Coincidentally, I found myself having lunch at the same table with the same people every day of the workshop. Despite not knowing each other prior to this workshop, we developed a rapport and could talk about social issues with ease.
I think my small portions made my table mates uneasy and a conversation about food portions ensued. They concluded that my stomach capacity was small due to my petite frame hence the small portions.
The fact is most adults have roughly the same stomach size even if they have different weights. However, the stomach can expand and contract depending on how much food you eat.
When empty and relaxing, the stomach has a capacity of about 75ml. However, it can expand more than 50 times its normal size and can hold up to four litres of food.
In addition, it takes about 20 minutes from the time you start eating for the brain to send out a signal to the stomach to let you know you are full and that you should stop eating.
Overeating occurs if one continues to eat beyond this point. Sadly, most people gobble up food and end up overeating even before the brain can relay the message to stop eating.
When the stomach expands due to overeating, it pushes against other organs, making one uncomfortable.
This discomfort can be felt in the form of fatigue, drowsiness, bloating and heartburn. Clothes also become tighter and have to be adjusted. Sitting upright also becomes a challenge.
Consistent overeating can also have serious effects on your health. Consistent stretching of the stomach interferes with the release of hunger and fullness hormones, and consequently how the brain relays the fullness message.
This can make you only feel satisfied after overeating. Overeating leads to consumption of more calories than the body requires, making one pack excess weight and body fats which are a risk factor for dietary-related non–communicable diseases.
While it is not possible to reduce or shrink the size of your stomach, you can change how your stomach responds to hunger and fullness.
You can help it to become accustomed to feeling fuller with smaller food portions. Portion control is in the palms of your hands; the size you serve makes a difference.
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