Why do I eat? That was the question I kept asking myself after observing my first nutrition counseling session at Lifexcel Carolina. I never thought about how I ate until that moment. Do I eat because I am physically hungry? Is my stomach growling? Do I eat because of my emotions? Am I bored, tired, stressed, or sad? Do I eat because of my environment? Are people around me eating, or is it just because the cinnamon pretzel smells so good? Do I eat because it’s a habit? Do I order a large popcorn and drink whenever I go to the movies simply out of habit, and because that’s what other people do? This thought kept plaguing me until I realized that I eat because of all these reasons. Eating because of my emotions, environment, and habit is not bad; it’s more important, I believe, to be mindful of why I am eating. If I am mindfully aware of eating not because of physical hunger, I pause and ask myself, “am I hungry?” However, sometimes I just want to eat something to satisfy my craving. Eating at that moment is alright as long as I do not overindulge and eat just enough to satisfy that craving. This thought of mindful eating made me realize that there are many people out there who eat due to a plethora of reasons: gain weight, weight loss, the list could go on. However, more often than not, these people are not successful because there exists a disconnection between reasons for eating, and eating for necessity or well-being.
Over the past month, the question “why do I eat” has provided me a dynamic and eye-opening experience at Lifexcel Carolina. Hello, my name is Bernice Sem, and I am a dietetic intern from Western Carolina University. I began my internship experience at Lifexcel having a general idea of the nutrition services provided here. I soon discovered that Lifexcel prides itself on providing nutrition counseling that goes beyond physical reasons but also focuses on the emotional reasons.
At Lifexcel, the registered dietitian and the client work together to identify the reasons the client eats and the challenges that are preventing him or her from losing weight.
Of course, not everyone who comes to Lifexcel is an emotional eater. Some clients just desire structured nutrition counseling and education on how to lose weight or manage a chronic disease. I call these clients, “tell me what to do clients.” However, most of the clients I have encountered are emotional eaters or “tell me how to lose weight clients.” They overindulge in food as a coping mechanism for stress, sadness, boredom, rebellion against parents, habit, or other reasons. After observing several nutrition counseling sessions, I have come to realize that emotional eaters tend to have difficulty losing weight because they need professional assistance that goes beyond providing nutrition information on what to do to lose weight. Most of these clients have been on a fad diet or practiced restrictive eating at some point. They would rapidly lose weight on these diets but would gain the weight back. These clients often gave into claims made by fad diets and restrictive eating, and not surprisingly, were not successful in their weight goals. Most people cannot maintain this way of eating because it is not a sustainable lifestyle change. At Lifexcel, the registered dietitian and the client work together to identify the reasons the client eats and the challenges that are preventing him or her from losing weight. This client-centered approach encourages and motivates clients to make positive nutrition and lifestyle changes that are attainable, realistic, and meet their individual health and nutrition goals. So, my question to you is, why do you eat?