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Blog posts tagged with 'overeating'

Finding Healthy Facts in Nutrition Labels as a Guide to Better Living

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Finding Healthy Facts in Nutrition Labels as a Guide to Better LivingSince the late 1800s the government has set standards which regulate how companies and industries can claim or market what is in their food products, paving the way for modern nutrition labels. Nutrition labels continually go through changes and updates as our knowledge about certain foods, ingredients, and what it means to be healthy evolves. These labels are designed to be a guideline so that you know the true health value of the foods you consume. But in spite of the availability of this information, do people actually read them?

A Study in Purchase Habits

To investigate how often people really look at nutritional labels, researchers at the University of Minnesota took 203 volunteers and gauged what information they looked at when making a food purchase. The test involved a computer-based-shopping program where participants were shown 64 different items—including products such as cereal, soup, crackers, cookies, and ice cream—posing the question of whether or not they would buy the item. Synced with the computer program was an eye-tracking device that monitored what the shopper was viewing, tracking up to 1,000 eye movements per second. Once the buying task portion of the study was done, participants were then asked to fill out a questionnaire about their usual real-world grocery shoppping and buying habits.

What the Numbers Really Say

What researchers discovered was that there was a big difference between consumers' viewing habits and what they self-purported in the questionnaire. Thirty-three percent of participants stated that they "almost always" look at product's calorie count, 31% said they looked at total fat content, 24% looked at sugar content, and 26% claimed they paid attention to serving size. However, the eye-tracking data showed that only 9% of people looked at calorie count for almost all items—while only 1% of the participants looked at each of the other components, including fat, trans fat, sugar, and serving size.

Authors of the study say that the biggest problem with food labels is their confusing nature and sometimes concealed placement on certain boxes and packaging.

"In the simulated shopping setting, participants could see Nutrition Facts labels without having to turn, rotate, or otherwise manipulate a food package. In contrast, Nutrition Facts labels on food packages tend to be in locations that cannot be seen by consumers looking at the front of a package (e.g., when viewing a shelf of items in a grocery store)," the authors wrote.

Monitoring Serving Size to Avoid Overeating

Many people desire a road map to better health, not realizing that every box, container, or bag of packaged food already provides insight into what you are eating, allowing you to monitor what your body is getting each day and align it with your daily needs. One of the main things people often misunderstand is what serving size means when it comes to individual food items. Serving sizes are determined by the FDA and USDA to provide an average calorie count of certain food items. However, many people don't take into account the serving sizes of snacks or foods such as cereal, crackers, or candy bars, which can lead to the consumption of excess calories.

Recognizing What to Avoid and What to Focus On

Another point to note is the fat content of food. Nutrition labels separate the fat content by total fat, trans fat, and saturated fat. If you are focusing on a heart-healthy diet, watching for foods that are both low in saturated and trans fat content is crucial.

Salt and sugar are other ingredients that warrant attention. Salt is associated with heart health; in particular, blood pressure. Balancing out your salt intake with nutrients such as potassium can help keep your blood pressure levels within healthy ranges. Sugar, in the form of high-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners, can be a source of "empty calories", which are calories that provide little or no added nutritional value, so be on the lookout for these, too.

Giving the Label a Look

Nutrition labels are often misunderstood and underused resources for better nutrition. Utilizing the nutritional information that is already available to you can help you develop healthier eating habits day in and day out. Along with following daily exercise recommendations and supplementing your diet when needed, you can start seeing the results you always wanted.

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The Triggers of Emotional Eating and What You Can Do

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The Triggers of Emotional Eating and What You Can DoBad day at work? Going through some issues in your personal life? Is your first response to grab the ice cream from the freezer or rip open that bag of chips and have at it? Human responses to stress can take various forms, many of them unhealthy. Whether it's anger, sadness, frustration, or stress that has infiltrated your daily life everyone needs to find an outlet to relieve the tension. Unfortunately, many people turn to food as their outlet. Binge eating or emotional eating can happen without you realizing how serious it can become. Understanding how to deal with powerful emotions, stress, and reactions can help you avoid the pitfalls of emotional eating so that you can resolve your issues in a healthier way.

What Induces Your Emotional Eating Response?

Sometimes the most important question to ask yourself is, "Why am I eating?" In the case of overeating, especially if it's emotional, pinpoint your triggers. These triggers can range from internal feelings to outside influences. Some people eat to fill a void; when they're bored, have no plans, and can't figure out what to do with their evening, they may eat as a way to pass the time. Others may be trying to fill an emotional void due to loneliness, anxiety, and stress. Sometimes the root of stress or anxiety can be connected to your thoughts on your body. Having a negative self-image can cause a cycle of destructive behaviors that includes finding solace in food.

Other triggers can be social, such as eating to fit in or being encouraged to eat by those around you. Physiological responses such as headaches or stomach aches due to skipping meals may also convince people that they need to eat more to curb their hunger.

Identifying your triggers and analyzing the issues in your life to find the problem can be the first step in pinpointing the question of "Why?" To help keep track of possible triggers, keep a food diary and write down what you ate, when you ate it, and what stressors, thoughts, or emotions you experienced while eating. Once you've spotted the pattern, address what you can do to change your lifestyle, stress factors, and other things that may be causing the reaction of overeating.

Spot the Pattern, Break the Cycle

For many, emotional eating can become a routine part of getting through situations. To break a cycle, no matter what it is, you have to change the pattern of repetition. Simple activities throughout your day, even if they only take up a small chunk of time, can alleviate the urge to use food as a coping response and finding a passion can go a long way to avoiding the static cycle of negativity. Going for a walk, exercising, reading, talking to a friend, or finding a hobby can replace the tendency to choose food as a means of filling up the emotional void in your life.

Taking Steps for a Healthier Future

Nutrition should always be a focus when it comes to your everyday diet. By focusing on healthy eating and learning about what your body needs you can help facilitate the lifestyle change you need. A recent study by USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and at Massachusetts General Hospital recently revealed how a low-calorie, high-fiber diet along with the right behavioral counseling can actually increase one's cravings for healthy foods and minimize those for unhealthy ones.

While everyone responds differently to triggers and their surroundings, there are ways of overcoming emotional overeating and turning your lifestyle around. If you or someone you know struggles with overeating or emotional eating, learn how you can help that person reverse their negative behavior and deal with their emotions in a healthier way.

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