Understanding HOW we Eat

WHY and HOW we eat are just as, if not more, important than WHAT we eat. Sure it is important to have a basic understanding of nutrient-dense versus nutrient-poor foods, but in the moment, the reasons behind WHY we are eating can play a role in whether we reach for a nourishing trail mix versus a large container of ice cream (and eat the whole thing).

HOW Do We Eat? 

Activity: Using adjectives to talk about the HOW behind our eating patterns

Reflection: Take a moment to reflect on HOW you eat. Think about an average work day. Do any of the following adjectives describe how you’ve eating a meal/snack recently?

  • Distractedly (i.e. in front of a screen, finishing up a work task) versus mindfully 
  • Reactively/impulsively (i.e. being physically hungry without planned options) versus proactively
  • Quickly/rushed versus slowly/calmly
  • Socially versus independently/quietly 


Perhaps you even related to several of the “left-side adjectives”.

Imagine this: It’s lunchtime. You and your colleagues leave half an hour into your lunch hour to the fast food outlet next door. You didn’t have a chance to pack lunch (again), and this is the quickest option given your time constraints. You sit down with your meal and quickly polish off your tray while complaining about your work culture with your buddies. 

Which of the above adjectives fit this scenario? Think about how they affect what type of & how much food is consumed, and how you would feel after the meal (i.e. sluggish versus energized/ready to tackle the rest of your work day). 

Tips for Proactive Eating: 

  1. PROTECT your mealtime! We’re pretty passionate about this. As dietitians who work out of our cars with no set lunchtime, we know how challenging it can be. Even if you can’t lend 30-60 minutes to eat, take 10-15 minutes to focus on your food.
  2. Plan ahead. It can be difficult when lunch is a social occasion that often involves eating out. Be open with your colleagues to let them know you plan to be more proactive by packing lunch.
  3. Be a smart social eater. Be cognizant that eating out for lunch with buddies may lead to more mindless eating behaviours, so listen for those fullness cues!
  4. Pack-up leftovers. If you are full, stop eating and ask for a take-out container. I (Syd) have been laughed at for doing this in the past, but making two meals out of one is cost effective and allows you to enjoy a healthy helping at a second meal!
  5. Start small. This might mean packing lunch 1-2 times per week to start. Small changes are meaningful!
  6. Slow down… do we really need to praise mindful eating? See our previous posts on mindfulness for strategies on how to incorporate it into your mealtime routine. 


Reflection: What adjectives describe your eating experience today?

Sources: Intuitive Eating Workbook, Alissa Rumsey, Rachael Hartley, Craving Change, Healthline

Article by: Sydney Withers RD