Food is the daily fuel of humans. And our relationship with food is formed by income, availability, trends and even peer pressure. Which means that the relationship can be as much complicated as it is joyful.
Hunger is the main stimulant that affects our appetite and informs the brain when it’s time to have a bite. However, nowadays we got into the trap of overconsumption: smell, sound and advertising which all make us eat even we are not hungry. This also affects our eating habits.
Anyway, our appetite changes with aging as well. Our lives are divided into seven stages that illustrate the differences of our relationship with food. Knowing this might help fighting against a few main the twenty first century issues: overconsumption, obesity and eating disorders.
The first decade, 0-10
In this decade, humans’ body experiences rapid growth. For this reason, it’s extremely important to create healthy eating habits, because there is a great chance that an overweight child will turn into obese adult.
Adults must be aware that children live in a different sensory world: their tastes are experienced more intensely. Some children are more sensitive to tastes, smells and textures of food than others. And some of them have a fear of eating something new (neophobia), which can negatively shape the preferences in the adulthood and narrow down their dietary range. For this reason, parents are responsible for introducing more new foods, especially fruit and vegetables into their diets. (Dr Jackie Blissett, The University of Birmingham)
Moreover, parents shouldn’t kill their children’s ability to follow their own appetite and hunger cues with “clear your plate” and similar concepts. Losing the sense of individual succession leads to overeating in later years. In additionally, children should be educated about junk food harm early on.
The second decade, 10-20
The increase of appetite is related with puberty and hormones. It’s also a very important to maintain the right relationship with food since it will affect further lifestyle choices.
Dietary options, made in this stage, will have a direct influence on future generations (once they become parents).
The third decade, 20-30
Weight gain is a common case during the third decade. Usually it is related with less intensive physical activity. Since many young adults have families or live with their partner, their life starts settling into a daily routine which is visible in their appearance.
Moreover, once body fat is accumulated, it’s quite difficult to lose it. Accordingly, hunger signals are stronger than satisfaction signals, so overeating is a common case too. Psychological factors like stress and sitting all day in the office also cause the gain.
The fourth decade, 30-40
In this stage, the influences of stress are the main causes of increasing or losing ones appetite. Stress affects 80 percent of the population and reshapes their eating habits.
Stress affects mature personalities in two ways: it either creates a food addiction for high-calorie snacks; or it can be controlled by perfectionism and conscientiousness
These different coping strategies are intriguing: the phenomena of “food addiction” – an irresistible urge to consume specific, often high-calorie foods – is not well understood. Many researchers even question its existence. Anyway, stress management has a direct influence to peoples’ eating behaviour.
The fifth decade, 40-50
It’s quite difficult to make major changes of eating habits. Humans feel a need to proceed with their daily choices, even though they are not healthy ones. However, here it’s necessary to start taking actions and amend unhealthy dietary habits since the first quite invisible symptoms, such as a high blood pressure or cholesterol, will plant a seed for future issues.
The sixth decade, 50-60
After fifty, the body starts changing: sarcopenia will determine a gradual loss of muscle mass (0.5-1% per year); also, it’s related with decreased physical activity, a small consumption of proteins and menopause. In order to slow down the aging process, these things must be taken into consideration.
The seventh decade, 60-70, and beyond
Finally, the last stage usually doesn’t distinguish oneself as having a good appetite or feeling hungry.
A major challenge today in the face of increasing life expectancy is to maintain quality of life, or else we will become a society of very old and infirm or disabled people. It causes unintended weight loss and greater frailty. Some diseases can also affect a poor appetite. Moreover, the factors like eating alone (being away from beloved ones), dental and swallowing problems, reduced taste and smell receptors have an impact on eating frequency and portion size.
Food is our fuel, but at the same time it must be enjoyed since it is also social and cultural. So, healthy choices create correct habits that make a good impact to our health and shape. Eventually, positive dietary experiences ensure a positive mindset.