Reactive vs. Proactive Eating

Free woman holding fresh blueberries healthy living stock photo Creative CommonsThere are 2 strategies that people take in regards to eating, and most people don’t actually realize that they are choosing either strategy:

1. Reactive eating. Making irrational food choices based on emotions or feelings, choosing food options because they want to feel good. One of the definitions for reactive is “occurring as a result of stress or emotional upset.”

OR

2. Proactive eating. Choosing food options based on a knowledge and understanding of nutrition and health. Rationally thinking about your choices, and eating accordingly. One of the definitions for proactive is “acting in anticipation of future problems, needs or changes.”

What type of eating habits do you have? Do you impulsively buy/eat food because it sounds good or because you are indulging cravings? Or, do you have a good understanding of nutrition and provide your body with food that will nourish and sustain life?

My guess is that most people fall within the “reactive eating” category. It is the default approach to eating, there are so many comfort foods and different items that reach out to fill an emotional gap. Much of our society is based around food, and everywhere we go there is junk food that will make us feel better (or have fun, or celebrate, or whatever else).

I used to be a reactive eater. My eating choices were based strictly on what tasted good… processed white flour, sugar, etc. I knew a little about nutrition, but at the time I didn’t realize the major impact that food actually has on health.

My limited knowledge about nutrition (at the time) kept me in the dark, because I had no idea that my body was lacking in nutrition. All of my food choices were based on my favorite snack items that I kept in the cupboard, the treats that my coworkers brought into work, the yummy foods that were served by friends/family, or the fast options that were available in the drive-thru.

Many times I didn’t plan ahead, so I found myself eating whatever was readily available because I was hungry. I didn’t think that it was a big deal to have the leftover doughnuts for lunch (because I didn’t have time to take a lunch break and grab something to eat).

And as a result of my reactive eating, I was sick! I was lacking in energy, I was constantly battling junk food cravings, I was gaining a little bit of weight, and my bowel movements were very irregular.

In recent years I have drastically changed my habits, and now I am a proactive eater. And here is what I have discovered:

It is liberating to eat proactively!

Most people assume that it is boring and icky to eat healthy foods all the time, but I have discovered just the opposite. Choosing healthy foods has opened up a whole new world that I never knew existed.

I no longer have junk food cravings. I have lost weight. I have more energy. I no longer have hunger pains all throughout the day.

Eating proactively allows you to make a conscious choice about the things that you are putting into your body. You can choose to eat nutrient-dense foods that provide the body with vitamins and minerals.

Eating proactively also gives you a long-term perspective on life.

For example, If you are eating re-actively, it’s usually just about the moment… how are you feeling in a given moment, and what can you do to placate that immediate reaction?

On the other hand, if you are eating proactively, the immediate urges are not as strong because you have your overall health in mind (instead of just focusing on the immediate pleasure of eating).

And it’s a chain reaction. As you fill your stomach with nutrient-dense foods, your body will be satisfied because it is receiving the nutrition that it needs. which means that the junk food cravings and addictions will go away and you will be more likely to make better food choices in the future.

It takes some practice (and work!) to break reactive eating habits, but it is worth the effort! Take some time this week to analyze your eating and be more proactive about the food choices that you are making.

Photo credit: D. Sharon Pruitt

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