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Healthy Eaters are Made, not Born

I am sure you’ve heard this phrase before, but do you really understand that it means and do you really believe it?

Some of our food preferences and eating behaviours have been with us for a long time, we simply can’t remember ourselves another way and we get to believe that this is who we are. So when you embark on the habit change journey it might be challenging to imagine, that one day you will be different, that you will have a different set of taste preferences and habits.

A chocolate lover might struggle to imagine that one day they will be satisfied with a few pieces instead of a whole bar.
Someone who doesn’t like vegetables might struggle to see how one day they will enjoy eating them.  
An overeater might struggle to imagine that one day they will be satisfied with a smaller portion and not be tempted to go for more.

As someone who helps people change their eating habits, I see this day in and day out. In my opinion, this limiting belief, that our taste preferences and eating habits are a part of who we are and can’t be changed, is one of the main barriers that get in the way of many people becoming healthy eaters. Therefore, I would like to invite you to take a deeper look into the science behind our eating behaviour, because knowing it helps to become more committed to change and choose the right approach.

Humans are omnivores and one of the main characteristics of our eating behaviour is adaptability. We are not born knowing the food is; we learn that from our parents or caretakers. We all start with mother’s milk or formula, but continue with different foods, depending on where we are born, which country, culture and family. Our food preferences and eating habits are forms of learned behaviour.

Newborns are almost a blank canvases. We can develop and adopt any eating behaviour pattern. We don’t come to this world loving cookies, ice cream, pizzas and hating vegetables. We don’t have veggie-hating genes or cookie loving-genes. We were not born fast or slow eaters, overeaters or emotional eaters. 
As newborns, all we have is an ability to recognise a few flavours: sweet, bitter, salty and sour taste. But, the newborn’s brain and body don’t have any relationship with food. We learn to like or dislike certain foods through experiences.
Our bodies and minds build our relationships with different foods as we get to know them, and those relationships depend on the frequency of exposure, quality of experience and the cultural and social message that comes with those foods. 
Our food preferences and eating habits are just forms of conditioning, they are not final and not fixed, they remain adaptive and open until the end of our lives. They might become our identity, they are not our destiny.

Anything that is learned can be unlearned and learned in a new way. With the right approach, you can unlearn your unhealthy food preferences and behaviours, and learn to like foods and enjoy eating in a way that supports your health. It’s absolutely possible and it’s never too late!  

Of cause, conditioning of a lifetime, can’t be changed in a few days. With the right strategies, it takes a few months to transform your mindset and re-wire your brain to think differently supporting healthier choices and behaviours, for your taste buds and brain pleasure centre to recalibrate and for your body’s biochemistry to change. But hey, what are a few months in a relationship with the rest of your life?! 
If you spend a few months re-conditioning your body and mind to like healthy foods, healthy eating will be natural, easy and enjoyable for the rest of your life! 

About the Author:
Tatiana Kuvardina
Eating Behaviour & Habit Change Coach

Tatiana is a certified Eating Behaviour and Habit Change Coach. Her approach to healthy eating is based on the principles of intuitive/mindful eating, cognitive behavioural psychology, and bio-individuality. The core belief that drives her passion for this work is that food and eating should be a source of nourishment and pleasure, health and energy, not health issues, frustration, helplessness and guilt.

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