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We are What we Eat


We are what we eat... Whilst this may be an understandable notion, it is fair to say that it is far more complex than this statement might suggest. Individuals all have a different perception of what is healthy, and it is a very personal and emotional subject.

Bandura’s Social Learning Theory (1977) suggests that our eating habits could be influenced by the people around us. No doubt this is true for a home environment as we are very much led by what the ideals are of the person doing the cooking, however the evidence would suggest that this is also true of peers. Young people can be influenced by their friendship group and studies have proven that the amounts and types of foods consumed can be influenced by peers. Salvy (2012) explains that researchers have argued that people directly adjust their behaviour to that of those around them. This would include eating habits, as people do not like to be judged for their food consumption so may be more likely to be led by their peers with types and quantities of foods consumed for fear of being socially inappropriate.

While it is difficult to predict how emotions impact eating (Macht 2008), we do know that amounts and types of food consumed can be impacted by mood, and this could either reduce appetite, or increase appetite. Consuming sugary foods can produce a positive response in some people, adding to the drive to consume while in a state of heightened emotions.

The level of stress would also influence an increase in appetite, due to cortisol increases linked with stimulating hunger and adrenaline shutting down digestion (Adam & Epel, 2007).

We live in a world where our social values are very much led by ego. The idea that we should strive towards a certain level of perfection is unrealistic and detrimental to our mental health, yet it is something that many people become drawn into. Whilst eating disorders may seem an inescapable part of today's society, a substantial proportion of this seems to stem from perceptions and comparisons within society.


References:

Adam, T., & Epel, E. (2007). Stress, eating and the reward system. Physiology & Behavior, 91(4), 449-458. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2007.04.011

Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall.

Macht, M. (2008). How emotions affect eating: A five-way model. Appetite, 50(1), 1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2007.07.002

Salvy, S., de la Haye, K., Bowker, J., & Hermans, R. (2012). Influence of peers and friends on children's and adolescents' eating and activity behaviors. Physiology & Behavior, 106(3), 369-378. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2012.03.022

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