Do you live to eat or eat to survive? Food is a complex subject, with many factors influencing our choices. Cost, availability and even peer pressure are all important. We all have the same appetite, our desire to consume food. The physical or psychological factors that increase appetite are not the only ones. Hunger, our bodies’ way of telling us to eat when we need food, is one factor, but it isn’t the only one. We often eat even when we are not hungry or skip meals despite hunger pangs. Recent studies have shown that food cues such as smells, sounds and advertising are a major cause of overconsumption.
As we age, our appetite changes. We must adopt the right eating habits, as food is a major factor in our health and well-being throughout our lifetime. Shakespeare may have said that there are seven ages of appetite. A better understanding of this phase would allow us to find new ways to combat under-eating, overconsumption, and the subsequent health effects, such as obesity.
First decade, 0-10
Early childhood is a time of rapid body growth. Early dietary habits can persist into adulthood. A fat child may become an obese adult. Parents of young children may struggle with mealtimes due to their fussiness or fear of food. However, a strategy that involves repeated tastings and learning can help them learn important but unfamiliar foods such as vegetables.
The portion size is one area where children should be able to exercise some control. Parents who force their children to “clear their plate” can cause them to lose the ability to recognize their hunger and appetite cues. This leads to overeating later in life. There is a growing demand for governments to shield young children from junk food advertisements, not only on TV but also in apps, social networks, and video blogs, since food ads increase food consumption.
Early eating habits are important for children. Sharomka/Shutterstock
Second decade: 10-20
Hormones are responsible for the growth of appetite and height in teens. This is the beginning of puberty and the transition from child to adult. The way a teenager eats during this crucial period will influence their lifestyle in the future. The dietary choices adolescents make will have a direct impact on the health of future generations to which they may become parents. Without guidance, teenagers can adopt unhealthy eating habits and food preferences.
More studies are needed to identify the most effective methods of combating the growing burden of under and over-nutrition and the relationship between poverty and social inequalities. A young woman’s reproductive biology makes her more susceptible to nutritional deficiencies. Teenage girls are at higher risk if they become pregnant, as their bodies support their growth while competing with the fetuses.
Third decade, 20-30
In young adults, going to college, getting married, or living with someone else, as well as becoming parents, can lead to weight gain. Body fat can be difficult to shed once it has been accumulated. The body sends out strong signals to eat if we eat less than what our body needs. However, the signs that prevent overeating tend to be weaker. This can lead to an endless cycle of overeating. Many physiological and psychological factors make it easier to maintain a healthy diet over time.