The Norms Around Food, Thinking, and Overeating

By Adura Segun-Akintayo


The challenge is to think and reflect more in a culture that pushes us to stick to the norms, even the norms set about what types of foods to eat and when to eat them. You don’t have to have a big breakfast! You don’t have to have a light lunch either - what actually works for you and your body?

Life in a capitalist society means recognizing and understanding that consumerism is the fundamental backbone of the economy and our quality of life. Consumption, in particular over-consumption, is something that is encouraged and awarded. How much do you make? How much do you spend? How much do you have and what does this say about who you are and your position in society? ​It has all culminated to this simple conclusion: the more affluent you are, the more you consume the happier you will be. Take a look at your Instagram feed (or people-watch if that’s more of your thing)

and you will see that having things, spending money, and humbly being *just a little bit* flashy makes a person more desirable and their lifestyle more enviable.  Nonetheless, there has been growing defiance against consumerism through the popularised practice of minimalism. Millennials and (later-born) Gen-Zer’s are buying fewer clothes and focusing more on the functionality, rather than just the aesthetic or sentimental value of the items in their homes. However, we often neglect the most important area where humans are evading the need to consume wisely. Food intake. Overeating is a global epidemic and Canada, unfortunately, is no exception to this – 64% of Canadians over the age of 18 are overweight (1), yet 63% of Canadians throw away food that can be eaten (2). While at first glance it may seem that these two statistics contradict, a closer look shows that we are buying more food than we can handle, leading to greater waste proportions and larger waistbands. ‍ I believe one way to solve both problems is to apply the practice of Conscious Consumption to the foods we are eating and the way we eat. Though similar to minimalism, in theory, Conscious Consumption is a less extreme, yet equally effective, approach to tackle the issue of overeating and food waste production. 


Being a “conscious consumer” is about questioning whether you are hungry, a tad peckish, or really just a bit bored.

For me overeating was a very passive process, it required little to no thinking to partake in at all. A few months ago, I made a big life change and as you may know through your own experience, drastic changes in life evoke a deep need for comfort and stability. However, instead of finding healthy anchors, food became this filler that accompanied me in any task I did. Inevitably and quite dramatically, the excess weight piled on. Turning to a friend who was deep into the fitness world, I was told something so simple yet so impactful, that it pushed me into making long-lasting changes towards the way I eat.

“You just need to think. Every time you reach for food to eat, just think. ‘Why did I pick this food and what is it going to do for me?”

I realized it’s not about hating or excluding ‘unhealthy’ foods from our diet, (I don’t think I’ll ever give up chips or chocolate!). Conscious consumption is recognizing that all things are good in moderation and this truth applies here, with food, too.

As for food intake, being a “conscious consumer” is about questioning whether you are hungry, a tad peckish, or really just a bit bored. It is to identify the type of snack or meal you have chosen, think about the effect it will have on your body, and finally ask yourself if it is better to choose a healthier option. The more we ask ourselves these questions, the quicker it will be next time to make a healthier decision.

For instance, an article from CBC News reported that ‘Canadians are eating less beef, milk, and soft drinks’,(3) but this does not mean we are eating healthier or less. While the alternative options we are reaching for may be healthier, how much of it are we ingesting? Though the increasing popularity of diets such as veganism or vegetarianism may seem like the answer, they only promote ethical purchasing, not portion-control purchasing. You can be (or go) vegan and still overeat.

A truly healthy diet focuses on increasing our awareness of the food we are putting into our bodies and the effects they will have. Conscious awareness of food intake wards off overeating and is the factor (alongside a good exercise regime) that enables us to keep excess weight off.

The challenge is to think and reflect more in a culture that pushes us to stick to the norms, even the norms set about what types of foods to eat and when to eat them. You don’t have to have a big breakfast! You don’t have to have a light lunch either - what actually works for you and your body?

Overeating occurs when there are no boundaries in our thoughts and actions regarding food. Why is it so hard to resist that extra bite or that extra plate? It’s no good to think about our decisions if we still don’t have any self-control.

Our levels of self-control can be practiced and strengthened. It can be hard to say no to things that look good and taste good when they are in the excess right in front of us. Especially when we are taught through cultural conditioning that the more affluent you are, the more you consume, and the happier you will be.

Personally, self-control is the ability to say yes to a treat and no to over-consumption. It’s just like a muscle. When we exercise it, its power grows. However, if we neglect it, its strength weakens.

On the whole, conscious consumption is about creating and carving out the life you want to live for yourself. It is about balance - finding the foods that work for your body, that support your values and promote your health. Now, I don’t believe we all need to dive headfirst into this new social movement. However, we could all benefit from a little more self-control and a more conscious awareness when it comes to the foods we are consuming.

References 1.Diamond A (2013). "Executive functions". Annu Rev Psychol. 64: 135–168. doi:10.1146/annurev-psych-113011-143750. PMC4084861. PMID23020641 2.Eating Disorders - CMHA National. (2020). Retrieved 6 January 2020, from https://cmha.ca/mental-health/understanding-mental-illness/eating-disorders 3.Food Waste in Canada – Love Food Hate Waste Canada. (2020). Retrieved 4 January 2020, from https://lovefoodhatewaste.ca/about/food-waste/ 4.Here's what 50 years of food supply data says about Canada's eating habits | CBC News. (2020). Retrieved 6 January 2020, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/canada-food-trends-1.4742309 5.Matt DeLisi (2014). Chapter 10: Low Self-Control Is a Brain-Based Disorder. SAGE Publications Ltd. doi:10.4135/9781483349114. ISBN9781452242255. Retrieved 7 May 2014. 6.Timpano, K. R.; Schmidt, N. B. (2013). "The relationship between self control deficits and hoarding: A multimethod investigation across three samples". The Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 122 (1): 13–25. CiteSeerX10.1.1.396.9232. doi:10.1037/a0029760. PMID22924983. 7.What is Conscious Consumption? | Swap-O-Matic. (2020). Retrieved 5 January 2020, from https://www.swap-o-matic.com/what-is-conscious-consumption/ 8.Overeating. (2020). Retrieved 6 January 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overeating


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