Psychology Essay


In dealing with eating habits many factors play a large part. Some of them are natural and some of them occur from nurture, as do most of the occurrences in our lives. Brain chemistry, brain structure and genetics all naturally influence eating habits. Nurture produces habits based on reinforcement, modeling and culture and these are very important to eating habits also.


Scientists have found that even without stomachs’ animals and humans still get hungry. This is because hunger does not just occur because someone has an empty stomach. It occurs because of many uncontrollable circumstances, brain chemistry is one such circumstance. When blood glucose levels in your body get low your stomach, small intestines, and liver tell the brain to make you hungry. These signals from your body are processed in the Hypothalamus. There are two regions to the Hypothalamus one to induce hunger called the Lateral Hypothalamus and the other to suppress hunger called the Ventromedial Hypothalamus. When stimulating either one of these places in the brain you can change the eating habits of the person or animal.


Genetics also play a big part in how people eat. Some people are external eaters. This means that their cues to eat are based on external stimuli; whereas someone who is an internal eater may only eat when they are hungry. These internal-external factors are usually the same in children as they are in their parents.


Parents also influence children’s eating habits in other ways. Have you ever had a bad day only to go home and eat a pint of ice cream to put yourself in a good mood? This would illustrate that at some point you were taught reinforcement for this behavior. This means that because at some point in your life you got this elated feeling after eating ice cream you may attribute your good mood to the ice cream and may feel that in the future eating the ice cream will have the same effect it did on this one occasion.


As a child we all mimic what the grown-ups in our life do. If they say they like sports we like sports, If they say they like pasta we decide we like pasta also. As we grow up we begin forming our own opinions about things but we can’t help but retain some of our parents likes and dislikes, including those about food. Modeling someone’s choice of food as a child can have an effect on our food behavior as adults. Of course not all of our socially learned eating behaviors can be put on our parents. Some of these ways and things we choose to eat come from our culture. In America we eat various kinds of foods but one thing is for sure we eat a lot more of it than most other countries. People in some cultures like spicy foods, some like bland foods. Some eat parts of animals that we would find disgusting but they enjoy them. Culture decides a lot of what we eat. It also plays a factor in how we eat. Some cultures eat as a family, some prefer to eat separately. Some eat in silence while other carry on lively conversations or watch television.


All of these things play a major role in the behaviors we pick up about food. As I have mentioned before many people pick up eating behaviors from their parents. As we get older we also pick up behaviors from our friends. Modeling can cause people to change eating habits. Suppose a girl lives in a home filled with healthy eating choices. She rarely eats out. Almost never eats fast food. Then she is separated from this environment to go to college, where the most consumed food is a fast-food cheeseburger. She may begin to change her eating habits to model those of her friends. If she tends to be an internal eater she will probably have an easier time resisting the temptation to eat more often and less healthy foods. The sight of greasy, yet delicious food will be less likely to tempt her from her established good eating habits.