Bikes, burgers and boredom

People on bicycles are everywhere. Gone are the days when a lone cyclist would be holding up traffic. Now you’ll see them on most roads, on mountain tracks, and for the month of October, on the Sea Point prom as well. While I’m still at the stage of cheering on from the side lines, it’s fantastic that so many people are taking part in this outdoor activity.

To experience the vibe, I went along to a mountain bike event at the beautiful Lourensford estate on the weekend. While dutifully fulfilling the role of supporter (read “goodie bag holder, sun cream bearer, congratulator and post-event driver”), I had plenty of opportunity to do some people watching and three situations made me realise again just how much our behaviour around food is determined by our surroundings:

External cues were all over the place
A certain food franchise was a sponsor of the event, and the smell of their burgers and fries, even at 9 in the morning, was overwhelming. The guy on the mic slipped their slogan into his comments on a regular basis, and pretty soon even I was thinking that I need to eat a burger to show that I also have a taste for life. So two things were happening there that affect our behaviour: 1) the smell of the food and 2) the verbal reminder that the food is there. The smell of delicious food sends little signals that get our mouths watering and convince us that we need the food. That may be the case if you haven’t eaten for a while, but if you aren’t really hungry then just give it a minute or two and the craving created by the smell will pass. Wanting food because it’s visually or verbally brought to our attention is simply another case of eating because the food is there. If it’s time to eat then go for it, but if it’s not, wait until you are hungry and then make a decision about what you want. Your body and taste buds will thank you!

People ate because they had nothing else to do
Luckily the friends I was with blitzed the trail and it didn’t take very long before they appeared at the finish line. But other supporters had been there since early in the morning and, based on a comment I overheard (“Ag, we might as well eat”), they were clearly bored. Off the one son went and came back with food and fizzy drinks for all. This was roughly half an hour after eating pancakes. Eating because there’s nothing else to do is something we all experience, and it’s a behaviour that we need to become aware of and consciously change – energy going in that isn’t used will simply be stored, and stored as new wobbly bits! If you’re aware that you’re eating because you have nothing else to do, find something to keep you busy or simply use the down-time to relax, because it’s not something that we often get to do these days.

Eating to fill up
After the race, the participants lined up in no time to get some food. No problem with that, they had just been up and down a mountain in the time it took me to leisurely sip my coffee in the sun. Of course they needed to fill up on their energy again. But various people were taking their fill of sweets, gels, fries, cakes, fizzy drinks, two of everything etc. You might think you deserve it, but having done all that exercise is not a license to eat all you want or eat high-fat, high-sugar foods. Yes, they’ll supply you with energy, but surely after all that your body has just done for you, it deserves a nutritious meal or drink. You’re aware of what you eat when you’re training for an event, so be aware of what you’re taking in after the event as well, and choose the healthier options available to you if you aren’t able to wait until you get home to make something or have a loyal supporter who’s brought your favourite meal along: choose grilled chicken instead of fatty mince; chutneys or pesto instead of mayonnaise; water, juice or a sports drink instead of fizzy drinks; and fruit, dried fruit or energy bars instead of sweets.

Doing exercise boosts our metabolisms, and gives us motivation to improve our overall wellness, and it’s even better if you can do that outside enjoying the fresh air and beauty of SA. Healthy eating and exercise always go hand in hand. So if you’re not yet doing something, consider mountain biking. You never know, it might just be your thing!


Image sourced from Pinterest

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