If you've been struggling with weight loss goal or if your efforts to eat more healthfully never quite seem to pan out, would it surprise you that your inability to achieve those goals may have nothing to do with the food?
If all we needed was education on why it's important to eat vegetables and reduce our reliance on heavily processed foods, more than one-third of Americans wouldn’t be obese. And my job would be really easy: I'd meet with my clients a couple times, then I'd send them on their merry way to achieve their health and fitness goals.
So if it's not the food, what is it? Food is the final step in a pleasure-seeking chain of events. It can be a very short term pleasure followed by guilt, but pleasure nonetheless. We have to examine the steps leading up the chain that result in our making food choices that directly counter our health and fitness goals:
Habits: Habits are awesome. We create a habit by frequently repeating a behavior until that behavior becomes almost involuntary. If you always eat ice cream after dinner, stop at the drive through on Thursdays or eat chips while watching TV, you've created a habit. Longstanding habits took time to build and are extraordinarily difficult to break without a tremendous amount of intentional effort.
Nostalgia: Sometimes a cookie isn't just a cookie. A cookie reminds you of mom or of being a kid or of a favorite time of year. For some, eating the cookie is not just consumption of energy in the form of flour, butter and sugar. It's love. Powerful food associations charge food emotionally as symbols, and eating them can have effects far beyond the calories consumed.
Environment: Neatly tied in with habit, your environment is a huge impact on what and how we eat. Keep a cereal box on the counter, and that cereal is getting eaten. Keep a bowl of oranges on the counter, and you eat an orange. The food you bring into your environment is the food you will eat.
Stress and boredom: We're pleasure-seeking animals, and the antidote to stress and boredom is a hit of pleasure. One of the easiest ways to hit that pleasure spot in our brains is to eat.
Relationships: This one is tough. Our relationships can either support or hinder healthier eating. If you're trying to eat more vegetables but your wife despises them, or if you're trying to cook more at home but your boyfriend wants to go out several times a week, now you have a hurdle. Our family, friends and romantic partners have HUGE influence on what we eat. My clients who draft in this network to support them in healthier eating fare far better than my clients who don't.
Food really is the last step on a pleasure-seeking mission. Focus on food or calorie-counting alone is the equivalent of telling a drowning person to start swimming. There are many more factors at play than the water.
If you're seeking support in unravelling those habits and factors holding you back from becoming your healthiest self, let's talk.