Why the Odds Are Stacked Against Healthy Eating
It has always baffled me why it is so hard to eat healthy. People authentically want to eat healthy and try to make changes, but making them happen is really tough.
This is why I dug hard into looking for answers in the research.
Why is it so hard to eat healthy?
You will be relieved to know there are several reasons it is so hard to eat healthy. In a sense, you are in an uphill battle trying to eat healthier.
When people make choices on what to eat several factors come into play that have huge influences on their final action.
First, we have two decision making systems at play in our minds at all times. There is first the intuition system and second the reasoning system. The intuitive system is quick, automatic in nature and requires little to no mental energy. The reasoning system is a slower process requiring effort, much more mental energy, and is rational based.
Think about driving a car. When you are a new driver, more effort is required and distractions need to be minimized because more of the reasoning decision making part of your brain is involved and less of the intuitive system is involved in making life-changing decisions behind the wheel. As you become a more experienced driver, it reverses and more intuition and less reasoning decisions are involved.
▣ Reasoning takes more energy and requires fewer distractions to use ▣
Lets switch to healthy eating decisions. When you start with the intent to make a healthy decision the reasoning system is at play largely and very little to no intuitive system is involved. Now here is the catch – in order for the healthy decision to take place you need a lot of power behind the reasoning system.
In other words, when you are starting out with a new health decision, you need the reasoning system available to keep with your intent to eat healthy. In reality though, many things get in the way and switch your decision over to utilizing intuition or your automatic decision system.
Factors that influence favoring your intuition based decision system are:
- extraneous thoughts
- feeling under pressure
So if you have several of these factors present while you are trying to make a new health decision, a decision that requires reasoning and weighing costs and benefits, you are more likely to forfeit the reasoning system and go with your intuition or go with what you have done before.
▣ More than one of the influencing factors favors using your intuition over reasoning!▣
People make over 200 food-related decisions per day. Most decisions come from habits or the intuitive decision system. It is a response in your memory that is cued automatically by your environment. We are forced to make decisions from habits because this is the system that takes over when we are under pressure, stressed, distracted and worn out.
Internal Factors Influence Intuition System
To add to this, there are three internal factors that can exert strong unconscious influence on your intuition system so you eat unhealthy foods.
The first biggie is we are wired for immediate gratification. Yes, you know what that means – eating what is quickest and gives us the most pleasure right now regardless of costs.
Second, people are really bad at realizing the amount of food they eat. So whatever the size of the plate, utensil and cup all influence how much we eat. Chances are you will overeat even with the best of intentions.
Third, we will opt for outcomes we know the true cost for now over benefits that are far off into the future without guarantees on the benefits. This is the voice in your head that says “go ahead, eat it, one piece won’t make a difference.”
However, once you repeat this choice over and over it does make a difference in your health. Our minds are even good at presenting evidence that underplays the true cost and undervalues benefits that are delayed.
There is Hope for Healthy Eating
I know, holy-moly. No wonder most of us struggle to eat healthy. There is hope. There is a way around all of this. There are two key parts you have to focus on to make eating healthy happen.
One is setting up your environment: home, work, car, leisure – all of it needs to be setup to talk your intuitive system to support healthy eating. You need to make it easy to reach for healthy foods and hard to reach for unhealthy foods.
You can start this right away by taking advantage of my free gift if you haven’t already, the 10-step fridge checklist. It is a checklist for rearranging your refrigerator so you see healthy food right away and put in harder to reach and see places unhealthy foods. Get started now, 10-step fridge checklist.
The second part is getting serious about creating habits that make eating healthy automatic or habit. You need to take time to understand how habits are created, where in your day they are best to create and how to build them up to the full habit you want so they stick for a really long time.
Most programs and health professionals start with WHAT you should do. Instead, I focus on HOW to make changes that stick. I know most people have a sense of what they need to do for their health, but where they really need help is HOW to make the change in their stressful, overflowing life with no time and energy.
The answer is create mini habits that grow into full fledged habits that then stick for years or decades because your intuitive decision system is programmed to do it.
▣ The health you want is really about creating the environment and ▣
▣ mastering the habits that will bring you the health you desire. ▣