Common Obstacles to Healthy Eating
Chances are, you don’t have enough of it. Not having enough time is the most cited reason for not being able to eat healthier. When you think about it, eating healthy takes a lot of time. For many people eating healthy requires
a. Deciding what to eat for the week
b. Finding recipes
c. Making a grocery list…
Healthy eating must become a priority. What’s the number one factor in weight loss? Dietary adherence. How well you can stick to a diet determines how much weight you can expect to lose. The only way to adhere to a diet is to move it on up your priority list and to keep it there. Until you’ve built your healthy habits into your routine, you must make healthy eating a priority.
Sugar, fat, salt, and calorie density. On a basic level, these are keys to making food taste good. Restaurants have every incentive to make food taste good and very little incentive to make food healthy for you (with few exceptions). Restaurants make repeat customers by producing great tasting food that takes too much time, effort or skill level for you to produce at home. There is a pretty clear cut relationship between the number of times/week that you eat out and what your waistline looks like.
Cooking is a lost art in America. We don’t really have to do it anymore if we don’t want to. For many of us, this detachment to cooking has diminished our cooking skills (if you don’t use it you lose it) or we never developed cooking skills in the first place and guess what, not too many of us don’t like doing things we’re not good at.
In some way, shape or form, weekly meal planning is an absolute must if you wish to be healthy. There’s no way around it. Health isn’t going to just happen, you have to have a plan. The problem is, meal planning is a huge pain in the ass and for most people takes a tremendous amount of time, energy, and effort; time, energy, and effort most of us either don’t have or are unwilling to put into planning. It’s far easier to wing it or do a half-hearted job than to do what it takes to be great at meal planning.
Most people are pretty familiar with portion sizes. What’s a little more difficult to manage for many people is caloric density. For example, eating a sleeve of Ritz crackers and cheese spread isn’t that much food but will run you well over 1500 calories. And it doesn’t just have to be “bad for you” foods that are calorically dense. The calories in a handful of nuts, peanut butter or cooking oils, mayonnaise, guacamole and sour cream can add up quickly.
Go out to any restaurant and tell us that the amount of food you’re served is appropriate for any person smaller than an NFL lineman. We’ve long since forgot what an appropriate portion looks like or what constitutes a serving size (i.e. serving of meat = 3oz = deck of playing cards).
Portions have gotten bigger and bigger and bigger over the past 30 years. We’d like to see the expressions on people’s faces if we could transport back in time and serve people the portion sizes of today.
Let’s face it, some people like food more than others. Some people live to eat and others eat to live. There is no doubt that the level of your food reward influences your susceptibility to eating high calorie foods and potentially eating a lot of those foods when you do eat them. There are some foods that you simply should not eat because you cannot control yourself around them. You must limit your access to these foods. This isn’t to say that you should eat a bland, tasteless diet, rather, find foods that you can enjoy in moderation.
The number of people in your household will greatly affect your ability to eat healthy. Cooking for one is no fun. Do you have kids? If so, what are their ages? The number of kids and their dietary restrictions and/or preferences are another obstacle you must negotiate to eat healthy.
Do you travel a lot for work? If so, this is a huge obstacle to your healthy eating success. Time and time again, we see that the least healthy employees in an organization are the people within that organization that spend the most time on the road. But, like any obstacle, there are strategies that can help even the most die-hard road warrior be healthy.
I just really don’t know what I’m supposed to be eating. For example, some people tell me to avoid saturated fat (i.e. coconut oil), while other people tell me it’s good for me. You have every right to be confused but when you really think about it, you do know the basics. Lean protein, fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds should make up the base of your diet. For the most part, the rest is just details. To us, it’s far more important to have a good dietary plan and to be able to CONSISTENTLY EXECUTE that plan than it is to get bogged down in the details. The recipes, meal kits, meal delivery, and meal replacement options that we use to help you build your diet will cover your needs. For many of us, the Standard American Diet (SAD) is so poor that even a minor improvement in your diet will lead to better health. We’re by no means setting the bar for you low, we just don’t think you should get too caught up and worried about your nutrition knowledge.
Healthy food costs more than junk food. Yes and no. While it is true that it is oftentimes far cheaper to feed a family with a frozen pizza or a box of macaroni and cheese, this isn’t always the case (i.e. family of 4 at McDonalds vs. home cooked meal). At The Science of Dieting we take cost into consideration when helping you plan out your dietary patterns.
What do you and your friends do for fun? Do you like hitting up the bars and restaurants, watching sports, playing sports, working out, book club or attending faith based events? Chances are, you are most like the people that you spend the most amount of time with. If we performed a social experiment and swapped out your friends group for another, you’d likely become more and more like your new peer group (for better or worse). We’re not saying you have to abandon your friends, we just think you should think about the types of activities you do with your friends, how often you do them, and how that affects your health.
Are you a self-professed “snacker”? There are numerous types of “snackers” that represent various degrees of difficulty when it comes to healthy eating. Some people don’t eat square meals and graze throughout the day, some people eat healthy snacks (fruit, nuts, cheese), and others eat unhealthy snacks (chips, sodas, candy bars). Which type of snacker you are determines how easy or difficult it may be for you to eat healthy.
Can you access healthy food in the first place? Do you have access to a grocery store? Are your transportation options limited (i.e. you don’t have a motor vehicle)? Do you live in a rural area with limited food delivery options? All of these can limit the very first step in eating healthy, access to healthy food in the first place.
Do you have healthy food available at home, work or school? If not, you are going to be tempted to eat out or order in. This isn’t to say that we’re all supposed to be money pinching Puritans but in general it’s better for your pocketbook and your waistline if you plan for when to eat out. Not having healthy food available will force you to eat out and if left unchecked this pattern can slowly become your default way of eating.
If you are constantly exposed to highly palatable, calorie dense food, you are going to end up eating it. No amount of willpower is going to overcome what you are evolutionarily designed to do, seek out sugar, fat, and salt. Let us help you decrease the number of tempting dietary situations in your life. This will include your work, commute, school, and home environments and the micro environments within each of these systems.
healthy food doesn’t taste good and/or eating the same food over and over again is monotonous and boring. Yes, these are real issues but can be easily solved. First, we need to expand our definition of what healthy food is. If healthy food only includes salads and grilled chicken breast, then we’re in total agreement that healthy food doesn’t taste good. Second, eating the same foods over and over again, will make anyone cringe at the thought of having to eat that food again (with the exception being pizza). The Science of Dieting definitely keeps these two things in mind when helping you design your new dietary habits. Healthy food can taste good and you shouldn’t be forced to eat the same things over and over again.
I’m always so hungry when I go on a diet. If you’ve ever said this, you’re not alone. The lower brain centers responsible for your hunger signals are stuck in our evolutionary past. It doesn’t matter how many times we tell ourselves that “we’re fine” our hunger centers freak out when our body weight drops as this is an evolutionary signal for danger. At The Science of Dieting we’d like to help you go beyond the generic advice of eating more protein and fiber to try to help you get your hunger in check.
Whether you want to admit it or not, work often comes before your health, spouse, kids, friends, and family. Work is your livelihood and without it, you can’t have anything else.
Work can wreak havoc on your dietary patterns. Long commute times, long hours, lack of facilities to store, prepare and eat your lunch, work lunches and dinners, deadlines, stress, travel, vending machines, you name it, work can make eating healthy very challenging.
Eating good food is a pleasurable experience. For many people, the idea of a dieting means they have to give up these pleasurable experiences and deprive themselves of their favorite foods or snacks. In our opinion, there’s no reason why you have to give up your favorite foods. We should be able to help you incorporate some of these foods into your dietary habits.
Willpower is the ability to resist temptation. Have you ever heard yourself saying this, “If only I had more willpower, I’d be more successful at dieting”. While this is probably true, at The Science of Dieting we’d rather not have to rely on willpower to help you create lasting, sustainable, healthy dietary patterns. Instead, let’s re-engineer your environment so that you’re not forced to use your willpower “muscles” so often.
Do you wake up each morning well rested? If not, you can likely call sleep one of your obstacles to healthy eating. If you’re not sleeping well, we need to figure out why. Everything starts with sleep. Even the best laid intentions will not come to fruition without quality sleep. Everything just becomes so much more difficult. Think about the last time you slept really terribly. How were your dietary choices the next day? Did you craze sugar, fat and/or salt? If given the choice between your favorite snack food (i.e. chips) and an apple, which one are you going to choose. A lack of sleep really heightens our food reward and reduces our willpower. If you’re not sleeping well it becomes even more important to have habits and routines in place that you can fall back on and protect you from tempting food situations.
Are you a stress eater? Interestingly, some people eat when they are stressed while others are too stressed to eat. Just as in boredom, eating is a way that many of us augment our stress.
There’s a million different stress management techniques, courses, classes, and gurus out there, yet, what are they all doing, managing your stress rather than getting at the underlying cause of it. Stress is a HUGE problem, yet, admittedly one that The Science of Dieting is not equipped to address….
So often people eat when they say they are hungry, when, in actuality, they are eating because they are bored. Eating is one of the easiest and most acceptable means of breaking up boredom and increasing pleasure. You can’t gamble, smoke, drink whiskey, phone a friend, go for a walk, volunteer, listen to music, watch television or have sex on the job, but, for the most part, it is acceptable to eat a bag of chips or drink a Coca Cola.
Exercise goes with weight loss like peanut butter goes with jelly. It is not impossible to lose weight or eat healthy without exercise but it’s much more difficult than it needs to be. The recommendations for exercise are to get 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week for health benefits and >250 minutes of exercise per week to lose weight and/or keep the weight off. Of course, it is possible to lose weight without exercising but why not use every tool you have at your disposal. You wouldn’t go into a boxing match with one hand behind your back would you?
There’s no getting around it. Depression sucks and no one should have to go through it. If you’re lucky enough to have never truly experienced it, please be grateful. When it comes to diet and exercise, both can help manage depression (in some but not all cases) yet eating right and exercising is often the last thing you want to do. Depression is a deeply personal issue and The Science of Dieting does not directly help you manage your depression, however, we want to acknowledge the role that it plays in our lives and in those of our loved ones.