In today’s time poor society, has become incredibly easy to eat unhealthy food a lot of the time. It is not hard to eat healthy, the issue lies with the fact that there are so many quick and easy options for our food and in turn, this has allowed us to shift the focus towards different areas of our life. As a result, eating healthy has become an after-thought for a lot of people. Over a few blog posts I will be exploring various issues that relate to the argument of eating healthy vs unhealthy.
Topics that I will discuss include:
- Common excuses and reasons for not eating consistently healthy food
- Simple tips to make nutrition easy without thinking about it all the time
- Costs vs perceived costs of eating healthy
- The stigma of food prep, how social media makes us feel bad unless we are absolute heroes.
Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor or nutritionist, I am simply reflecting on my 10 years in the health and fitness industry and the learning’s that I have had over that period.
Is it really that hard to eat healthy??
I have been doing a lot of thinking about this question recently because I have had so many people say to me
“I just don’t have the time to make all that”
“It just tastes boring and I will get sick of it”
“I eat what my kids eat and do not want to cook more meals”
I am going to examine these questions in a bit more detail and try to unpack them to see if, with a bit of perspective, we can view healthy eating as an enjoyable and easy process.
1. I just don’t have the time to make all that
“There is no-one busy in this world, it is always just about priorities. You will always find time for the things you feel important”
This quote, I feel sums up the situation about not having enough time perfectly. We will always find time for the things that are most important to us. There are no more hours in the day for the world’s most successful people than for the rest of us, they just use the time more efficiently. What we need to do is ensure that our priorities are in the right order. Food is like nothing else in this world, we need it to survive, but we will not die if we eat food that is unhealthy and nutrient deficient (in the short term at least). Our body is incredibly good at adapting to its situation and as a result is often a direct reflection of how we are treating it.
For example, a lot of people use time as an excuse to order take away food. “I do not have enough time to cook so I will order take away”. With all the advertising out there about food being faster, quick delivery times, we believe that it actually quicker than cooking. However, more often than not in the time it takes for take away to get delivered, you can cook, eat and clean up a perfectly nutritious meal. So what the lack of time excuse is saying is that “it is more of a priority to sit down on the couch than it is to cook a meal” or “I cannot be bothered cooking”, which don’t get me wrong, happens to the best of us.
Now of course, there are always going to be exceptions to this where time is a genuine issue, and there are lots of different things that you can do to enable the right decisions when that occurs. I.e. having a few pre-cooked home meals in the freezer so you can defrost it if necessary. You are only going to do this if eating correctly is a priority for you though.Long story short, you have to make correct nutrition and healthy eating a priority for you, if it is then it is incredibly easy to eat well and time will not be an issue anymore. If it is not, then you will always be fighting an uphill battle.
2. It just tastes boring and I will get sick of it
A recent study out of the universities of Bangor and Bristol in the United Kingdom focused on sugar preferences amongst obese, overweight and lean populations when consuming sugar-filled beverages. The researchers found that overweight and obese people had a dulled sensitivity to the sweetness in these drinks and an enhanced subconscious liking for sweet food. When testing their lean population, including people who did not already have a preference for sweets, they found that having them drink two sugary drinks for just four weeks dulled their sensitivity to the taste (reducing their enjoyment of the drink) and also enhanced their preference for sweeter foods/drinks.
This study shows how powerful just a small amount of sweet food/drink is needed to change your perception of taste. It also provides an answer to why Americans are high-sugar consumers. When we consume high sugar foods/drinks frequently, our taste buds become more and more acclimated to the taste and have a dulling affect. Such treats become less of a reward, and instead, cause you to crave more sweet foods and drinks and start compromising your health, weight and energy.*
This is a topic that can, and does get debated all the time. The impact that sugars have on the body is detrimental for it’s ability to function correctly. If you go without sugar for an extended period of time, the next time you have it, everything tastes very sweet. However, the more sugar you consume, the more your body dulls its taste, therefore you need to consume more to get the same feeling as before. This is not only dulling the body to the taste of sugar, but making other sugar-free options taste bland and boring, no matter how flavorsome they are. This is a vicious circle and it is making really flavorsome food taste bland and boring, whilst also making sugar addictive.
The same has been said about high fat, highly processed fast foods;
“[The sense of taste] is in a bad way,” Steven A. Witherly, PhD, president and CEO of Technical Products Inc., a food-consulting firm in Valencia, Calif., tells WebMD. “Fast food has ridiculously high levels of salt, fat, and sugar — and the brain likes salt, fat, and sugar.”
Everyone has about 10,000 taste buds on his or her tongue (although these may thin as people grow older). “Fast food does not so much dull the taste buds as affect how the brain processes that taste as pleasurable or unpleasant,” Witherly says. Hormones such as insulin and leptin also affect the brain’s impression of a given food. “Snack food is affecting how we process food.”*
If you have not had fast food in a long time, the first time you have it, it tastes horrible. You can taste the oil and the fat and your brain and body both say no. Continually eating this however, all of a sudden your body dulls its response to the flavor, and whilst you still might feel rubbish after eating it physically, mentally your brain is saying, “well that wasn’t as bad as last time, next time it might be better still”. The cycle continues, and eventually when you do eat something healthy, your body has no idea what it is and it does not taste very good because it doesn’t have the fats and bad oils that the body has come to expect from the junk options.
Long story short. The more sugar and processed fats you consume, the more the body dulls its response to it and the more you want to eat it. When this occurs, the sugar free and lower fat options taste bland and boring because that is what your brain is telling you, it wants the sugar it craves so it is going to tell you to eat more of it, not the healthy stuff.
Tip: Cut out all sugar and processed food for 10 days. After the 10 days are up, if you firstly do not feel more energized and happy, if you also try a new, healthy and flavorsome meal that does not taste different than it did 10 days earlier, go back to the sugar if you please.
3. “I eat what my kids eat and do not want to cook more meals” or “My kids eat different food because the adults eat different things”
These are the statements that probably get me fired up the most. Children look up to their parents like they are superheroes, and the formative years of a child’s life are so important when it comes to impressions that they get about all aspects of how a person should behave. It is so important that your child eats a balanced, healthy and nutritious meal, and there is absolutely no reason why they cannot eat most of the foods that their parents eat. What is it saying to your child when you eat a completely different meal to them or eat the same food as them but actively do not enjoy it?
One of the big responses I get when I say this is “my child does not enjoy eating most foods” or “my child is very picky with their food and will only eat xxxx and that is not something I enjoy eating (i.e chicken nuggets or fish fingers)”.
Bear with me for a second. I can, and totally understand how someone who doesn’t have kids, giving advice on how to help your kids eat better can seem like a bit of a stretch, but let me just say once more, all I am doing is reflecting on experiences and knowledge that I have gained over the last 10 years in the health and fitness industry.
Children growing up will follow the lead of their parents, as they are the leaders of the pack and the children are the pups, they want to be like the leader. They adapt and mimic behavior as a way of learning. What an incredible opportunity to create a healthy and nutritious atmosphere for your child to grow up in. Get them actively involved in the cooking process, give them a job and ownership of it, sit down as a family and eat your creations. Turn dinnertime into a time where you can all eat the same thing together, and if they don’t like it, try again with something new or the same thing dressed in a different way. If your child sees a wonderful and tasty meal created in front their eyes, they are much more likely to eat it rather than something that has just been placed in front of them. It is about learning, growing and developing the appreciation of healthy food, and it is a great chance to bond as a family in the process.
These three questions are some of the biggest things that people tell me are hurdles to eating a consistently healthy and nutritious way of life. Do you have to be healthy and nutritious all of the time? Of course not, we are all human, things happen, we go out, we have the occasional bad meal, but what I can say is that it is MUCH MUCH better for your body if your eat the occasional bad meal mixed in with predominantly healthy and nutritious options than it is to eat predominantly bad food with the occasional healthy meal.
One final time, I am not a doctor, I am not a nutritionist or dietician, I am simply reflecting on learning’s that I have had over my career.
In the next blog we will discuss some simple tips to making nutrition easy as well as talk about food preparation.
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