Why pizza wins again

April 22, 2019

Pizza or salad?  Burger or veggie loaded soup?  Onions rings or fruit?  One cookie or the whole box? We’ve all been there.  Making healthy food choices is hard, even when you’re motivated.  That’s because what your body needs and your taste preferences both change constantly.  Staying tuned in to your body’s needs and eating accordingly is no easy feat.

In part one of this two part article, we’ll explore the many facets of our eating decision process.  In part two, we’ll discuss ways to make healthy choices and how to make those choices easier.

Our eating decision process is complex.  There is a physical component, an emotional component, a societal component, and a convenience component.  The physical component breaks down into several parts: calories, macronutrients, and micronutrients.  Your body’s basic necessities need to be met.  Have you ever had a craving for protein that lasted for several days?  Chances are good that your body was trying to tell you what it needed.  You may have experienced a similar feeling with salty foods if your body needed electrolytes or trace minerals.  Or maybe you‘ve had a multi-day craving for salads.  That may be your body calling for more fiber.  Or maybe you’ve had a craving for fatty foods including avocado, milk, and nuts.  That might be your body asking for more calories.

If eating was solely about meeting the basic necessities, making healthy food choices would be easy.  It’s the other components that complicate things.  The emotional component is undeniable.  Some foods make us happy, bringing back childhood memories.  Food can also be comforting, triggering the reward system in the brain.

Then there’s the societal component, all of the external inputs about what and how you should eat.  There are government issued guidelines, advertisements everywhere, and constant stream of new studies touting the powers of the latest superfood.  There is also a peer pressure aspect.  Do your friends, family, and coworkers poke fun at your food choices because they differ from theirs?  Is it someone’s birthday and you are expected to eat cake?  While seemingly insignificant individually, these pressures from multiple people and places add up and have a tremendous impact on our food choices.

The final component is convenience.  Foods that are ready to eat have a leg up.  It could be an apple or a deli sandwich.  As we have more and more to do (whether it be work or fun), convenience plays a larger role in our food decision process.  Luckily, more healthy and convenient choices are becoming available: single serving bags of baby carrots and almonds, whole fruit at gas station convenience stores, and healthier options at restaurants often labeled skinny, heart healthy, or low calorie.

Knowing how these four components (physical, emotional, societal, and convenience) affect our food choices will make it easier to choose healthier foods.  Seeing the challenges is only half the battle.  Next week we’ll discuss ways to listen to the physical component and focus on the positive influences that help you make healthy choices.

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