Do you ever wonder why it is so hard to stay on track with healthy eating behaviors?
It may be that you are not only in a constant battle with yourself over the foods you consume, but also at odds with the large food manufacturers that produce them. These companies spend millions of dollars on research and development on “junk” foods solely designed to keep you coming back for more.
Let’s take a look at a few of the tactics they use and a couple of ways to help keep you on the path of healthy eating.
Too good to be true
As the nation’s obesity rate continues to rise, the food industry continues to pump out products that expand our waistlines. The fact is, the ultimate goal of these companies is to earn money by making food hyperpalatable, meaning it is so tasty it’s almost irresistible.
According to precisionnutrition.com, these businesses use clever tactics known to entice people to eat their foods. Emulsifiers are used to improve the texture of food, such as ice cream, in our mouth. Artificial flavorings are often added to amplify taste, while supplemented color agents greatly alter how appealing we believe the food to be.
Manufacturers strive for the precise combination of sugar, salt and fat in foods that triggers our brains to want more. An often used method is combining two or more flavors to make food more hyperpalatable, known as stimuli stacking.
The food industry utilizes stimuli stacking to fulfill the requirements of what is referred to as “The Big 5.” To meet the criteria of “The Big 5”:
• Foods are high in sugar and/or fat, making them very calorie dense.
• They are intensely flavorful.
• Foods are immediately delicious.
• They are easy to eat, with little chewing involved.
• Foods melt down quickly, seemingly dissolving in the mouth.
Foods such as potato chips, corn chips and candies that fall into this category can wreak havoc on any healthy eating plan. What can we do to reduce this temptation?
Tip 1: Control your surroundings
We often make decisions based upon the environment that surrounds us. So, one way to consistently eat better is by controlling what foods are available to you.
Best-selling author James Clear claims: “By making small changes to the physical environment around you, it can be much easier to stick with good habits.” It may help to use the strategy Clear refers to as “choice architecture.” This concept suggests arranging foods and drinks in your environment so that the healthiest choices are also the easiest choices to make.
Examples are to keep water in a more visible place than soda, place apples on your desk instead of chocolate-covered peanuts, and have salads in the largest containers up front in the refrigerator. Choices excite us, so we have to be careful since lots of variety equals lots of opportunities to cheat on your meal plan.
Tip 2: Choose your words wisely
Along with controlling our environment, governing our mindset is a powerful tool when it comes to what we eat. According to Heidi Grant Halvorson, the director of the Motivation Science Center at Columbia University, simply choosing the correct wording in our thoughts and speech may alter how we view a situation.
Halvorson says we should use the phrase “I don’t” or “I choose not to” in place of “I can’t.” She emphasizes this creates a sense of empowerment, a feeling that you have control over a situation. On the contrary, the statement “I can’t” isn’t seen as a choice, but as a disempowering restriction, making you the victim of the situation.
So, instead of thinking “I can’t eat those doughnuts” or “I can’t have those cheese puffs,” put yourself in control by declaring “I don’t want those doughnuts” or “I choose not to have the cheese puffs.” Halvorson states that psychologically “I don’t” is a great way to just say “no.”
As long as there is a demand, the large scale food corporations will make products that are unhealthy. For them, the well-being of the American public may not be as important as their bottom line.
To lessen the chance of consuming these foods, create an environment that promotes positive nutrition and strive to maintain a mindset that exemplifies you are in control of your actions. It is up to you to condition your mind and surroundings for success.
Jeremy Walraven is a personal trainer at Bradley Wellness Center.