The pressure to overeat junk food in our culture is enormous. Take a moment and inventory your surroundings. Start with your home. Do you have ice cream, cookies, candy, chips or other ultra-processed foods hanging around in your pantries and kitchen? What about your work environment? Is the break room filled with goodies, donuts and other delectable treats? If so, you’re not alone as this is normal in our culture. The bad news is, this is a environmental recipe for disaster when it comes to your food choices.
For years, the onus to be healthy has been placed solely on individuals. When the top leading causes of death in America are largely preventable, many scientists and health professionals are starting to look at the environmental causes of disease. We refer to this as an obesogenic environment in which the environment actually encourages poor food choices and sedentary behavior.
What can you do about it? As it turns out, plenty! The first step is to take an inventory of your surroundings. The second step is to recognize that willpower is limited. Sometimes there’s a tendency to look at people who are healthy and assume they have great willpower, but research would show that this is not the case. Willpower is available in limited amounts for all, but some do a better job of managing this limited resource. Along with limited amounts of willpower we all posess, it’s also helpful to understand that the brain is wired for pleasure. That means that junk foods like chips and candy will always be more instantly gratifying than whole foods that are minimally processed. The body is adapted for feast or famine; previous generations experienced famines and harsh winters. Humans were able to adapt by storing calories when food was abundant, and burning those calories when food energy was low. The problem is we live in a culture where high-calorie foods are present everywhere. It is feast, feast, feast! Throw in some chronic stress and sleep deprivation and this causes the body to crave pleasure even more. The brain must find ways to self-medicate and it just so happens that junk food will do the trick. It’s legal, cheap, and socially accepted. We pay for it though. We pay for it with insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, weight gain and chronic diseases. Poor diet is even linked with psychiatric conditions.
This all brings us back to this point: You want to design your home and work environments for success. As it’s been famously said, you want to make it easy to do right and hard to do wrong. This means keeping junk food out of sight and out of mind. Take it a step further and bring in your favorite health foods. Prepare those roasted vegetables on the weekend and have them look you in the eye every time you open your refrigerator. This means planning your meals and snacks and always being prepared.
Manage those food cues. Redesign your world. Set yourself up for success. Praise yourself for tiny victories. Learn from your mistakes and let go of shame. YOU can be successful only when you engineer your success. With that being said, make sure to surround yourself with positive people who are also health-conscious. Weight loss is a team sport and not to be tackled on your own.
Seek out the support of qualified experts who can enhance your results and reduce stress. Call or visit our website at Nutrition Solutions