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How To Resist Unhealthy Food

Posted on Posted in Psychology of Weight Loss

“What happens,” my neighbor asked, “when the people you live with don’t eat this way?” (Phil desperately wants to learn how to resist unhealthy food.)

Uh ho. That sucks. I thought to myself as I regarded the offerings at this traditional Memorial Day potluck. Here’s a nice man who has multiple heart issues, who wants to help himself by consuming a bounty of fruits, veggies, beans, and seeds, whose wife is eating a crispy, brown piece of fried chicken right before my (and his) eyes. 🙁

How to Resist Unhealthy Food

Phil has finally come to terms with an important scientifically substantiated fact—that environment largely determines behavior. He is one of the fortunate few who will ever acknowledge this reality—even though most of us experience it daily—while the rest will continue believing they can control what they put in their mouth if they just try hard enough. However, the unfortunate truth is this: the presence of nutrient-poor, highly-stimulating victuals in your vicinity is a much stronger predictor of what you consume than the strength of your resolve to resist it.

cream cheeseAnd sadly, Phil is a great example of this. By watching videos, reading blogs, subscribing to newsletters, and devouring every book on the subject, Phil has educated himself extensively on the plethora of research uncovering the values of a high-nutrient diet. With every SAD bite he swallows, he knows exactly what’s happening inside his body. Yet despite his declining health, motivation, and theoretical knowledge of how to resist unhealthy food, the temptation of Girl Scout cookies in the pantry, franks in the fridge, and mac ‘n cheese on the stove makes choosing beans and greens almost impossible.

Why?

Which begs the question, for me at least, Why? Why would his wife continue to stock their kitchen with foods that will almost certainly shorten her life partner’s life?

I’m guessing Bev rationalizes that it’s Phil’s responsibility to choose healthfully—not hers. Why should she have to change? Her health is just fine, thank you very much (not really–she has fibromyalgia).

Confession

Y’all, this post is really for all the Bevs out there. I hope you can get them to read it because having them on board with your nutrient rich aspirations is critical to your long-term success.They can make or break ygirlscout with cookiesour chances of learning how to resist unhealthy food.

Dear Loved-one of a Nutritarian Wannabe, would that we lived in a world in which our behaviors neither had an effect on others nor were affected by others. Alas, this is not the case. In fact, what we do or don’t do, say or don’t say, eat or don’t eat has an enormous impact on the people closest to us.

Please know this: the science of behavior change has determined that our immediate environment exerts tremendous influence on our behavior1. I know you want to believe in your own efficacy, that you are at choice in your food choices. But please do your would-be unrefined plant eater a favor and read up on the growing knowledge base of food psychology and behavioral economics2,3, 4 where you’ll find a bounty of research demonstrating the necessity of changing one’s environment to change one’s behavior.

Bevs of the world, I realize you cannot control your loved-one’s behavior; however, by keeping a clean house (free from animal products and refined plant foods), you greatly increase the likelihood of his success—which ultimately means you get to keep him around longer.

Check out Caroline’s 4-part compulsive eating program here.

1 Small Steps to Health and Wealth, NRAES-182

2 Mindless Eating, Brian Wansink, Ph.D.

3 Wansink, Brian (2004). Environmental Factors that Increase the Food Intake and Consumption Volume of Unknowing Consumers. Annual Review of Nutrition, 24, 455–479.

4 Wansink B, Hanks AS. Slim by design: serving healthy foods first in buffet lines improves overall meal selection. PloS One. 2013; 8(10), e77055

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