“Why is food so hard?” I’ve been asked this question so many times. As the discussion continues these themes emerge. Do any sound familiar to you?
You use food to soothe yourself. This is a biggie. Kids are frequently given food to soothe them when they’re upset, with little regard for actually dealing with the matter at hand. I watched for years as Moms taking their child out of the Kid’s Club at the athletic club where I worked would stop at the snack bar to get their crying child something sweet to soothe them. They just left the party in the fun room and they’re sad! Instead of an opportunity to learn that life comes with some (temporary) disappointments and develop some emotional management skills, we respond with sugar. Overeating is frequently a self-soothing technique, and this practice often starts early. Or; ever eat when you’re bored? Yeah. We all do sometimes.
No consideration for listening to your body with regard to food: what, how much, when. If you listen, your body will tell you when to eat and when to stop. Respect that system and the vast majority of time things stay in balance. Sharper listening skills will even hint at what you’re hungry for; energy (carbs), strength (proteins), or vitality (fats). Instead, our eating habits are based primarily on price and convenience and driven by our addiction to sweet and salty. And then this next one shows up:
Social dictation. Again; based on not listening to your body and driven by habits you grew up with, a food products industry, a diet industry, or just what everyone in the room is doing. That might look something like this: Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Graze all day. Clean your plate. Don’t throw food away. You paid for it; you might as well eat it. Looks good/smells good/tastes good; why stop. Might be hungry later so I’ll eat more now. It’s a party/happy hour/holiday and everyone is eating. Done this?
No understanding or belief in the link between the food you eat and the body and health profile you are living with. The old quip about “You are what you eat” carries a lot of truth. While your health is determined by many factors in addition to food, what you eat either improves your health or detracts from it. The link is unquestionable.
Confusing, inaccurate, dishonest messages from everywhere. Eat this, not that. Low carb. No carb. Low fat. No fat. Bad foods. Superfoods. Don’t eat food: eat these bars/shakes. Don’t eat anything; takes these pills/shots/supplements. No wonder you’re confused. We are a culture obsessed with healthy eating, yet we’re among the unhealthiest on the planet.
And that’s why people think “food is hard”. We’re over-messaged. We forget, or don’t trust, that we have an amazingly sophisticated and capable body that will tell us when to eat, when to stop, and give us feedback when we ingest something that it has difficulty dealing with; feedback like gut problems, weight gain, fluctuating energy, headaches, skin conditions, and more.
From Michael Pollan, author of several books on our eating habits: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Could it really be that simple? Here’s what I regularly see as the habits of the healthiest individuals:
- They eat food, not food products with long ingredient lists.
- They listen and respond to their natural regulatory systems of hunger & fullness.
- Their diet consists mostly of quality meat and fish, fresh vegetables and fruits.
- They prepare most of their own food vs. purchase it on the go.
I’ve never seen this approach not improve health profiles, body composition, and vitality. That’s pretty compelling evidence.
Food is not hard. Changing your habits sure can be, but that is temporary and there are strategies for that. Simplify, simplify, simplify; and see what happens.