As a nutritionist I try to provide the information and skills necessary for my clients to make conscious, well-informed decisions regarding the foods and beverages they consume. This sounds relatively simple and straight-forward. Oh but if it only were!
Often the things (influencers) that dictate what we eat, when we eat, how much we eat and why we eat are not so cerebral. They frequently work in more subtle, subliminal ways, bypassing our conscious, decision-making faculties. Influencers include:
• Marketing/advertising. How many times have you felt the desire to go to the fridge or pantry and get something to eat or drink after seeing someone on television doing so? I know I have. Advertisers spend big money on market research to discover how to have this effect on people.
• Stress, boredom, depression, frustration, anger and a host of other physical/mental/emotional feelings.
• Social – holiday meals and treats, celebrations, going out with friends.
• Business – dinners and drinks with the boss, colleagues or clients.
Protecting ourselves from these influencers is part of the process of changing our eating habits. I encourage my clients to do at least three major things in this regard:
1. Limit temptation. We have a limited amount of willpower. The more it’s tested, the more likely we are to break down. Therefore, it is best to create an environment that is conducive to making healthy choices. Keep plenty of fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods and beverages available, and don’t bring candy, chips, soda, etc. home. If you are often tempted to pull into a fast food place to grab dinner on the way home from work, find a route that doesn’t have fast food places.
2. Be mindful. Do things to remain conscious of your food and beverage consumption. Keep a food diary of what you eat, when you eat, how much you eat and why you eat. Pretty soon this new-found nutritional awareness will become natural and you won’t need to write it down anymore. Get used to eating regular, planned meals and snacks and nix the “grazing.” This helps prevent unconscious calorie consumption.
3. Plan ahead. If you know you will be dining out or having treats at a party that evening and taking in more calories than normal, compensate during the day. Also, before going out to eat with the boss or client check out the restaurant’s menu online and search for healthy choices. If you know you’ll have input on what restaurant to choose, search for one to recommend that has several good options.
Freeing ourselves from influencers will make it easier to create eating plans that provide us with both health and enjoyment. The first step is awareness of these influencers; the next is action!