So, first off. If you can understand why you make the food choices that you do, it will help you make more informed decisions and may get you out of any negative food habits and accelerate your fat loss or muscle building progress!
The decision of what to eat, when to eat and even weather to eat at all is based on behavioral or societal motives rather than on an awareness of nutrition’s importance to overall health and enjoyment. Below I will break down some of these factors.
The first variable when it comes to our food choices is Personal Preference. As you may have guessed, Taste is the number one reason why people choose to eat the things that they do. Sweetness and saltiness are the 2 most common preferences when it comes to food choices. Enjoying high fat foods is also a common preference as fats enhance the flavor and mouthfeel of the foods we eat. Genetics plays a role in determining your taste preferences as well. But you really have to take a step back, and think about why you enjoy your favorite foods and balance out the sweet from the salty to figure out what your main preference is. Figure out your preference, and you will not only be making more informed decisions, but you will be choosing foods that you know you will enjoy as they are in line with your individual preferences. This will severely reduce cravings and binges.
The habits that we form over the period of our lives heavily determine the food choices that we make. Habits form comfort zones, and comfort zones are, well, comfortable and easy. Just because you grew up eating cereal for breakfast doesn’t mean that cereal is the be all and end all of breakfast food. And god forbid your favorite cereal is finished, now your day is ruined. In my opinion, when it comes to food choices, there should be no habits. Obviously there will be boundaries such as religion, allergies, preferences etc. however, you should avoid developing habits within your boundaries. When you develop strong habits, it closes your mind to the endless possibilities when it comes to food. And now more than ever, healthy food variety is so accessible.
Ethnic heritage and traditions are strong influencers. One of the strongest in fact. They cause us to enjoy certain foods and avoid others, whether it’s due to kosher reasons or the favorability of traditional flavors…. That again is up to you to conclude. Studies have definitely indicated that certain cultures and religions produce healthier individuals than others. Look at Asian countries for example, where the diet is predominantly based around lean proteins and vegetables, and compare it to a western diet full of processed products. People live longer in the east yet it is more rural than the west. Ethnic heritage can provide clarity on why you may prefer certain food sources or flavors.
Socializing. The most feared word when on a so called “diet”. You don’t want to venture out because you may break your diet or feel embarrassed when you choose the salad, or even worse, don’t eat at all. This is no way to live, and socializing and food go hand in hand. How often do you eat a meal alone? Im guessing that majority of the time you are with at least one other person. Now socializing is awesome especially when food is involved, we all get that giddy feeling when we are about to eat something delicious or eat something without feeling guilty afterwards. You should never let your current eating habits affect your social poise. Restricting social occasions is a huge factor that leads to failure. How can you live never eating away from home again? Most restaurants have easy to identify options that are lower in calories and full of nutrients. Pick these items and you will always be okay.
Now a big one is the ACE. Availability, Convenience, and Economy. We all prefer foods that are conveniently available and aT good price. And now days we can almost all of the time tick all three of the boxes. The options are literally endless but here is where the problem lies. Most of the foods that fall under this category are not nutrient dense at all, or dense in nutrients that are not so beneficial. A banana or a small candy bar, both accessible, convenient and cheap, well the banana is a lot cheaper actually, but the point here is that although they may even have the exact same calories, the banana is full of amazing nutrients. Now I’m not by any means saying that you have to choose the “banana” every time. But doing so more often than not, over time will have dramatically positive effects.
A subconscious preference determining factor is our positive and negative associations with specific foods that have developed over time. We make many food choices often without really taking a moment to step back and look into why we make such decisions. The foods we thoroughly enjoy are often foods that we can associate with happy moments such as the meal you took your family out for when you finally got that promotion or made that handshake, and the same goes for a lot of the foods that we dislike. The food made us ill, or we had a fallout with someone over a specific meal. It may sound silly now but try and reflect back and you will find these types of associations popping up.
Food influences the brains chemistry and the minds response to specific emotions. Im sure you’ve heard the term “emotional eater” before. To an extent we are all emotional eaters. Ill eat this because I know it is healthy and it then triggers positive emotions of dedication and health, or we may even enjoy a slice of cake but feel guilty afterwards, theoretically every single thing we eat will trigger an emotion of some sort. Now some may eat out of boredom or depression to have something to do or to relieve anxiety. You may choose to unwind with your favorite snack to relieve stress. Often eating associated with emotions can lead to overeating or undereating and you should be consciously aware of any emotionally driven eating habits. The key is to identify these foods and include them without being emotionally driven. This will promote moderation and over time decrease any over or undereating spells.
Now in my opinion one of the biggest epidemics facing modern society to date. Body weight and Image. Almost every person on this planet eats food for a specific reason, but the most prevalent is health and appearance. People will choose foods based on facts that they believe will promote good health and physical appearance, and will avoid foods that don’t. Now this is great, but only if it is based on sound nutritional knowledge. And I’m happy to tell you that most of the “Facts” out there are complete BS. Please don’t just listen to anyone with a good body or seemingly healthy lifestyle because they preach this and that. Always, always do your research, and not on google, on google scholar, you need to see real facts, not the little things people pick and choose to tell you about the latest trend in the industry. I will give you this, and it may be the most valuable thing you learn today. If anyone ever tells you that you should use x product or eliminate x from your diet and include this or that, without scientifically and statistically backing it up… don’t listen to a word they say, they want your money or to sound knowledgeable that is it. You are putting your own body at risk by blindly following what he or she thinks is best.
Hopefully now you can have a better understanding of why you choose to eat the foods that you enjoy and not just choose foods based on subconscious behavior or because your trainer said it will guarantee 4 kilos of weight loss per week.