All Diets Work
Ashford University professor weighs in on the psychology and sociology of food choices
According to Gallup’s 2014 Health and Healthcare survey, half (51 percent) of Americans want to lose weight. But, despite the nation’s burgeoning multi-billion-dollar weight loss industry, only 26 percent of Americans are actually trying to lose weight.
Adding to this dichotomy, the survey finds that “Americans’ descriptions of their current weight situation are at odds with reality. More than half (56 percent) of Americans say their current weight is ‘about right.’ In reality, 35 percent of Americans are overweight and 28 percent are obese.”
“It’s an unfortunate lack of self-awareness,” said Dr. Wayne Briner, a psychology professor in Ashford University’s College of Health, Human Services, and Science. He weighs in on the psychological and sociological factors that influence unhealthy eating choices:
Healthy Eating Isn’t a Priority – Healthy eating controls weight, improves mood, boosts energy, and supports wellness. While we all know healthy food choices are in our best interest, convenience frequently trumps good judgment. If you want to live a healthy lifestyle, make healthy eating a priority day in and day out. Eventually, good nutrition will become a habit.
Healthy Eating Isn’t Sexy – What whets the appetite more: decadent apple cake covered in salted caramel sauce with a dollop of tangy crème fraiche or an apple? When confronted with food choices, the sexiest sounding, best looking, and most interesting is what appeals to us most. Beware of marketing ploys and fancy packaging in restaurants as well as grocery aisles.
Healthy Eating Takes More Time – We live in a culture where speed is essential and faster is better. Many people eat on the run, sandwiching fast food into their busy lifestyles. But health food takes time to prepare; to chop to broil to toss and mix and bake. We have to take time to be healthy, to slow down and arrange time for proper meals and exercise.
People Underestimate Their Food Consumption – This goes right along with the Gallup survey’s finding that people are at odds with reality. For a clear picture of food consumption, keep a food diary of what you eat – everything consumed in one week, including portions and number of servings. A café latte on the way to the office? Write it down. Fifteen Chili Cheese Fritos (which isn’t much of a snack)? That’s three servings, 480 calories. Write it down. The results may astound you.
People Overestimate Their Physical Activity – According to the Mayo Clinic, “As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. If you want to lose weight or meet specific fitness goals, you may need to exercise more. Want to aim even higher? You can achieve more health benefits, including increased weight loss, if you ramp up your exercise to 300 minutes a week.” Picking up the remote doesn’t count.
Living to Eat and Eating to Live – Eating, drinking, and being merry doesn’t lend itself to healthy food choices. For instance, most beers average 150 calories, with some craft beers topping 200. We’re all human and we’re all likely to indulge on occasion. Before you reward yourself with indulgences, balance it out with healthy eating habits.
People Want a Quick-Fix – The formula for losing weight is no secret: eat less, exercise more. That said, most people want a quick and easy fix, especially when there’s an upcoming class reunion, wedding, or some event where they want to look good. Fad diets work. As a matter of fact, all diets work, at least in the short term. Like a patch on a faulty radiator, crazy diets will last for a while, but eventually the patch gives way. You’re back to where it all started, and maybe even worse.
A meaningful and sustained lifestyle – healthy eating choices and regular exercise – is the only real way to lose and maintain proper weight. As much as the weight loss industry’s advertisements tout it, there is no magic fix.
About Ashford University
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