by Joe Morgan
Why is it so difficult to stop making bad foods choices? Because the fast food industry have invested millions if not billions of dollars into research and marketing to ensure you stay right where you are… With your mouths and wallets open!
Like the tobacco industry the fast food industry is there with you at every stage of your life. When you are growing up, in the form of advertising when your lazy parents left you in front of the television to baby sit you. You were left to sit for hundreds if not thousands of hours soaking up powerful images of tasty looking food with gorgeous people doing fun things to great music. A powerful combination. As you got older and you started exploring the outside world, you started seeing these images again and remembered the television and how it made you feel. The memories of the music, the fun, the mouth watering food. Google Pavlov’s dogs….
Pavlov was a Russian scientist who proved dogs could be conditioned to a certain response with an external stimulus. He would ring a bell and then feed the dogs. After a period of time, the dogs became conditioned to receive food when they heard the bell ring and started salivating merely from the bell ring.
The fast food industry begins conditioning us from the day we could hold our heads up to want to try these foods for the first time and to want it each and every time there after. The first experiences with these foods are fun even if the food tastes bad and is unhealthy (which it invariably is on both counts). There are often play centres for our lazy parents to dump us in while they inhale crap food, there are cute kiddy sized packages, with fun colourful packaging, fun clowns or other child friendly themes. As we grow the advertising grows with us. Have a crap meal on a particular public holiday, after or during (watching) an event such as cricket or football, or to make parenting easier by providing quick and easy family sized meals that we can pick up in the drive through. They are developed to be with us at every stage of our day therefor intrinsically intertwining themselves into our lives.
From your first moments when you could have independent thoughts and started speaking you became a spokes person for the fast food industry, begging our parents to take us until they gave up or we gave up trying.
While driving around you saw the imagery, see people consuming, heard people talking about it in the school yard, it got reinforced when we had our first themed birthday at a fast food restaurant.
We never stood a chance. Given we can assume we have been carefully conditioned, we will have to undertake the process of deconditioning to reverse the process. Education is the key.
People who know how many calories are required each day stand a better chance. People who know how many calories each meal contains have better success of reducing their calorific intake and have better luck at weight loss/dieting etc. People who keep their main meals down to 600 calories with spare change for morning and afternoon tea are able to keep their intake to 2000 calories per day and don’t put on weight in the first place.
People who have to relearn good habits are undertaking a process called counter-conditioning. Wikipedia defines Counterconditioning as “…the conditioning of an unwanted behaviour or response to a stimulus into a wanted behavior or response by the association of positive actions with the stimulus..” This is definitely the case with quitting smoking. The urges to want have a smoke are ignored in favour of undertaking substitute healthier lifestyle choices. IE when you feel like a cigarette you distract yourself by moving from the location, (if you are able to) having a drink of water, playing with an object or going for a walk. Gradually these new healthier habits replace the old ones as those urges decrease.
In a good example of counter conditioning, a small boy had his fear of rabbits lessoned gradually while eating food. Eventually the boy was able to replace the pleasure of eating food with the pleasure of petting the animal because eating food reduced his nervousness of the rabbit. (So now we have an overweight boy who likes rabbits haha)
Similarly when people quit smoking they tend to replace this nervous behaviour with another (comfort eating) thereby gaining weight.
Simply substituting old bad habits with new healthy ones can be enough. The following tips will help reduce the cravings:
- Eat full, nutritionally balanced meals at evenly spaced times through out the day keeps your blood sugar level up sufficiently thereby reducing the chance you will snack on fast foods.
- Eating healthily before you go out will reduce the chance you will snack on fast foods.
- Take food to work will reduce the chance you will snack on fast foods.
- Drink water between meals will keep you feeling full and will reduce the chance you will snack on fast foods.
- Find a new good food hang out. Try a fresh sandwich bar or good Asian takeaway.
- Find new friends or suggest they make the change too.
- Plan daily exercise
- Thinking and planning ahead is the key.
Some simple tips that will reduce excess calorie intake. Such as:
- Take a six pack of beer to a friend’s place instead of a carton
- Keep fruit and water handy
- Use smaller plates at dinner time. (you may tend to fill a large plate which will result in excess intake)
- Put you fork down between mouthfuls of food, fully chew each mouthful and have a sip of water before putting more food on your fork.
- Give your body time to register when your hunger pains are over during a meal when you don’t feel hungry any more, STOP EATING. Put the remainder in the fridge.
- Learn proper portion sizes for meals
These tips may seem overly simplistic and can be ignored or overlooked when trying to lose weight but people who have had success cite these above tips as being critical to success.
Why do we resist change? Why when faced with a clear path to success do we avoid that very path. Fighting the urge to eat crap food or make bad lifestyle choices is very simple yet extremely difficult. The conditioning that we have been subjected to is so powerful that change scares us. And fundamentally we are innately lazy and unless we are presented with a very simple solution (a magic pill) we will avoid the discomfort of change until some critical event happens. That critical event must often be life changing like a heart attack or cancer where we try to regain our health and we actually have a motivating factor to make solid change.
How can we flick that switch without having that critical event? Education is the key. Learn about exercise, learn to enjoy exercise (and you will enjoy it), learn about healthy portion size, and learn about a broad balanced diet. Make a healthy lifestyle the goal and weight loss will follow.
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