Cris LaBossiere

Cris LaBossiere
Strength training and mountain biking. My two favorites

Monday, January 7, 2013

Unhealthy habits similar or greater complexity than healthy habits

One of my favorite diet analyses websites is

You enter all the food you eat in a day and the free web-based software tells you everything you need to know about what you're eating.  I mention eatracker a lot because I really want people to use nutrition tools to rebuild their diets into nutrition powerhouses with no gimmicks.

I've rarely had a person express excitement about eatracker, or any other nutritional analyses program or app, web based or not.  In fact most of the time nobody will go near eatracker.  Even after months of suggestion most people I work with refuse to use diet analyses software, to see a registered dietitian, or to tell me what they eat.

A frank analyses of what one eats seems to be treated like a prickly porcupine, nobody want's to touch it.

The main complaints are that it takes too long (it doesn't), and that it's too complicated (it's not).

For those who enjoy baking, a new sugar-bomb, fat-bomb recipe for a cake, cookie, or muffin will be given a lot of attention.  After all, the anticipated reward of biting into fresh baked ooey gooey goodness is very appealing.

If the new recipe requires ingredients not in the house, a special shopping trip is in order. An unhealthy recipe is revered as the path to reward.  Using nutrition software is no more complicated than following a recipe, but in reverse.  However it's reviled as the path to restriction and removal of reward.

Same process, different perception.

I steam my broccoli for 4 minutes.  I read a research paper that showed that steaming broccoli for 4 minutes increases the antioxidant release from broccoli.  Sounds good to me.

I've had so many people say to me that I take it (healthy eating) too far with finicky details like steaming broccoli for 4 minutes.


So what about brewing coffee for X minutes.

How about throwing coffee out if it stands more than 20 minutes.

What about the old standard of boiling pasta for 7 minutes.

What about the 3 minute boiled egg.

Ever set the timer for baking?

Ever pay attention to how long a 10 oz steak is cooking?

How about deep fried or oven fried french fries?

What? You mean you have a timer in the kitchen?  Whoa, whoa whoa.. Get out!  Your stove has a built in timer?  All restaurant kitchens have timers?  What the heck for?  Say what?  Timing the cooking of food?

But not broccoli.

See what I mean?

Whatever the process is, if it's applied to not so healthy food or food that isn't really considered healthy or unhealthy, the process is normal and justified.  Apply the same process to something that is perceived as 'healthy' and suddenly the process is arduous.  It's an extra step.  It's time consuming.  Maybe even a little over the top.

There is a decided prejudice against healthy choices.

I've also found that many will be hesitant to learn what they're eating because ultimately they know that it won't be all good and the outcome will be that they should eat less of the bad stuff and more of the good stuff.

Facing these plain right-in-front-of-you facts is very hard for many people as research shows most people will under-report the amount of food they eat to avoid the issue of overeating.

 Once hooked, we really, really want to keep revisiting the hyper-rewards of overeating. Diet analyses is seen as the reward blocker.

The irony is that maintaining the unhealthy diet saps our energy, makes us overweight and reduces quality of life.  That which we seek with so much tenacity just happens to be that which ultimately is making us feel like crap overall, save for those few minutes that our brain is getting a dopamine hit from overeating.

Once I personally experienced the change in how good I felt from chronic healthy eating vs chronic not so healthy eating I became hooked on healthy eating.  Eatracker and similar programs became a source of reward because I can use these tools to help make my nutrition choices better and more informed.

So what's the difference between taking the time to purposefully eat unhealthy vs purposefully eating healthy?  It doesn't take more time to make a homemade burger with lean or extra beef or ground chicken or turkey compared to regular beef.

It doesn't take more time to make the patty smallar rather than larger.  It doesn't take more time to put on less mayonnaise or skip the mayo.

Once we get down to reality it's clear that healthy choices are not complicated and not more time consuming than less healthy choices.

There is one reality that is difficult to overcome and get used to.

As rewarding as healthy food is to eat, it can't achieve the exact same level of instant gratification dopamine stimulation as food that is dense in fat, sugar, and salt.

A good way to look at this is that the hyperpalitability of calorie-bomb food is unnatural.  It's true that it clearly feels good at the moment, but it ain't good.

It really is like learning to quit smoking.  Sure, to the smoker having a smoke feels rewarding at the moment, but it's kicking the crap out of the body.  It's not worth it.

Ex smokers will tell how great it feels to not be hooked anymore and that ultimately healthier choices provide more overall reward than they ever received from the instant gratification of smoking.

Same goes for overeating.

BTW healthy eating doesn't mean not eating chocolate muffins.  It meas not eating too many chocolate muffins.

Everyone I know who has got to the place where they lose weight in a healthy way or didn't need to lose weight but started eating more healthy, have been surprised at how good they feel.

Healthy eating doesn't give you that big smack of dopamine and neither does using eatracker.  The same level of instant gratification wont happen, so let that go.  Once you feel the overall greater reward of what a healthy weight and healthy living does for you, you may get hooked on living healthy.

I hope you do :-)

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