Obesity is an epidemic in America, with nearly 60 percent of men and women diagnosed as overweight or obese. This is one of many nutrition related conditions that can result in cardiovascular disease. Fortunately, people realize the need for healthy lifestyle is significant. However, the USDA concluded in a 2000 survey that regardless of what people know about health, they choose not to improve their diets. Several factors contribute to this lack of motivation including learned behaviors and strong core beliefs.
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Poor Dietary Foundations
The foundation of your nutrition habits started in early childhood. You were taught to clean your plate, no matter the portion size, and eat three meals a day. These were well-intended guidelines from your caregivers, but they may contribute to your inability to eat less more frequently. If you were brought up in the era of microwaves and convenience foods, then you learned processed foods were quick and tasty. What you did not know was these foods lacked nutritive value. Early eating habits paved the way for your current choices, but you do not have to remain tied to these foundations, especially if your health depends on change.
Misinformation and Attitude
You decided to try different diets or change your eating habits, but are overwhelmed by conflicting nutrition information in the media. It is difficult to understand what the best or healthiest nutrition habits are when numerous diets are advertised as the best way to get healthy. You choose microwave meals marketed as healthy instead of those with high fat content, but the problem with frozen food is it lacks nutrition from vitamins, minerals and macronutrients. The packages say healthy, yet the food is not because it is processed and has added ingredients that virtually cancel out the healthy aspects of the meal. It is confusing and complicated, which makes you want to stick with what you know instead of changing.
Change is a gradual process and it is different for everyone. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, you change behaviors as your level of motivation and understanding changes. You start out precontemplative, which means you know you do not eat healthy but it is not causing you any noticeable distress to want to change. You continue to hear about health in the news and start contemplating what you can do different, but you still are not sure. Gradually, you may seek support or additional information to help you prepare for change. At this stage of preparation, you may start buying new food items or cutting back on junk food, but you are not quite ready to totally immerse yourself in good health.
After a while of thinking and making subtle changes you decide to take action. You increase your fruit and vegetable intake, eat baked foods instead of fried or prepare fresh lunches for work instead of going to the fast food restaurant. The actions you take are met with visible results, such as feeling emotionally better, weight loss and lowered blood pressure. This motivates you to continue your new healthier eating habits. However, some people do not get the level of results they want quickly with slow change and this can deter further progress. Reward your slow change every step of the way so you remain motivated to strive for good health.
Tips to Eat Healthy
Eating healthy involves getting the necessary daily calories you need for energy as well as additional nutrients from vitamins, protein and carbohydrates. Choose fresh foods such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains for healthy energy instead of boxed, canned, frozen or processed foods. Eat fresh fish and chicken instead of high volumes of red meat to cut down on your saturated fat intake. Use olive oil instead of lard, butter or margarine. Limit your consumption of sweet treats and eat fruit as snacks or dessert instead. Choose low-fat dairy as a calcium source and read nutrition labels to measure the amount of cholesterol, saturated fat and calories in foods you eat frequently. Consult your physician about a healthy diet plan for your condition and add daily exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- American Heart Association: Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations
- American Academy of Family Physicians: A 'Stages of Change' Approach to Helping Patients Change Behavior; Gretchen L. Zimmerman et al; March 1, 2000
- USDA: Beliefs and Attitudes of Americans Toward Their Diet; June 2000
- Cleveland Clinic: The Psychology of Eating
- NEJM: Obesity Prevalence in the United States