Why Most People Fail At Healthy Eating
I grew up eating a lot of bacon, sausage and unhealthy food and I drank my coffee with at least two teaspoons of sugar. Processed white bread and butter were constants in my life, too. In fact, I firmly believed that it would be impossible for me to omit those pleasures from my diet without a great deal of suffering and sacrifice. Looking back now, I realize how wrong I was.
A large number of us have attempted to eat healthier and change our diets for the better at some point in our lives. However, most of us fail in our efforts and revert to our old ways. We miss the foods we are used to eating and give up after a few days. The cravings and ‘sacrifice’ we experience seem too overwhelming to overcome, so we throw in the towel, wave the proverbial white flag, and return to our old eating habits.
Sadly, a large majority of people who want to change their diet and eat healthier are hard on themselves and blame their failure to do so on their lack of willpower and resolve. But, in my experience, there are five main reasons why most people fall short.
Why We Fail At Adopting A Healthier Diet
1. We Do Not Allocate Enough Time For Our Taste Buds To Change
When I initially attempted to give up red meat, I experienced serious cravings and found healthier alternatives bland-tasting by comparison. I would eat the healthy stuff on my plate and then long for a steak or a cheeseburger. It simply was inconceivable to me that I could forgo red meat and be satisfied. Naturally, my efforts to eat healthier were short-lived and I reverted back to old eating habits.
What I learned over the years is that our taste buds evolve and can be changed. Think about this: a child learns to eat certain types of foods because that is what is being served to him or her. If you grew up in India or China on a vegetarian diet, you would be used to eating a lot of healthy vegetables and not miss the meat. If you grew up drinking water and never had a soda, you would never crave a Coke or Pepsi. In other words, our taste preferences are learned. If we give it sufficient time, our taste buds will change and we will begin to enjoy healthier food (https://nutritionfacts.org/2014/06/24/want-to-be-healthier-change-your-taste-buds/).
I have personally experienced this change myself. Contrary to what I believed in the past, I now love almost all vegetables and whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, etc). I also do not miss the meat that I consumed almost all my life. What made the difference was giving my taste buds enough time for them to evolve. On average, it takes about three weeks for us to get used to and like new foods and ingredients. The trick is to stick with it long enough to give our taste buds the chance to adapt.
The same is true for salt. If you are used to a certain level of saltiness in your food, you can slowly reduce the amount of sodium and, given time, you will find most conventional foods to be too salty. You can also do the same for fat content, sugar, and just about any other ingredient. Our taste buds and bodies will get used to the new way of eating and adjust. It simply takes time.
I have personally used this strategy successfully to eradicate lots of unhealthy foods from my diet (I used to love and eat a ton of processed beef jerky and croissants!). I will admit that it may be difficult in the beginning, but if you give yourself time, you will learn to enjoy and actually crave foods that are healthy. Allocate at least three weeks (the longer the better) for this adaptation.
2. We Are Too Impatient To See Results
One reason why many people want to change their diet is to lose weight. We have a growing obesity epidemic in the USA and around the world that is the result of poor eating habits. Nobody wants to be overweight. Everyone deserves to be healthy and happy. But losing weight the healthy way (by eradicating processed foods, eliminating saturated fat found in almost all animal products, and eating more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables) takes time, and most people are impatient. That is why there are so many fad diets on the market that sell well.
If your objective is to lose weight and keep it off, my advice is to be patient and give your new way of eating enough time to produce results. In fact, do not view it as a diet but, rather, a lifestyle change. Do not eat a salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner for two days and then step on a scale expecting any dramatic weight loss. Remember, your new lifestyle is a marathon and not a sprint. Be patient and the results will come.
3. We Have The Wrong Mindset
When I first started to eliminate unhealthy foods from my plate, I had the wrong mindset. I made the mistake of focusing on all the foods that I could not eat rather than focusing on all the wonderful and healthy foods I could eat. When you focus on what you CANNOT eat, you are sending messages to yourself that you are in store for a whole lot of suffering and sacrifice. On the other hand, when you focus on all the delicious foods you CAN eat, you will adopt a more positive mindset that will greatly affect your chances of success.
For me, that meant keeping my eye on all the tasty foods that are healthy that I could indulge in: hummus and whole grain pita bread, miso soup, falafels with tahini sauce, Indian lentil and vegetable curries, mangoes, broccoli, etc. Adopt the right mindset and you are much more likely to succeed in perpetuating your healthy eating while also enjoying it.
4. We Lack Support
Human beings are social creatures at heart and we thrive when we have proper support from others. When we make the change and start eating healthier, it only makes sense to garner the support from family, friends and support groups.
What helped me tremendously when I made the decision to eat healthier was getting the support from family members, a few close friends, and support groups on Facebook and Reddit. I received a lot of encouragement and this made it much easier when I was impatient or tempted to regress. I also learned a lot from my support groups (positive mindsets, new recipes, healthy restaurants, etc) and this made the transition so much easier. Make sure you have the right people supporting you and you will substantially increase your chances of success.
5. We Lack Preparation And Planning
One of the biggest mistakes I made when initially attempting to eat healthier was neglecting to prepare and plan. What do I mean by that? I simply jumped in without any specific idea how to achieve my goal of healthy eating. I did not plan my weekly meals and, therefore, often fell off the wagon because I had no healthy food in the fridge or pantry.
I did not look up healthy recipes beforehand. To make matters worse, I still had burgers, ribs and steaks in my freezer, and that presented an enormous challenge since I was trying to eliminate those very things from my diet. As the saying goes, “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”. After a few failed tries, I finally realized that I had to take the time to plan and prepare for my new desired way of eating. I got rid of the junk food in my home. I cleared the pantry, fridge and freezer of unhealthy food so that I could reduce temptation. I scoured the internet and cookbooks for healthy recipes and stocked up on healthy ingredients. I also made sure I had healthy snacks on hand for the times when I was hungry and wanted a quick bite to eat. Take the time to prepare for your new lifestyle and plan ahead. It can make all the difference in the world.
All of us want to be healthy and avoid sickness and pain. Healthy eating is probably the most effective way to do this. If you follow the five suggestions above, you will be paving the way for success. You CAN do it and you deserve it!