By Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD
People often tell me they don’t have time to eat healthy or exercise. One time a lady told me eating a cheese stick was too much work (open, peel — it needed to be quicker).
What most people don’t understand is myths like this hold them back from the healthy lifestyle they desire. The type of myths I’m referring to move food down to the bottom of the priority list. And when this happens, it almost always leads to trouble in terms of weight and eating habits. Here’s why.
Hunger is bad
I’ve counseled many overweight people who have come to see hunger as a bad thing. I don’t blame them, as we live in society that tells us not to trust ourselves when it comes to food. Palatable food is often touted as addictive and people as victims.
So it usually goes like this — someone doesn’t eat breakfast because they aren’t hungry. They grab a quick small lunch and by the time they go home their hunger is so overwhelming they can’t keep themselves out of the cabinets.
Instead of shooing hunger away, which leads to overeating, be hyperaware and feed your body when it needs it! Notice which foods, and combination of items, do the best job filling you up and providing energy.
No time to plan meals and cook
Another claim I hear is that people don’t have time to plan and prepare “healthy” meals. The problem is that when someone doesn’t take time to plan their meals, they are more likely to choose convenience items. A recent study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that people who added energy-dense snacks to their diet had lower sensory-specific satiety, meaning they were less satisfied and tended to eat more.
The truth? Planning and preparing meals doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Take an hour every week to jot down weekly meals and go to the store and stock up. If you are new to this you’ll make mistakes — expect mistakes. But with a little time and trial and error you’ll find what works for you.
Eating healthy is all or nothing
This may be the biggest myth of all. People believe they have to eat super healthy or it’s not worth the effort. Because it seems like so much work, they put it off. When they do finally start their new healthy eating plan, they fill their kitchen with produce and vow to make everything “healthy.” They feel great, lose some weight, but then there’s that one day they forget to bring their lunch. After a period of time of backsliding, they are back to their original eating habits.
Instead of seeing eating well as “all or nothing,” start where you are. Take it one small step at a time and you will gradually find what works for you. Here are some “small step” ideas:
-Eat meals at the table instead of the TV or on the go. Tune in at meals, listen to your hunger and satiety cues, and enjoy your food. Allow yourself to break this rule but observe why you break it and work on viable solutions.
-Include a new fruit or veggie each week or every couple weeks or month — basically at a rate that will make it stick. Once you’re done with produce move onto whole grains, lean meats, fish and other healthy foods. Keep the items you like and drop those you don’t.
-Include not-so-healthy foods less often and be ultra picky. What are your favorites? Can you make healthier versions or is it worth it to eat the real thing in a smaller portion?
Food is central to our lives and without it life wouldn’t be possible. When we push away hunger, fail to plan meals, and look at healthy eating as an all-consuming chore, we stay stuck. But if we can move food front and center and take the needed small steps, positive change is possible.
Do you have trouble making food a priority?