Do you ever wonder why you choose to eat certain things over others? Like why did you reach for that cookie instead of that celery stick and vise versa.
We wanted to take a minute to help you understand the basic principles that make up your decision tree when it comes to eating so that you can make better choices more often.
Trust me when I say this is far more complex than how I am going to break it down for you, but once you have a basic understanding you will be able to apply it instantly. There are many reasons why we choose to eat certain foods over others at any given moment but to keep things simple I am going to give you an overview of the top four in my opinion.
If you can understand and become aware of which driving force is pushing you to eat something you will be better prepared to control your actions and shift into the decision factor state that best suits your goal.
The Top 4 Food Decision Factors
Simply put; these are your cravings kicking in, making you want to eat certain foods. When you make food choices based on physiological factors, your body is taking over control and creating these craving sensations that you just can’t seem to avoid. This generally occurs when your body is sensing a deficiency in a certain nutrient or mineral. For example, craving chocolate is a common sign of a magnesium deficiency. Or maybe you’re craving pickles (pregnant or not), which is a common sign that your good salt/sodium levels are low or your gut bacteria is low and since pickles are a fermented food they are rich in good bacteria.
When cravings kick in I suggest you pay attention and try to get to the bottom of it so that you can provide your body with what it might be lacking.
However, beware of sugar cravings because they are more of an addiction craving and one that you are going have to let go of because they don’t often lead to eating anything good for you!
This is your conscious or strategic food decision factor and the area that I suggest you focus on shifting yourself into as often as possible. Another way to describe this factor is “Will Power”. When you make food choices using your psychological decision factor, you will commonly eat healthy, clean foods that you know are good for you or will help you achieve a certain goal such as fat loss, muscle gain, improved performance, etc. This is the area that you want to be constantly shifting yourself back into if you want to be successful. A great way to do this is work with a nutrition coach to help you build a custom nutrition plan and keep you accountable to following it. If you have a nutrition plan that you can follow it makes it much easier to just refer to it when another decision factor might be misguiding you.
In addition, a nutrition coach can help you stick to your healthy nutrition plan because you know that they will be checking in, keeping measurements and guiding you every step of the way.
We have been conditioned at an early age to associate certain foods with specific emotions and it’s extremely hard to break that pattern. Remember when you were a kid and you were treated to ice cream or candy when you were good? But when you were bad you were sent to your room without food or you were forced to eat your vegetables?
There’s no question that eating is a powerful emotional experience and this reward-based system is a tough cycle to break. When we are good we treat ourselves with bad food. If you think about that it really sounds crazy! Making emotional food choices can be disastrous so you are not going to want to spend much time in this decision factor if you want to be healthy.
Even in the custom nutrition programs we design for our athletes we know that we have to incorporate “cheat meals” into the plans to help deliver some emotional comfort or it will be virtual impossible to be successful.
I challenge you to break this cycle with yourself or with your children by rewarding with healthy food instead of junk food. If necessary, schedule one “emotional” meal each week to satisfy that desire.
The social decision factor has to be one of the most powerful in the bunch here. It’s best described as “Peer Pressure” and it’s constantly pressuring you to make poor food choices!
How many times has someone brought donuts into your workplace? Or it’s someone’s birthday and everyone has to eat a piece of cake and if you don’t you’re alienated. Social influence is hard to manage because as humans, we don’t want to disappoint others, so we just follow the herd. Most times we indulge because we feel guilty but the truth is, you have to get over it if you ever want to make a long lasting, permanent change in your life.
You are going to have to become better aware of when you really should cave in and when you should stand your ground and make the best choice to help you stay on track with your health and performance.
A simple tactic to avoid peer pressure is to eat before you go to an event or to bring food with you so that you’re not tempted to make poor food choices. I suggest eating before because when you bring food people will be all over you bugging you about your food because now you are making them feel guilty for eating bad and they will desperately try to drag you down the rabbit hole with them!
Now that you have a clear understanding and awareness of the top 4 driving decision factors of eating, you are going to have to exercise extreme responsibility to use that information to make better choices.
It’s not rocket science, just recognize what factor is driving you just before you are about to make a food choice and then if necessary, ask yourself if that’s going to be the best option for you, then shift into the factor that most supports your goal.