Did you know that we make 227 food decisions each day on average and that 95% of those are sub-conscious?
That is absolutely crazy, right?
What drives our food decisions?
Of course, main reason we eat is to survive! Also, to satisfy our senses of pleasure that eating gives.
However, how comes eating for many goes beyond just feeding the body and satisfying the senses and even the healthiest of us find it difficult to resist certain foods we know are not good for us!
Me too included! And it drives me crazy when it happens!
Because I know that I should know better!
Well, as I found out, I DO know better, but that is sometimes not enough!
So, all perplexed, I dived into understanding this concept more, so I can make sense of what is happening to me as well as learning why so many of my own clients keep lapsing even when they are truly motivated and have all the tools and support to help them stay the course!
What I found is that our brain is absolutely fascinating and is influenced by myriad of things and here is what influences our food intake and how to stay in the flow:
1. Sleep Deprivation is linked with an Increased Appetite
It was only recently that the link between sleep deprivation and the way it effects brain mechanisms responsible for food choices and appetite have been discovered.
As it turns out, numerous studies confirm that sleep deprivation leads to a double whammy of your brain desiring more foot and, at the same time, your brain being completely incapable of evaluating whether you are really hungry.
Sleep deprivation has been shown to effect Cortisol, our stress hormone, that is also known as a “fat storing hormone” and an increase of cortisol increases our desire for high calorie foods.
And, as studies show – the more sleep deprived we are – the worse our choices get!
So, getting enough sleep is essential to getting a grip on our hunger and food choices. But, that is not all…
2. Your Stress Levels lead to an Increased Food Consumption
Numerous research confirms that stress has an effect on both neuronal and physiological effect when it comes to weight gain.
The results of studies show that what happens is similar with sleep deprivation because, usually higher stress is linked with sleep deprivation, which increases cortisol, so the whole cycle repeats of our desire for high fat, high sugar, high calorie foods.
Therefore, taking care of stress and sleep is important, but I wish that was all.
3. Hunger leads to more unhealthy food choices
This is a logical consequence and research also confirms it to be the case – hungry subjects consistently chose more unhealthy foods compared to those who were more satisfied.
This is what you need to make sure:
- Do not skip your breakfast
- Do not skip your snacks
- Combine protein with healthy carbohydrates with every meal and snack
- Drink enough water as thirst can be perceived as hunger!
Another important tip – do not go grocery shopping when hungry!
4. Exercise decreases our appetite
When we exercise – we burn more calories, therefore, logical thing is to think that we would be more hungry, right?
Research shows that staying active and moving your body makes us less motivated to eat.
So, next time you feel your are spiraling out with unhealthy choices – put your trainers on and go out for a sweat!
5. Food Marketing influences our Food Choices
Visual cues are incredibly influential when it comes to making food choices.
Food companies invest in an insane amount of money on researching on how packaging & advertising can make us consume more. Food marketing, after all, is a multi billion dollar industry.
Sad truth is that most of that marketing is concentrated on promoting unhealthy products, well, 99% of the marketing that is! This is not just packaging, but think about television advertising, especially one directed at our own children.
So, the battle for healthier food choices is real!
Research shows that TV food ads directly increase children’s preferences for those foods.
Good news is – while food advertising can motivate us to make unhealthy choices – research also shows that it can help us make healthier choices too.
Recent study shows that providing nutritional information in the form of food labels have a positive effect on our brain and motivates us towards making healthier choices.
So, educate yourself on food labels and pass it on to your children too (in the simplest possible way) because when you read the labels – health attributes trump taste!
Truly, knowledge becomes king again!
6. You are WHO You eat with!
Yes, not only what we eat that determines our health and, well, our waist size, but also, who we surround ourselves with!
Not only that, but the research shows that we are influenced by who we identify with – and that goes for both how much and how often we eat – even when we eat alone!
7. Gender Differences matter when it comes to food choices
Research on this front shows that the main reason why men seem to be more successful at sticking to weight loss plans is simply — evolution!
Women consistently chose unhealthier foods over men and explanation could be that female ancestors had an added responsibility of nourishing themselves and infants, which predispositioned them for higher food intake to lay down fat stores, which would give them an evolutionary advantage in case of future food shortages.
These are not the only factors that effect our food choices but they surely are main ones and it shows that external factors are very powerful as sometimes we have no control over them.
Here is what we can do:
- Establishing a sleep routine and making sure we get 7-8 hours of sleep each night
- Reducing stress will add more quality to our life not only a reduced appetite. Remembering that sleep and stress are related.
- Keep active as exercise not only helps us burn calories and keeps our appetite under control, but it can also help with stress reduction.
- Educate yourself about nutrition, nutritional balance of foods, what our bodies need and certainly learn to read labels as better knowledge and engagement with nutritional content of foods does lead to healthier choices.
- Surround yourself with the community of fit and active people who are a positive influence on your health efforts.
- Be aware of clever food marketing – awareness can help you in now falling pray to their influence.
It has helped me personally to realise how blessed I am with the community of our 4 Week Challenge and a regular 5 Day Challenge as well as my colleagues health coaches. Being more involved in our community, as much as it goes for our participants, it goes for all the coaches including me – is essential to keep health motivation high.
I have made more commitment to improve my sleep routine as well as to keep active.
I realised that periods when I lacked activity is indeed linked to more food consumption, so, I made commitment to keep and stay active as it is incredibly good for my Mental Health too!
I hope this was helpful and will help you identify areas where you need support so you can stop blaming your will power and focus on areas that can make a profound influence on your food choices.
On top of all the above, ensuring Balanced Nutrition and developing a Healthy, Active Lifestyle are essential in ensuring hormonal balance and staying on top of blood sugar control, reduced cravings and hunger control.
Free Online Wellness Test is a great place to start to evaluate how well you score!
Until next time,