Why do we eat unhealthy food? …And how to stop!
Donuts! Burgers! Chips! Some of us know these foods all too well. From busy, young teens to working adults, everyone tends to choose the fastest and most convenient way to select food that allows us to efficiently acquire, devour, and enjoy it. Most of us know the repercussions of eating unhealthy food, but why do we continue to do it anyway? Here are five reasons why we choose to continue to eat unhealthy food and how to stop eating them:
1) We desire the convenience of unhealthy food.
As previously stated, populations that range from teenagers in school to adults working full time careers, everyone tends to indulge in guilty (yet tasty) pleasures due to the lack of time we have in our daily lives. Being surrounded by fast food restaurants and local “mom and pop” eating establishments certainly provides the allure of eating out rather than going back home and preparing a meal. Preparing a meal and cooking our food can seem like an extremely painful endeavor which can be resolved by ordering fast food. When we order from McDonald’s, Five Guys or Jack in the Box, we can expect to receive our delicious and cheap burgers within a relatively short time frame.
2) We eat unhealthy food to ease our anxiety.
While dealing with some of the most stressful parts of our day, some of us might need to be able to cope with our bosses, coworkers, and colleagues by escaping to feast on a mouth-watering variety of chips, fries, and shakes. While having some stress may be ideal for performance based measures, the potential for stress to become ubiquitous in every part of your life can serve as a trigger for us to consume salty, crunchy, and fattening foods to cope with your hectic life.
3) We may perceive eating unhealthy food as our only option.
Some may find themselves stuck in a predicament of being unable to afford a proper meal due to a lack of financial resources. While that statement may be surprising to some, many student readers may find themselves in a situation where budgeting can lead to eating unhealthy food more than what they would like. As previously mentioned, many people may know that eating unhealthy food is detrimental to their health. However, some may physically not have the option to choose their meals based on a healthier variety.
4) We surround ourselves with people who also like to eat unhealthy food.
While individual temptations to eat unhealthy food are hard to combat alone, imagine having to say “no” to some of your friends when they invite you to the popular social custom of “Five Guy Fridays.” While celebrating the end of the week may be grounds for going out to eat, you might find yourself in the midst of a social whirlwind that you can’t avoid. If you have the self-control to say “no” to fast food outings, you may fear that you might lose out on memorable moments with your coworkers, friends, and family. However, if you say “yes,” you can devour that bacon-wrapped hot dog that you’ve also been dying to try since you laid eyes on it.
5) We are conditioned to eat unhealthy food without even realizing it.
As stated previously in reasons two and four, we might choose to eat unhealthy food to cope with anxiety or eat unhealthy food at a fast food chain because of the daily/weekly/monthly social traditions that you or your peers may have planned. There is a possibility that we may become hungry at the mere thought or action of passing by our favorite restaurant. In order to identify the reasons for eating unhealthy food, it may also be just as important to identify the memories that we associate with unhealthy food at that given moment. The sights, sounds, and the totality of experiences you and your peers may have had there can trigger physiological responses that can tell your brain that you are hungry (when really, you had just eaten an hour before). For example: with upcoming exams, the anxiety that a student and his/her peers may feel can trigger a physiological response that causes them to seek immediate relief by ingesting unhealthy food. Having peers that relieve the same anxiety with similar coping mechanisms can exacerbate these unhealthy food habits by instilling these coping responses as not only a physical response, but as a social norm when undergoing “midterm season.”
Now you know some of the reasons why we eat unhealthy food! It may seem difficult at times to kick our poor eating habits, but do not fret! Here are some of the measures we can implement to stop eating unhealthy foods:
Acknowledge that instantaneously quitting ALL of your unhealthy food habits can inadvertently be more destructive.
As much as our intentions are in the right direction, sometimes the most efficient and realistic way of cutting down our habits (and possibly our addictions), is to slowly and gradually cut down the amount of unhealthy food that we consume in a given week. For example, reducing the portion size of any junk food we consume (i.e. switching from large to medium-sized fries), or cutting out any extraneous combos that we order in a meal (i.e. that side of mini-churros that we always seem to order).
Communicate with your friends about your desires to stop eating unhealthy foods.
It’s easier to kick your unhealthy eating habits when you’re not doing it alone! If you
communicate that you have a desire to stop consuming unhealthy food that may be affecting your health, your peers will gladly aid you along the way. Expressing your goals to them reflects a level of trust that you have for your peers and a level of determination that is taken seriously. Set specific goals (like cutting down portions) and have your friends and family keep you accountable!
Educate yourself to understand the negative consequences of eating unhealthy foods.
Education can serve as even bigger impetus towards cutting down on your unhealthy food habits! Doing the research and recognizing the adverse effects of eating unhealthy food may serve to deter you from further going down the wrong path. Understand the nutrients (or lack of) that are absorbed in the body can affect overall performance in everyday life. Recognizing specific consequences such as this will allow you to step outside of your own self and objectively view the situation that you are in to help you stop eating unhealthy foods.
Satiate yourself so that you are less inclined to eat unhealthy food when the opportunity presents itself.
Often times, proximity is an important indicator of food choice (think back to the convenience of having easy access to unhealthy food mentioned in the beginning of this article). Snacking on little bite-sized food (preferably healthy snacks) throughout the day can serve to prevent you from munching on tacos from the taco truck you happened to walk past on your way to look for a decent meal. If you are able to control your cravings by adequately eating during the right times of the day without ruining the majority of your appetite for a real meal, you can find yourself having much better control in being able to say “no” to unhealthy food!
Upon reading this article, I hope that you are able to not only recognize some of the potential reasons why we consume unhealthy food, but also able to utilize the ways in which we are able to combat and stop eating them. Understand your situation, express your goals to your friends and family, understand your hunger and be able to shift your eating habits by educating yourself about the dangers of eating unhealthy food.