Healthy Eating: The Hidden Barrier

By: Dr. Joanne Cohen-Katz Posted On Feb 05, 2017

So, you and I have probably read tons of books  on how to eat healthy.  In fact, you could probably give a lecture: that is, if you aren't totally confused by all the advice, AND overwhelmed at the reality of doing it on a consistent basis in your own life.

But did you know:

In study after study, changing your eating habits and maintaining that change  has proven to be nearly impossible for most people.

That's right, in study after study, people can lose weight over the short term, but over time the majority of people gain it back.

Why is that?

Well first of all, unlike smoking or drinking, we can't just stop the behavior.  We have to eat.

Second, the cues to overeat and indulge (cue the tune...You deserve a break today...) are absolutely everywhere.  Corporate entities pay huge amounts of money to get you to overeat and then others pay money to get you to diet.  But that's a whole other blog post.

Third, we all "use" food to produce changes in our mood and emotions.  Whether we call it "eating for comfort" or "eating because I'm stressed, angry, lonely," most of us do that.  And it does create a powerful physiological change for us temporarily (of course), and also is a strong habit or conditioned response.

And I could probably go on and on.

But I also think there's another, related reason...and that's what I referred to in my blog post title:

THE HIDDEN REASON why it's so hard to maintain a change in eating habits.

It's because...if you really want to eat healthy, you have to start working towards having more balance in your life.

If you are tearing your way through life at 2000 mph, can you really have the time to prepare healthy food, eat well, and find healthy solutions to being angry, lonely, tired or stressed that don't involved food (or another addictive substance).

What do I mean by  a balanced life?

A life that includes adequate time for work, relationships, play, spirituality, and most important: the things that replenish you and refill your well.  For me it's exercise and meditation, but for you it might be getting outside, or writing, or singing, or drumming, or something else.

No, no I have a busy life, you say.  I don't have time to balance it, whatever that means.

I get that.  I never did either.

But I've come to understand that this is the reason I could never reach my goals and maintain them.  

And most importantly, I've come to understand what is driving me to create and live in a crazy chaotic world.  Because some of the choices to live the way I do come from ME.  Yes, I am a working mom who is of "advanced age" with teenagers, and my salary is not optional.  But it turns out, I often make the problem worse with my decisions and the hidden beliefs that underlie them.

What are some of those beliefs?

Well, I need to be perfect to be good enough.  That translates as: I have to be a fantastic mother and also have a career I'm really, really very proud of...

If that isn't a set up for being out of balance and overeating what is?

Through a lot of hard work in therapy and on my own, I have been healing the parts of me that are convinced I will be (fill in the blank: bored, depressed, unworthy) if I simplify my life and let go of some of the clutter...especially in my work life.

So...I would suggest starting with some questions:

What would a more balanced life look like?

What is in the way of that?

If you answered that in a way that implies you have no choice, ask again....

Why can't I have a more balanced life?

What beliefs do I have that are getting in the way of that?

See if that opens any new doorways to understanding why healthy eating has been a challenge.  I welcome your feedback and responses!


TAGS: Behavioral Weight Management, Healthy Living, Enhancing The Healthy Lifestyle
About the Author
I have been a licensed psychologist since 1992 and have worked in a variety of healthcare settings, including a primary care office for over 20 years, and in my own private practice. I have expertise in mindfulness based techniques, and in a strength based approach. While my approach is not explicitly religious, clients of all faiths have told me that it fits beautifully with their spirituality and religious faiths. I believe that compassion from the therapist to the client, and ultimately, from the client to his or herself is at the root of all psychological and emotional healing.

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