Do you ever feel as though someone is always looking over your shoulder every time you eat something? No matter where you turn these days it seems like someone is sending the message that you should change your habits. Eat more of this, less of that and whatever you do not eat anything that tastes good or it’ll send you to an early grave. The message is often interpreted as “I must be content with bland tasting food”. The fact is we are inundated nutrition education messages warning of the dangers of an improper diet. As a practitioner of nutrition I feel overwhelmed at the seemingly endless exhortations to mend my unhealthy habits. I can only imagine everyone else feeling the same as I do in this case. I then begin to wonder if all of these warnings are making a difference.
Statistics citing an increase in overweight and obesity in the American population cause me to doubt how well the nutrition education messages are being received. Furthermore, there are reasons to seriously question the effectiveness of such well meaning messages stemming from surveys asking people to list their favorite foods. At the top of the list year after year are burgers, fries, pizza, and doughnuts. With untold millions of dollars spent annually for this type of education it appears as though we are not getting a good return on our money.
If money and the availability of education won’t keep us from making poor nutrition choices and we continue to crave foods that most say are bad for us what then should we do? In my characteristically unscientific way I have some suggestions and solutions to offer. These are observation taken from real experiences in my everyday work in this area.
First it must be understood that most, I believe greater than ninety percent, people already know how to choose a healthy diet. Rarely do I meet someone who hasn’t heard some version of choosing lower fat foods with more fruits and vegetables. Most are well versed in this dietary doctrine with some having reached master level. More education is no necessarily the missing ingredient, what is needed is motivation.
A majority of those I talk with need motivation to implement the education they already possess. Herein lies the great dilemma, the proverbial “You can lead a horse to water but won’t make him drink” sentiment. Until a person creates their own motivation and decides for themselves to make changes regarding nutrition and health it will not happen. No amount of urging, exhorting or down right brow beating will effect change in someone until they change themselves by conscious decision.
Personal motivation comes in many forms but rarely does it come from a handout or poster published by a government agency. Early mortality will not convince some to change. I personally have years of study on the subject of nutrition and health under my belt and that is often times not motivation enough for self change. Health is a little like inheriting money. Some will squander it quickly and wonder where it went. Others will invest wisely and live comfortably for years to come.