Food has become such a central part of our social lives, the line between need and want has gotten totally blurred. We’ve evolved into a society who turns to food for pretty much everything – celebration, sadness, stress, relaxation, boredom. Unfortunately, this has led to out of control waist lines, heart disease, and overall exhaustion.
There are a number of factors at play here – our outlook on food, how convenient food has become (especially highly processed foods), and time constraints. Let’s look at each of these, and HOPEFULLY change how we view food and use it in our day.
Food Outlook – As mentioned, we tend to turn to food for a number of reasons (stress, happiness, boredom, etc.). Additionally, all of our social outings revolve around food, whether it’s going out for a meal with our spouse, hosting guests with a huge spread of food, or meeting co-workers for drinks and apps. I think the term “live to eat” is well-suited for this point. We no longer “eat to live”, which is a good thing to an extent. We’re lucky that we have the ability to enjoy a wide variety of food easily, and our food security is high. Unfortunately, we’ve abused this right and now take food for granted. Does a chocolate bar really lower your stress level? No, because whatever is causing the stress hasn’t been addressed. Do all-you-can-eat wing nights make you happier? Maybe you’re happy for the first serving, but when you feel sick later, probably not.
Food Convenience – Food surrounds us. You’d be hard-pressed to turn any major street corner and not be faced with an endless stretch of restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores, and bars. It’s so easy to stop somewhere and grab good-tasting food. Unfortunately, these convenient foods are often unhealthy (or even worse, packaged to make you believe they’re healthy). Without even realizing it, all those stops have added inches to your waist, and many pounds of unwanted weight.
Time Constraints – This is directly related to the above point. We’re BUSY. It’s now more common to have dual-income households, which means both people are out of the house all day, rushing home around dinner time and likely starving. In that case, stopping to pick up convenient food just “makes sense”.
It’s time to change! Canada’s Heath Profile for 2013 showed that 52% of Canadians (over the age of 12) fall into the overweight or obese categories… MORE THAN HALF our population – and you know the stats for children aren’t too far behind that. Changing our outlook on food can make big differences in these stats.
Look at food as fuel – Changing how you look at food can be a good first step towards changing your behavior. The same way you put the proper fuel in your car, you need to do the same with your body. It’s the most important “machine” you’ll ever own – why poison it? This obviously doesn’t mean that you can NEVER eat those “good” foods you love so much. It just means that you need to look at them as a special occasion treat, rather than a daily escape or psychological intervention. If you’re bored, go for a walk or play with your kids. If you’re stressed, address the problem and work on it. If you’re going to a pot luck event, take a healthy dish.
Make time for your health – Yes, you’re busy. We’re all busy. BUT, if something is important to you, you make time for it. And your health should be highly important to you. Set aside a couple of hours on the weekend to cook batches of meat or casseroles which freeze well. Take these out in the morning before work and they’re ready to heat when you get home. Break out the slow cooker and fill it with veggies and meat before leaving the house – dinner will be ready and waiting for you. Even basic things such as chopping vegetables and storing them in bags make for a convenient and healthy snack when you’re bored in the evening. You don’t need to reach for a bag of chips or a tub of ice cream!
Finally, get creative with healthy food. Food is fun, and it’s even better when you come up with something amazing. Grill, saute, bake, or slow cook meat for different tastes, try different seasoning mixes, make “noodles” out of zucchini or “rice” out of cauliflower, broil vegetables as a change from boiling them, and find baking substitutes like bananas and applesauce to replace oil. You can still enjoy the same foods, just start to look at them differently and find healthy ways to include them.
Your energy levels and appearance will reflect what you put into your body. Treat yourself right by selecting better foods. If you eat junk, you’ll feel AND look like junk. You control this aspect of your life! Happy eating everyone!