If you didn't already know, I currently teach college-level nutrition courses. One is an introductory nutrition course, which I love to teach. Last week, I asked my students to respond to a discussion board question I had posted. I asked them what their major barriers to healthful eating were. The most common answers were: time, money, taste, availability. This is not really a surprise to me. These are very common barriers for college students and really for many Americans in general. During class, I had asked my students what the pros of consuming a more nutritious diet were. Most seemed to agree that better health, performance, and quality of life were important. Many of them raised their hands when I posed questions about what they would like out of life...to stay healthy, feel better, look better, perform better, etc. I guarantee that if I posed these same questions to almost any other audience the answers would be the same. However, saying is one thing, doing is another. The culture we live in presents many challenges to living healthfully. At the same time, many people want the best out of life...to live long and prosper as a Spock might say;)
What's the problem? One quote comes to mind...we often give up what we want MOST for what we want in the MOMENT (source unknown). In fact, there is actual research showing that people do just this. I've read of research studies in which people are offered a sum of money, usually a smaller amount immediately (let's say $5) and a larger sum later on down the road (let's say $25). It appears that people have the tendency to choose the smaller amount that they can get NOW vs the larger amount that they can get LATER. What I spend a lot of time encouraging people to do is one of two things. One is to realize that every action we take is based on a choice. For instance, we can make the choice to go overboard at the smorgasboard on Thanksgiving or we can choose to enjoy a few of our Thanksgiving favorites in moderation. Once we realize that the actions we take are based on choices, we then realize that we actually do have some control over our health. We are able to take responsibility for our health. Secondly, I encourage people to focus on what they really want. What is it that they hope to accomplish or achieve by making choices to eat more nutritious foods and move more? Is it that s/he wishes to improve cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugars? Would s/he like to perform better in sports? Would s/he like to live longer in order to see his/her children/grandchildren grow up, get married, have their own children? In order to keep what we want most at the forefront, I often encourage people to physically make a list of what they want most. I even encourage people to take it a step further...put each reason on a post-it note and post it in different spots (i.e., bathroom mirror, car dash, computer screen, checkbook, blackberry, etc.) as gentle reminders. This can be especially helpful when someone is making new changes with his/her food intake or physical activity since getting started and staying focused is sometimes the most challenging part. As I always say, go after a life of health, you deserve it!