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What Really Influences Our Food Choices?

By Karen Lugay

The influences on our food choices, and therefore on our eating patterns, fall into several categories. These include--

Personal factors:

our values and our senses
the resources available to us
family and community.

The Food Factor:

physical setting or environment where our food choices take place and the food itself.

However, dieting and weight loss, as they exist today, seem to put the greater emphasis on the food factor and less on the personal factors that may be even more influential in determining our eating patterns. If you really talk to somebody who is trying to improve their eating habits, you may be surprise to find that the tangible food itself and the place where the eating takes place make up only a fraction of the conversation.

Too many times, it is assumed that if a person were to simply remove 'unhealthy' items from their kitchen cupboards then they could achieve improved nutrition. And with enough support that could certainly be true. But things like our values and resources greatly affect our inner desire to change.

For example ask yourself, as far as values, do you truly see healthy eating as important? As far as resources, do you have access to nutrition outreach and support groups where you live, or have you found resources on the internet that work for you? As far as community do you have family support and are there nearby supermarkets which are well stocked with the healthier foods you wish to be eating and are those foods affordable? How much would those factors affect your willingness to adopt and sustain improved eating patterns? Or maybe they don't matter at all, because perhaps you're the whatever-it-takes type with an unyielding determination to change for the better regardless of the factors-personal or food-related. If this is the case, then I commend you.

But let's face it, weight management is an ongoing behavioral change process. It's about restructuring your inner desire and attitude towards food. Yes you've emptied out all the high-fructose corn syrup items from you pantry as Oprah's famous doctor, Dr. Oz, has indicated, and which I personally am in agreement with (but that's another discussion). Anyway, to get back to the point, GREAT, you've taken a bold step. Now you're ready to change. But I feel that is taking it backwards. You have a genuine readiness to change first, and while you're in that mode, then you empty out the cupboards knowing that you have some willingness to stick to a new nutritional regimen.

And be sure that this is a true readiness to change, not just guilt or shame. If you are coming from that place, you are only pulling out that 'pesky whip of condemnation', and while you may see results, you will certainly not be happy. And you are not very likely to continue doing something that makes you unhappy for very long.

To begin to get into a true readiness to change and improve eating practices:

-Start with a self-help book that has nothing to do with nutrition-Recognize that the way you relate to food is greatly mental and emotional and start addressing this.

-Only identify yourself with the object of your desire-If you see others the weight you wish not to be or having the eating patterns you wish not to have, don't say "Gosh, is that how I look?" or "Is that how I eat?" or "Do I look as bad as that?" or "Do I eat as bad as that?". Imagine only what you want to be and admire others who exemplify that with the thought that you are already what you admire in others.

-Focus on your own ideals-Why? Because other people's ideals make a really lousy framework for your personal goals. Remember that the personal factors impacting other's food choices and practices are unique to them, and those influencing yours are unique to you. Be honest with yourself, and start with writing down the details of your own personal factors (values, resources etc) as they relate to food. Use that as the basis for the new goals you set for yourself or for deciding what you need to do next in terms of weight management.

Karen Lugay is a Registered Dietitian living in the New York City area. On the subjects of nutrition and weight management, Karen believes that these are never one dimensional. Therefore overall nutrition should be eclectic and enjoyable at the same time. She also shares this view on the topic of exercise. Visit her website, http://www.bellymovesebook.com to sign up for her free nutrition newsletter and to discover one of the unconventional exercises of choice which she recommends, Belly Dance, in her compelling book "The Day I Heard My Hips Move-How as I did, You Too Can Transcend Limited Time, Zeal, Firsthand Knowledge, and Other Perceived Hurdles to Orchestrate Your Own Belly Dance Journey".

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