Retrain your body! How to make yourself eat healthier

How to make yourself love healthy things, according to an expert


Doing healthy things can feel like a battle between the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other.  The devil impels me to order the bacon burger for lunch, but the angel nudges my hand toward the salad. This dichotomy goes way back in Western thought. Plato likened the process of making such choices to the charioteer of the soul commanding two horses, one ‘noble’ and the other wicked.  This allegory echoes throughout history in various forms. Other ready examples include reason versus passion as described by the Greeks, the Judeo-Christian battle between sin and redemption, and Freud’s account of the psyche’s superego and id.  Our intuitions about healthy behaviors are deeply shaped by this history. Plus, hard choices simply feel like we are being pulled in two directions. Getting to the root causes of healthy behaviors is important to science because they are a big part of individual and public health.  All about mindset: Elliot Berkman, a psychologist at the University of Oregon, explains that the way we define ourselves plays a large role in whether we pick a salad over a burger The leading causes of death in the United States – cancer, heart disease and respiratory illness, among others – are all caused at least in part by our behavior.  As a society, we could reduce the onset of these afflictions by learning new ways to change our behavior. Despite the intuition, health behaviors are not the result of a battle between two opposing forces.  So what are they? My colleagues and I recently suggested that they are the same as any other choice.  Instead of a battle between two forces, self-control of unhealthy impulses is more like a many-sided negotiation.  Various features of each option in a choice get combined, then the total values of the options are compared. This is kind of a fancy version of a ‘compare the pros and cons’ model. Problems with the battle analogy  5 WAYS TO LOVE HEALTHY FOODS  1. Mix healthy foods with your guilty pleasures: Add kale to your sausage omelette Add veggies to your pasta Add avocado to your burger 2. Season it Many see healthy foods as lacking in flavor. Try adding some lime, garlic, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, soy sauce, cinnamon, or vinegar.  3. Find healthy foods you like and eat more of them Maybe you’re not a salad guy, but you like a stew or tagine. Increase the proportion of vegetables and decrease the amount of meat in the mix. 4. Make it sociable You could start a lunch time health kick with a colleague, making different versions of avocado toast every day. Another option is to hold a dinner party where you make shakshuka or fish with a vegetable side. 5. Healthy swaps for sweet and salty cravings Use dates in smoothies instead of syrup Try fruit and nuts when you have a sweet craving Lime and lemon access similar taste buds to those that make you want more sodium, so add a few more squeezes before you hit the salt shaker Put a jar of water in the fridge overnight with slices of fruit (orange, strawberry), mint, cucumber – instead of turning to fruit juice or soda These days, psychologists refer to the dichotomy in Western thought as ‘dual-process’ models of health behavior. Such models come in many varieties, but they share two notable features.  First, they describe behavior as a winner-take-all battle between two opposing forces. There is no compromise. Whichever force is stronger dictates behavior. Second, beyond being in opposition to one another, the forces are also inflected with a moral tone, with one being good and the other wicked.  The devil impels you to do bad things, the angel advises toward virtuous ones. Psychologists call the warring parties impulse and control, or hot and cold processes. Casting behavior in the stark terms of pros versus cons is intuitive but might not be accurate. After all, our minds contain many more than just two systems for making decisions. READ THE FULL


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