People with weight problems face a difficult, even toxic environment. The temptation to eat is constant, powerful, and compelling. If you pause for a moment to think, you might be surprised by how we accept this without the slightest protest.
Think of the number of fast food restaurants you can find within a 15 minute drive of your home. Most now have drive-thru windows, which make it easier and faster to get loads of calories and fat. Most now serve breakfast and some are open 24 hours. Nearly every service station has been closed and remodelled to contain a mini-market and almost every mall has a food court. There are vending machines everywhere and fast food chains, like McDonalds, are showing up in airports, airplanes and even hospital lobbies.
The marketing is marvellous. ‘Value’ meals, simply means more food for less money. You can get larger drinks and more fries at a “good price”. (Not a good price for your health, mind you)
Food advertising is also a problem. Some of Madison Avenue’s brightest minds are working to convince us that we should eat foods that can often be very high in calories, sugar and fat. The average American child sees 10,000 food commercials each year: 95% of which are for fast foods, sugared cereals’, candy and soft drinks.
Thus, we are exposed to a toxic food environment. (I should not blame the food industry totally, since our friends and family also want to ‘supersize’ us – look at the amount of food at any party or wedding!) We are exposed to and are encouraged to consume things that can cause deadly diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. (Extra fat cells themselves are cancer producing). Why do we get so upset with cigarette advertising, but are passive when it comes to food advertising for our children?
What all of this means for you is that you must find creative ways to resist the environmental pressers to buy unhealthy foods. Part of this lies in developing an attitude, in some cases an angry one. If you see the junk food in the food courts, remember that they are in a business to feed their high-fat, high calorie foods to as many people as possible. Resist.
The other way to deal with this pressure is to be aware of what’s going on and avoid exposure as much as possible. When you can, avoid going near these places. If at the mall, stay away from the food court. Don’t be tempted by food in those mini-mart places at gas stations. Just drive by those ‘fast-food’ places. (You have good quality food at home). Just keep alert.
If at a party, have a plan. You don’t have to eat to excess simply because a good friend or family member cooked amounts of food your body doesn’t need. Eat slowly. Enjoy the food – just enjoy smaller quantities of it.
It’s tough. So keep on trying. It’s a lifelong process, of learning and planning. You can do it. Just don’t ever give up.
Dr Doug
(This has been adapted from a portion of the book, “The Learn Program for Weight Control”)