Why do we eat the foods that we eat? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Probably not – but you might think about it when you observe other people eating.
In this episode, I’m talking about the very unconscious decisions that we make when we decide to eat one food over another.
What’s super important in this episode is to become aware of WHY we DO make the decisions that we do and then decide if we want to keep making those decisions.
This episode has the potential to be a game changer when it comes to your eating habits.
Hey, welcome to today’s episode. We are talking all about why you make the decisions that you make, when you’re purchasing food. I know it sounds a little boring, but it’s actually really interesting.
And the awareness that you will get from this episode will change the way that you eat. And potentially, help you be a little bit more healthy and intentional when it comes to “should I eat this food or that food?”
All right, let’s get started.
You are listening to the done with dieting podcast. The podcast for women in midlife, who are done with dieting, but still want to lose weight and feel good in your clothes. You know that diets don’t work long term. But you feel like there’s this secret that everyone else knows that you just haven’t figured it out yet.
I am your host, Elizabeth Sherman. And I’ve helped hundreds of women get off the diet roller coaster change their relationship with food, exercise, and their bodies. Through this podcast, my goal is to help you too.
Welcome. Let’s get started.
Hey everyone, welcome to today’s podcast, episode number 62, ‘why we eat what we eat.’ And I think it’s interesting how this podcast episode came about. It’s something that I actually talk a fair amount with my clients about, which is the idea that healthy food does not necessarily equal weight loss food.
And what I mean by that is that if you think about a Venn diagram, so two circles. And one of them is labeled fat loss food, which is what we want to do when we are wanting to lose weight. And the other circle says healthy food that there are some foods that actually fit in the middle, in the intersection of those two categories.
However, I think that it’s really important for us to notice that not all healthy food is weight loss food. And not all weight loss food is healthy food. I wanted to create a podcast episode about this bringing it about. But when I started doing that, I also started thinking about, why is it that we eat what it is that we eat? Like, what determines what choices I make when I make my choices.
And so, this episode bloomed into something a little bit more complex than what I had originally thought of. But I think that it’s all going to come together and at least I hope it does.
So, first of all, I just want you to be aware that I remember when I was going through my own journey and deciding about foods and learning about the food system in the United States. That I was shocked when I realized that food companies, food manufacturers are not actually in the business of creating health.
It’s an interesting concept, isn’t it? That we think that food companies have our best interest at heart. But really, when we think about business, when we think about making cereal, making cookies, making products. What food manufacturers, what food companies, their loyalty actually lies in their shareholders in creating profits.
And when we think about growth in a company, good growth in a company is going to be somewhere around 15 to 25%. So, the percentage of profits that a company has in year one, we want that to be 15 to 20% more in the following year. What’s interesting about food companies though, is that food companies their market, the people that they are selling to, we, as a population only grow a little bit over 1% every year.
And so, how are food companies going to make that margin of 15 to 25% if they’re selling base is only 1%. It’s a conundrum. And this is why when you walk into the cereal aisle, all of the cereal is basically the same thing. It’s just different sizes, maybe a little bit different chemicals to make it a little bit different in terms of flavor.
This is why we have, I don’t know how many, like 10 different types of Oreos. Because companies have to create new products in order to create new demand for those products, right? And so, it’s an interesting idea that when we think about what it is that we eat, why we choose the foods that we choose. We need to keep this idea in the back of our minds that companies, food companies want our dollars.
And why this is important is because every dollar that we spend, whether it’s at a restaurant, whether it’s in a vending machine, whether it’s at a fast food restaurant, whether it’s at the grocery store. Every single dollar that we spend is a vote telling grocery stores, and food manufacturers, and restaurants, what type of food we want to consume.
And what’s even more interesting about that is that with all of this push towards consumer knowledge. So, restaurants are posting what the calorie counts are, their fat grams, their carb grams, protein grams, all of that information on their menus. And the U.S. government is trying to revamp the nutrition facts label so that it becomes more readable.
And we have more information today than we’ve ever had about our food. And yet, we still choose to eat not the healthier option. When you talk to restaurants about their light menus or things like that, people rarely choose the light option. And I think that that’s also just very telling because we all know what we should be doing.
But yet when we go out to a restaurant, we explicitly think to ourselves, yeah, I don’t want to do that. I want to eat what I want to eat. I don’t want to eat this light menu, like the salad with salmon on top. Because it seems like it’s so much more expensive and I’m not getting my money’s worth. And all of those different thoughts that our brains come up with when we’re making decisions about what it is that we want to eat.
And add to that, I think that for so many of us in menopausal years, we grew up in an age when going out to dinner was a luxury. But then as we started to earn more money, then what happened is going out to dinner became more normal. But yet, still in the back of our minds, we think about going out to dinner as a treat.
And so, I want to invite you to really think about how it is that you think about going to restaurants. When you go out to a restaurant, do you consider that to be a treat? And so therefore, you deserve to have whatever it is that you want. You deserve to have the dessert, or you deserve to have something decadent. Or do you go out to eat so often that going out to eat is your new normal.
I’ll tell you that if you’re eating out more than twice a week. I’m going to suggest that eating out is no longer a special occasion. And you need to treat eating out at a restaurant like it’s not a special occasion. Because there’s always going to be something that comes up. But yet, I digress.
So, with all of this information about what we should eat and what we shouldn’t, there’s a podcast that I recorded a few months ago. It’s episode number 27, called how to make habit stick. And in there, I talk about how our environment, and our habits, and our skills, all will support a healthy lifestyle. However, we have to consciously make the decision in order to pursue that.
When we think about knowing all of the information that we know about whatever it is that we’re going to be eating on the menu, it’s really important to understand why we aren’t making that choice. We can have the skill to read a menu. We can have the skill to know whether something on a menu is good for us or not good for us.
We can know whether something on a menu is going to help us achieve our goals or not help us achieve our goals. However, we have to want to choose that thing. And if we don’t want to choose that thing, if we don’t emotionally want that thing that we know is going to get us towards our goal, then we’re not going to choose it. I think that’s really important to mention here.
Now that being said, I think companies know that as a population, we do want to make healthier choices. What I want to point out right now are some of the marketing terms that you may see at the grocery store that are purely marketing terms. And then, there are also some terms that actually mean something, that actually means something through the USDA.
And so, those terms, the terms that actually mean something are for example, organic. And there are three different levels of organic labels that you will see. One is 100% organic, which means that all of the ingredients in that product are organic.
There’s just the plain organic, which means that some of the ingredients are made with organic ingredients. And then, there’s another level, a lower level of that which is made with organic ingredients. Meaning, that potentially just one of the ingredients is organic. So, just be aware that there are a few different labeling ideas there.
Now, when we think about the natural label or all natural. One thing to be aware of is that as far as the USDA and the FDA are concerned, that label only means something if it applies to meat and poultry. So, if you see a packaged product on the grocery store shelf and it says, all natural. That actually doesn’t mean anything as far as the government is concerned.
And be aware that sometimes food companies will also create the appearance of natural. Because it’s something that we want, right? And so, how they create the appearance of natural is through doing non shiny packaging or through packaging that looks like paper bags, so it looks more natural. But be aware that that is all a marketing tactic.
Now, as far as calorie free fat-free and trans fat-free, what those generally mean is that there is less than five calories or that there’s less than one gram of fat in those products.
Be aware that it does mean something, but calorie free does not mean that it’s actually calorie free. It just means that the calories in that product are less than five. And for fat free and trans fat-free, that means that the total fat per serving is less than one gram. And so, be aware that even though it may say, trans fat free or fat free that does not mean that there is zero fat in it.
And then, there are some other terms that you can potentially see on packaging such as reduced fat or light. And so, sometimes those are compared to their full fat or full calorie version. So, just be aware of those terms and really learn to be a discerning consumer.
Now, when I talk to my clients about changing their products. What I do not recommend is that if you are going to do a kitchen make-over that you completely throw everything out. What I do recommend is that you use up your products and as you use each product up. Then, go to the store and spend a little bit of time looking at the other products that are similar to it and compare those products. That’s just a little aside.
Now, when we think about why do we eat the products that we eat, this is actually a really good Segway because when we think about going to the grocery store. We don’t want to think when we’re in the grocery store, we have better things to do. We’re usually doing the shopping when there are other people in the store, and we just want to get the heck out of there. And so, we just pick the products that we’re used to picking.
And so, when we pick the products that we’re used to picking, we did some research on them at one point. And now, what we want to do is we want to reevaluate that. So again, when we think about why do I eat the way that I eat, we really want to now re-evaluate that. And part of that re-evaluation and deciding may come along with a kitchen makeover.
So, I think that the first answer to why it is that we eat what we eat is habit. We don’t like thinking and spending a lot of time around making decisions. Because when we have to make decisions, we get decision fatigue. And when we have to make decisions, we just veer towards the easier thing. And so, I think that number one, the first reason why we eat the way that we eat is because of habit.
Now, when I look back at the course of my life and when I was making different decisions on what it was that I was eating. I think that I actually went through every single reason why I made choices. I remember when I was just out of college and I didn’t have a lot of money, I made decisions based on their price. So however, I could get the most food for as little money as possible, that’s what I did.
There was a period of time where I would actually purchase cases of ramen noodles and that’s what I would eat. And then, I would also get cans of shrimp and I would put those two together. I also remember a period of time where I was mostly vegetarian, simply because eating meat was more expensive. And so, I would eat pasta with vegetables and some sauce on it.
And so, when we think about what different phases we are in in life and what is important to us, you may find that you tend towards certain reasons. And I want to put a caveat right here that there is no better or worse reason. We’d want to get rid of all judgment when it comes to the reasons that we purchase food or the reasons that we eat. And so, price is one of the reasons that could be determining why you make your choices.
Another one might be filling. So, I want foods that are going to fill me up or maybe you have a large family and your like, I need to fill these children up so that they will stop eating. So, I have to stop making so much food. Taste is for sure another option and whether the food is convenient or not. Or potentially, whether the food is quick.
So, again, none of us want to spend hours in the kitchen making food, right? And so, if more convenient and fast the food is, the better.
And then, finally, the question about health. So, do you want your food to be healthy or not? And of course, as we go through this list, we want all of those things. We want our food to be healthy. We want our food to be fast. We want our food to be convenient. We want it to taste good. We want it to be filling and we want it to be cheap.
But within those different categories, I’m going to invite you to prioritize them. Which one is most important? If you had to pick one, which one would you choose? When we talk about health, we can actually break that down into a couple of different subcategories. We can talk about food quality.
So, we can talk about whole foods versus processed foods. We can also talk about organic foods versus non-organic foods. And then we can also talk about, like I mentioned earlier in the episode, weight loss foods versus just general healthy foods.
And so, when we talk about health as being a priority, I think that it’s important to bring that topic up of a couple of different subcategories. Because if you talk to five different health pros, they will probably all tell you different things that you should be eating. It’s just really important to think that through before we actually go through this exercise.
So, let’s go through those categories a little bit more in depth. The first one is price. When we think about food, food manufacturers want to give us cheap inexpensive food. And when I think about who I was at that stage in my life, I wanted cheap food, of course, I wanted quality. But I wanted as much food as I could have for as little cost as possible.
I wanted to get a good value. I wanted to have a lot of food on my plate. And what I wanted to do was I wanted to walk away from that meal feeling full. I did not want to walk away from the table not feeling full, feeling slightly satisfied. And when I learned how to eat for satisfaction versus fullness, it brought up a lot of emotion in me.
So, when we’re focused on price and eating, what would happen for me is when I was at a restaurant, if I received a lot of food, I felt like I needed to eat all of it. And even when I was at home and I would over cook food, I would feel like I needed to eat it because I paid for it.
If there’s one thing that I hear many of my clients say is that we hate throwing away food out of the refrigerator. It feels very irresponsible. I was brought up in a family where we were told, there are starving children in other countries, right?
And so, when we thought about that, it was just a guilt complex. You need to eat all your food because if you don’t, then you’re being disrespectful to the children in other parts of the world who aren’t as privileged as you are because you have this plethora of food.
And so, what happened then is I started this lifetime of overeating as a result. Here’s one good way of knowing that you have a relationship between money and food. And that is if you have a hard time throwing food away. And you feel like you need to eat it, instead of throwing it away.
But be aware, when you’re not hungry and you’re eating food, you are treating your body like a garbage can. I know it’s a really harsh reality, but it’s actually the truth. When we are eating food and we are not hungry, we are treating our bodies like garbage cans.
Throwing food away or saving it for another time is actually going to be more economical than having to eat it all.
What that means is it takes that price factor, and it actually turns it on its head. For me, I felt like I needed to eat it all in order to get my money’s worth. However, I could easily have separated those dinners into two separate meals and eaten each one separately and been fed for two different days. So, that’s the first one.
The second one is convenience. And so, when we think about convenience, what we’re talking about is foods that are packaged, they’re ready to go. And so, we see this a lot with lean cuisines and all of those things that you see in the grocery store. Like protein bars, spaghetti sauces, and foods that are just ready and prepared and pre-packaged.
Be aware though, that as we’re talking about this, not all pre-packaged and ‘ready to go’ foods are necessarily bad for you. And I always encourage my clients to take some help from the grocery store. So, today in the grocery store, they have tons of salads and pre-packaged foods that are actually quite healthy.
And so, use those if you can. Now, you may spend a little bit more money on that. But if it helps you to stay on plan, it might be worth it. I tell my clients that all the time also that when they bring home, for example, a stalk of broccoli and they’re like, ‘yeah, I’m not eating my vegetables because I just don’t want to cut it up,’ which sounds so lazy.
But if it’s an objection that your brain is offering you and it’s preventing you, it’s creating a barrier from you actually eating the broccoli. It might be worth it to purchase the package of precut broccoli florets because you’re going to eat them. Because a stock of broccoli that goes bad in your fridge is more of a waste of money than spending a little bit more and actually eating it.
So, be aware of when you’re looking for foods to be convenient for you, I don’t think that that’s necessarily a bad thing.
Number three is satisfaction and filling. So, be aware that when we’re looking for foods to be satisfying or filling, we generally think about high fat or high carb foods. And I know that for a long time, I had a huge appetite. And so, what I needed to do in order to shift that a little bit was just fill that space with vegetables.
So, there’s a type of eating called volumetrics. And what it is, is it’s just replacing most of your processed foods with vegetables. When we’re looking to be satisfied at a meal, that’s going to be highly individual. Each person is going to find satisfaction based on whether they prefer high fat foods or high carb foods.
And number four is taste. So, something palatable to you. Now, as we shift our eating patterns, it may take a little bit for our palette to adjust to this new way of eating. People who eat out a lot will find homemade foods very bland and boring and need salt or fat. But after about three weeks, our palates will adjust. And we will find those new foods to be appealing again.
And I think that this is one of the problems that we have when we talk about new year’s resolutions. And I want to start cooking at home is the idea that when we’re not accomplished chefs, when we’re not accomplished in the kitchen, and we’re used to eating professional chef foods. Of course, our food at home isn’t going to taste really good. But give it some time, learn some cooking skills, and it will all taste better.
Now, the other thing that I want to point out here is also availability. And the reason that I bring this up is because since I’ve moved to Mexico. I get this question every once in a while, which is how has your diet changed since you’ve moved to Mexico? And I was just talking about it with a girlfriend of mine the other day that I went back to the United States a few years ago.
I was in this whole foods and I was looking at this end cap that had, I don’t know, maybe 30 different types of hummus. And I swear there were 50 different types of kombucha in the cooler. And I remember just being completely overwhelmed at the amount of food that was available to me.
Because of that, I didn’t know what to buy and I ended up buying so much food. Because I was like, well, that looks good, and that looks good, and that looks good. And so, I bought all of these different products that I really did not need for the amount of time that I was going to be in LA. And I remember them feeling guilty for spending all of this money, goes back to price, right?
Spending all of this money on food that I wasn’t going to eat. And so, I tried to eat it. What happens then is we tend to overeat because we overbuy. Because there are so many products that are available to us.
So, it’s one of those things that I just want to call attention to that one of the reasons that you may be eating the foods that you’re eating is because of availability. If the food is not available in your house, you will not eat it. And so, the best way to control what it is that you are eating is to not buy it at the grocery store.
Now, I know that some of you are thinking, oh, but I have children who need this food, or I have a partner who needs this food. Okay, that’s fine, let them buy it. Sorry, a little tough love here. So, you do not have to have that food in your house. And the other thing is that you don’t have to buy the jumbo family size.
Now, again, it goes back to price, right? That if we have this large size, it’s more economical per individual serving. But research shows that the larger the serving, the larger the container, the more we will eat.
So, I started talking about availability. Here in Mexico, I just don’t have access to the types of products that were available to me in the United States. And I think that that actually has been helpful to a certain degree because I’m not buying it. And so therefore, it’s not available to me.
Now, I think there’s positive and negative to that because on one hand, I don’t have 50 different types of hummus. But on the other hand, I don’t want to have a lot of the products that I used to cook with. Like, I used to have an entire pantry full of different flours, coconut flour, rice flour, almond flour. Those are available to a certain extent, but they’re not as readily available to me as they were in the United States. And the same thing is true with supplementation, sports supplementation. So, it’s available, but it’s a little bit more expensive. Moving on.
Now, the last category that I want to talk about is health. So, when we talk about voting for health, again, I think that there are a couple of different factions that we’re talking about. So, we can talk about freshness. We can talk about eating vegetables that are right out of the farm that is x number of miles away from you. Or we can also talk about weight loss as being healthy food. And then, we can also use the organic label as a way of saying that these foods are important.
And so, what I want to do right now is I just want you to think about what foods you tend to eat when we’re talking about health and what do they represent? So, for example, lean cuisines are weight loss, food, right? But we wouldn’t necessarily put them into the bucket of healthy food.
And when we think about rice cakes, and protein bars, and protein shakes, and those types of convenient foods, we’re really not considering those foods as being healthy foods. But they may help you towards your weight loss goals.
Now, on the other side, we have foods like rice, potatoes, avocado, like oil, butter, those are healthy foods. They are very natural. They’re unprocessed foods. However, a little bit goes a long way. And so, we don’t necessarily want to put those into the category of weight loss foods.
However, be aware that we do need to have some fat, we do need to have some carb in our diet in order to be healthy. And so, I think that it’s really important when we’re talking about health that we pay attention to what our beliefs about health are.
And just as a little aside, I always really like asking people the question who don’t know me. People will say, I think that you eat healthy. And so, therefore, I think that you eat this way. Lots of people think that I’m vegetarian. Lots of people think that I’m Keto.
So, it’s really interesting to me when I meet someone new that when they find out that I’m a life and weight loss coach, they will automatically assume that whatever it is that they deem as healthy, that they will project that onto me. And sometimes they’re really surprised with the foods that I choose.
Let’s be aware of what it is that we’re thinking about when we’re thinking about what is considered healthy food? Is it organic? Is it weight loss? Is it vegetarian? What are the thoughts, the preconceived ideas that we have of healthy food? Cause it tends to be a very large bucket. All right?
What I wanted to talk about in this episode was really just pointing out some of the different ideas that we have when we think about what foods that we’re purchasing in the grocery store. And again, I just want you to become aware. Awareness is so important when it comes to everything we do. And so, when we think about our purchasing power. Again, every dollar that we spend towards food is a vote for food manufacturers and restaurants to keep making that food. And they will make whatever we, as a community, as a society tells them that is important.
And so, what I want you to walk away from this podcast episode with is what is important to you, when we think about the different categories of food? So, we have price, we have taste, we have whether the food is filling or not. So, whether we want it to be full, whether we want it to be convenient or fast, or whether we want it to be healthy.
I want to invite you to really consider what is important to you and then make decisions from those values. All right? That’s all I have for you today. Have an amazing week everyone, and I will talk to you next time. Bye-bye.
Hey, Thanks for listening.
If you’re done with dieting, but still want to create healthy habits that are simple, easy to do, & sustainable, I’ve got an amazing resource for you.
The 8 Basic Habits that healthy people do Guide & Checklist has everything that you need to get started.
And if you do these 8 things , not only will your body be the right size, but you’ll probably be healthier than most people you know.
To get your copy of the guide checklist, go to elizabethsherman.com/habits to get started today. See you next week.