8 Reasons Healthy Eating is Hard (And How to Overcome)
There’s no doubt that healthy eating makes your life better. A high-sugar, processed foods diet leads to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. People across the world are dying from these diseases right now.
Many people start their health journey with vigor and enthusiasm. Some begin after a swift kick in the butt and with a frown on their faces. And still, more haven’t even started.
No matter where you’re at on your journey, eating healthy is hard. And making the switch can be difficult for many reasons.
8 reasons that healthy eating is hard
Healthy eating requires forethought. Lots of forethought.
You’re switching from a diet you’ve been on for your entire life. You know that diet like the back of your eyelids. In fact, you know it so well that you don’t even think about what you’re going to eat and how you’re going to prepare it.
But one small change and your world flips upside down.
Something as simple as adding a salad to your dinner menu once a week can throw you off kilter. Now you have to add this new item to your grocery list.
You have to search for it in the grocery store. Do you buy the packaged salad or the free salad hanging with all the other free veggies?
If you bought the free salad, how do you prepare it? What meal do you eat it with? What dressing do you use? Do you serve it by itself?
The questions are endless. And all you did was add one new item to your diet. That’s why you have to plan ahead.
When you plan ahead you can answer all your questions before you get to the store and before the salad goes rotten in your fridge.
Most people believe that planning ahead means making a meal plan and creating a grocery list. While that is part of the equation, it’s not the whole shebang.
Planning ahead means answering all your questions before you step foot in the grocery store.
If you educate yourself first and then make the changes to your diet, you’ll know exactly what to buy, how to prepare it, and why you’re even eating it.
I’m all for throwing new food items in the buggy. But if you don’t do some form of learning beforehand (or immediately afterward) you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Education can be as simple as a quick Google search. The information on food and health are endless. There are plenty of blogs (like this one) willing to answer your questions and then some.
What seems like a daunting question one minute is answered in next. You’ll be smarter and wiser for the effort. And one step closer to making healthy eating easier.
So you’ve educated yourself. You’ve searched more than once online for information. And if you’re extra motivated, you’ve also read a book or two on your preferred diet. But there’s a problem…
You read two contradictory pieces of information. Now you’re confused, doubtful, and uncertain about all the choices you’ve made so far. You’re even considering throwing in the towel. And it’s easy to see why.
There’s a lot of misleading information out there. There’s misleading dietary and nutritional information. And there are misleading marketing labels on food packages and advertisement.
So here’s what you should know: don’t believe labels, packaging, and advertising unless it’s from a qualified source.
Also, when it comes to conflicting nutritional info know there’s always a middle ground.
Take all information into account, and compare what you’ve learned. Then turn to your body for wisdom on which path to take. Does your body need animal products? Should you go gluten-free? Do you need a carb-rich diet or a fat-fueled meal plan?
If you’re not sure, try each diet and see how your body responds. At the end of the day, you should be feeding your body what it needs. Your body talks, so listen. Listen to your body. And take what experts say with a grain a salt.
So now you’ve got your mind right, and it’s time to cook. You bring the same skills you had before (if you had any) but nothing turns out like you expect.
Different foods need different cooking skills. If you’re cooking the same stuff as before, then no problem. But when you throw in new types of veggies or meats, you’ll need new skills.
If you’re learning to cook for the first time, then the learning curve will be the same either way. But now you can learn to cook healthfully.
The best way to learn to cook is from others. I learned to cook first from my mom. Then as I learned to eat healthier my step-dad taught me about sauteing vegetables. Since then, I’ve picked up tips and tricks from awesome cookbooks and talented friends.
In the beginning, you keep it simple and focus on the basics. Over time, you naturally get better. Keep your enthusiasm for healthy eating alive by trying new cooking techniques. A varied cooking style creates a varied diet, which wards off boredom.
Food is emotional for many people. Eating disorders are a serious and complex set of mental health issues. It’s not within the scope of this post to discuss these depths. But it’s important to bring your attention to this side of eating.
For most people, emotions relating to eating won’t be extreme. But everyone’s experience will be different.
When you start your journey to healthy eating you may notice feelings arise with different choices that you make. First, what about how hard it is!? Can you really do it? What if you slip? What if other people judge you? What if you judge yourself? What happens when you binge? What happens if you’re being too strict? Is it okay to change your mind and your diet frequently? What will others think?
It’s best to remember that this is a journey and an exploration. If you keep a playful and flexible mindset, you’ll handle better any turbulence you experience along the way.
If you binge at the Christmas party, you might feel guilty the next day. But reassure yourself and recommit to healthy eating. The emotional side of eating can be healed through continued recommitment no matter what. Yea, you slipped. Forgive yourself and keep moving forward.
You can’t avoid sugar. It’s at the checkout counter, your mom’s house, and your breakroom at work. There’s always some reason for there to be sugar.
A birthday, holiday, promotion, going away party, or the weekend. And with the right reason, I believe you can indulge. But science shows that too much sugar increases your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Not to mention, you can become overweight. And too much can lead to diabetes.
There’s no easy way around this one. The temptations will be there for a long time to come. It’s up to you to figure out how you’ll handle it.
When is it okay to indulge? Can you temper yourself if you do indulge? If you can’t and you struggle to break your sugar addiction, you might consider a program like this one.
No matter where you’re at in relationship with sugar, know that it’s okay. And there’s always a way – and help – to get to where you’d like to be. It’s all a part of the journey. And this is one thing that makes healthy eating super hard.
Culture & Norms
One of the biggest hurdles to healthy eating is cultural and societal norms. In America, the great melting pot, it’s hard to say we have a culture. Or, at least for me, it’s hard to admit that our food culture consists of processed foods, sugar, and alcohol.
But a new culture is being born. Pioneers are sparking change and leading the way.
When it comes to change there are three groups of people. The first group of people are quick to respond to change. They are called “early adopters.” They’re the pioneers and will be right there with you on your health journey.
The second group of people are slow-to-warm. They take a while to trust the changes but change eventually. They might give you flack for change but join you midway through.
Finally, the third group of people are the laggards. They’ll most likely never change. And if they do, they’ll be kicking and screaming the whole way. These are the people you have to watch out for. They’ll cling to the American food culture like their life depended on it. And they’ll scorn you for making any change, no matter how small.
When we embark on a healthy eating journey, we can hope that our inner circles consist of the first group, pray for them to be from the second group, and wish that they’re not the third group. But more than likely, you’ll have a little of each. So be prepared to handle each type of person.
If you come from a culture outside of the standard American culture, then you’ll have your own set of cultural boundaries and norms to hurdle past. It can be hard to break from the collective identity. It challenges people’s notions of self and encourages others to change, who might not be ready to.
All change creates a ripple effect. You can stand back, watch it take effect, and choose to respond lovingly.
Habits are entrenched patterns of being and doing that can be hard to break.
You know. I know. We all know. Because we’ve been there, tried it, failed 500 times, and tried again. We’ve all been able to change a habit or two. But not without effort.
Eating unhealthy food hails back to childhood. You’re in the habit of eating what you’ve been eating since you started eating. And I don’t blame you. That’s a long time.
Take that into consideration as you start your journey to healthy eating. It’ll be a lot easier if you’re compassionate with yourself along the way. And realize that you’re breaking decades-old habits.
That’s a challenge. And when successful, you deserve to be rewarded with praise and acknowledgment!
Despite the challenges we all face when it comes to healthy eating, know that you can jump these hurdles. It may take time. You may need help. No matter what though you can do it.
Health is a lifelong journey. Every day you have the opportunity to choose again so that you can live a long, healthy, and happy life.
In the comments below, tell me what’s hardest for you about healthy eating?