Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.
You may be familiar with the phrase, 'knowledge is power.' However, knowing what to do and actually doing something are two entirely different things. For instance, you can know what it takes to earn a paycheck, but unless you are willing to go to a job every day and work hard, you will not earn the rewards. The same can be said about healthy living. We all know that we should eat lots of fruits and vegetables, get regular exercise, maintain a healthy weight and not smoke, yet a shockingly high number of people do not apply this knowledge to their life. In this lesson, we will look at the barriers that people face when trying to comply with dietary recommendations as well as strategies to overcome them.
Research suggests that there is a social networking phenomenon at play that influences our dietary habits. In other words, we seem to follow the crowd when it comes to our nutritional decisions. Instead of listening to the experts, the average person is more inclined to take the advice shared by their friends or family or follow advice they read on a blog. This could be in part because people feel a degree of encouragement when their actions align with those in their social group.
The good news is that social influence can work both ways. If positive health messages are spread through word-of-mouth and social media outlets, compliance with dietary recommendations could improve.
Government agencies that set dietary guidelines can also improve compliance by working with social media outlets to develop a supportive dialogue with consumers. This would provide reassurance and encouragement to individuals who want to make healthy changes.
A person's environment influences their eating choices. For instance, the general public faces super-sized meals when they eat at restaurants, and these meals often contain hidden sugar, fat and salt. When the public shops at the grocery store, they find processed snack foods that cost less than fresh fruits. At home, eating decisions can be subtly influenced by easy access to convenience foods, as well as large plates that encourage large portions.
While some environmental factors, such as the cost of fresh produce, are out of your control. Studies have shown that other changes to your food environment can influence the degree to which you are willing to comply with dietary recommendations. For example, eating at restaurants that prominently display calorie counts and ingredients on their menus helps you make healthier choices. At home, you can rearrange your kitchen to make healthy snack foods easier to access than junk foods. You can also serve home-cooked meals on smaller plates. These small adjustments allow you to change your habits without feeling deprived.
Another challenge that we face is the desire for instant gratification. Building a healthy body does not happen overnight. It takes years of healthy lifestyle choices. Yet, many of us fall into the trap of wanting our goals to be reached as soon as habits are changed. This attitude is fueled by advertisements that promise a quick fix. The problem is further complicated by information overload. The massive number of nutrition soundbites, articles and celebrity endorsements that we receive each day tend to result in confusion, rather than action.
A distant promise of a healthy life lacks the motivational drive that many people need to change their dietary habits. To improve your compliance you can use short-term goals, and hold yourself accountable with a daily checklist. By checking off small accomplishments on a daily basis, your motivation will stay strong, and you will be able to make small incremental steps that lead to permanent change.
Let's review. The barriers we face when trying to improve compliance with dietary recommendations include a social networking phenomenon, our environment and a desire for instant gratification.
There are a number of ways we can improve compliance:
- Spread positive health messages through social media outlets.
- Government agencies and social media outlets can work together to develop a supportive dialogue with consumers.
- Eat at restaurants that prominently display calories counts and ingredients on their menus.
- Rearrange the kitchen to make healthy snack foods easier to access than junk foods.
- Eat off of smaller plates.
- Set short-term goals.
- Check off small accomplishments on a daily basis.
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