How Our Brain, Behaviour and More Affect Your Appetite and Food Choices

How Our Brain, Behaviour and More Affect Your Appetite and Food Choices

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You’ve made a decision – you are going to shift the excess weight and get in shape. So you hit the gym and settle into the less-calories-in-more-calories-out formula.

At first, you lose some weight and you’re toning up nicely. But, within sight of your goal, it all stops. Your weight remains the same, you are taut and toned but still… what do you do? Do you give up and accept that you are never going to be a size 8, or do you wonder if there are other factors at play, factors that are perhaps just out of your control?

If that is the case, can you gain control of these factors that affect your life so much?

A Long-Time Survey
A long-running survey in America In America between 1971 and 2008 looked at the lifestyle choices of a pool of over 35,000 people.

The data makes for interesting reading. Whilst calorie intake increased over the course of the study, so too did levels of physical activity.

That said, Millennials are 10% heavier that previous generations. In other words, a 25-year-old today will have to eat less and exercise more to be in the same shape as a 25-year-old from previous generations.

Why is this the case? Researchers think they have identified the causes – medication use has changed over the decades, as have the levels and types of pollutants, genetics, timings of food intake, stress, gut bacteria and nighttime exposure to light.

So, being healthy, trim and slim is not just about eating less and exercising more. Understanding the whole picture about weight gain and why it has changed is one that challenge modern society faces.

Obesity is described as a global epidemic, but here’s the rub – the vast majority of obesity societies are those in ‘the West,’ or the developed world. What we need to address is the cause of obesity.

Some health professionals say that for those with weight gain problems, a lack of self-control is the issue. But now experts are asking, ‘why is self-control such an issue?’

One reason is what scientists and psychologists are calling a ‘toxic environment’.

What is a ‘toxic environment’?
Our exposure as consumers to advertising has changed over the decades. The persuasive sales patter of TV adverts and the Internet have packed our daily lives with subliminal messages relating to energy-dense foods and high sugar drinks.

Our disposable income has led to us eating out more and with super-fast and super-easy online food ordering, with everything delivered to your door at the click of a mouse. With this in mind, you can understand why the environment around us has become ‘toxic’.

But there are other factors that all impinge on how we see ourselves and the relationship we form with food:

  • Personal factors

Genetics, age, gender, race and ethnicity are all factors that affect your diet and your level of exercise. Linked with these personal factors are our emotions.

Previously, it was thought that how we see and connect with food was the only relationship worth considering when looking at why we gain weight, but research has shown that how we react in all manner of situations influences our relationship with food.

  • Community Factors

These are the physical locations you inhabit – school, workplace and home – as well where and how you receive medical care. Also listed in community factors is where you get your food. With some families relying on charity and food banks during the prolonged period of austerity, this can be a real cause for concern.

  • Societal and Family Norms

These are the messages that we are given about what or how we should look. What does society think is the norm when it comes to shape and weight? There are family pressures too – for example, how many of us were told we had to ‘clear out plate’ at the meal table?

Complex Solutions to Complex Problems
Like most issues and problems, if the habits of healthy eating and losing weight were easy, we would all adopt them.

Understanding the complex issues involved with weight, obesity, decision-making, norms of society and family and so on, are all factors covered in our online healthy eating courses.

To help others adopt a healthy lifestyle, you first need to understand your own relationship with food and your opinions on physical activity, but also ground this with knowledge relating to healthy eating choices.
What do you think makes for a healthy lifestyle? What’s your opinion on the emergence of the ‘toxic environment’ theory?

Nick Cooper
Nick is NCC's resident blog author and covers a range of subjects, including teaching and health & social care. NCC is an international learning provider with over 20 years’ experience offering learning solutions. To date, NCC has engaged with over 20,000 employers, and delivered quality training to over half a million learners.
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