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Healthy behaviour is abnormal behaviour

Posted: Jan 29, 2013

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Healthy behaviour is abnormal behaviour

I attended a fantastic behaviour modification workshop last week and that was the line that stood out most.  Indeed, if you consider how our brains our wired vs. the environment we live in it is difficult to argue.  Here's why:

1.  Pleasure Principle - we are programmed to move towards things that are enjoyable and flee from pain and panic.

2.  Path of least resistance - this can be summed up with the example of our tendency to use the escalator instead of the stairs when faced with the option.  Don't believe me?  Next time you're at the mall watch how many people use the escalators compared to the stairs or how many people take the moving sidewalk at an airport.

3.  Preference for short term gain regardless of long-term consequences - If given the choice between an apple or apple pie, what would you choose?  Most likely the pie even though by making that type of choice repeatedly you are increasing your chances of becoming obese, developing diabetes, heart disease, cancer.  It's not entirely your fault; studies suggest that sugar activates the same area of the brain as cocaine.

4.  Our environment is tilted towards unhealthy behaviours - escalators, long hours spent sitting, the constant availability of high-calorie foods (why is soda sold at office supply stores exactly?), the normalization of eating in restaurants (where the average entree will run you about 1000 calories) instead of preparing home-cooked meals.

5.  Socio-biological reasons for eating - such as for comfort, to manage stress, based on financial status, the people we're with at the time, the food that's available at a given moment (which is the top determinant of what and how much we'll eat). 

Mark McGill, RD