Why is it so hard to eat healthy?


Nagina Abdullah


December 3, 2018

Why is it hard to eat healthy

You want to eat healthy, you try to eat healthy, but it seems like it’s always an uphill battle. Why is it so hard to eat healthy? Well, our bodies and brains are wired for food and pleasure, and we live in an age where it’s way easier to eat unhealthy convenience foods. It’s not impossible to make healthy eating easier, but it does take some awareness and reframing.

It’s all too familiar. As you lay down in bed at night, you feel the flab you hate so much spreading out. Your tummy is bulging out as you lie on your side, your thighs spread when you roll over on your back. It feels like there’s no escape from feeling bad about your body.

But it’s not just vanity. You know the extra fat around your belly can lead to heart problems and other health issues right? Changing your diet can combat this (check out the benefits of honey and cinnamon), but excess belly fat could be a sign you are already in trouble.

You know that eating the way you do means your insulin sensitivity could be at risk. Lying there in bed, you resolve to “do better tomorrow.”

But when tomorrow comes, that still small voice is silenced by the opening of a bakery or deli window case as you snatch your morning bagel and try not to think about what you promised yourself last night.

In this post, I’ll discuss some of the top answers to, “Why is it so hard to eat healthy?” We’ll look at,

  • What is the “bliss point” and why is it making us fat?
  • Why it’s so easy to default to packaged food that’s bad for us
  • Why we’re addicted to unhealthy food, and how we can become addicted to healthy food
  • How you can start eating healthy, actually enjoy it, and stick with it (even when you have ZERO free time)
  • Strategies and tips to trick your cravings and eat healthy no matter what

Why is it so hard to eat healthy?

First of all, we have to eat to survive, and it’s also pleasurable. The food industry is well aware of this and takes advantage of it. (1) Did you know that there is something in the food industry called the “bliss point”? It’s just the right combination of sugar, fat, and salt that makes a food incredibly delicious and powerfully addictive. (1,2) Ask them, “Why is it so hard to eat healthy?”!

Restaurants and packaged food companies know about it and exploit it as much as possible. The more addicted we are to their products, the more we buy and the more money they make. And they market it to us everywhere. From TV to social media to subway posters to billboards. It’s SO unfair!

Eating healthy can be hard enough. Find out how to lose weight when there’s no time to exercise here.

There are times when eating healthy is especially hard. Here are instances when you have to be extra vigilant because of these pitfalls that make eating healthy hard. (3)

  • Vacation mode – It’s easy to let loose a little too much when you travel
  • Lots of business lunches – So much restaurant food!
  • It’s someone’s birthday at the office or they brought it a treat “just because”
  • Going out with the girls
  • When you or someone you love gets sick
  • You break up with someone or (maybe especially) you get broken up with
  • Stressful seasons at work
  • Job loss or starting a new job

Many of these can result in emotional eating. My client Tree lost 8 inches from around her waist by overcoming emotional eating habits. Here’s her story: How to Stop Emotional Eating Forever And Lose Weight

Why is it so hard to know what to eat?

Another answer to “Why is it so hard to eat healthy,” is that highly processed, unhealthy food is typically a lot easier to get. It’s readily available at every corner store. If you’re walking home completely depleted and low on energy, it’s way too easy to pop into a convenience shop and buy something you’ll regret in 5 minutes. There’s a low barrier to entry. (4)

On the other hand, healthy food takes a bit more hunting. You have to be tactical about what route you take so that you end up near a restaurant that serves salads, real meat or legumes, or any actual whole foods.

Make healthy eating easy with this FREE Beginners How-To Guide for Easy Meal Planning

And you have to be careful about places that market themselves as healthy. Some are actually loaded with sugar like some smoothie shops or have healthy veggies and meat stuffed inside a small loaf of bread that you’ll eat in one sitting. Confusing marketing can be another answer to “Why is it so hard to eat healthy?”.

Struggling to eat healthy is normal … at first

We used to need a lot of high-calorie food to survive back when we were hunting and gathering. Food storage wasn’t an option. We had to eat as much as possible when we could, because who knew when we would have food again.

It’s possible for the human body to survive on only water for up to 2 months (though not recommended). (5) Our ancestors may have gone weeks at a time without food, though they probably stocked up nuts and tubers (starchy root veggies like sweet potatoes) to get them through the lean times. So, we’re wired to like high-calorie food out of a survival instinct.

For example, a hunter might bring home a nice big woolly mammoth or a score of fish. The primitive settlement dwellers would celebrate and chow down on the giant cooked beast before the meat started to spoil. So, protein has always been essential to our survival. (6)

Gatherers would bring home eggs (more protein) and nuts, tubers , berries, and other fruit. The natural sugar in the fruit was the sweetest thing these early people ever ate!

Now we’ve developed food that’s way sweeter and saltier than nature’s, and it’s everywhere all the time. The ultra flavorful food we create in factories drowns out the simpler and healthier food offered by nature. (2)

Make healthy meal planning stress-free with this FREE Beginners Guide to Healthy Meal Planning.

The good news is, even though we’re genetically predisposed to liking bombastically flavorful food and we’re addicted to it, addiction goes both ways. You can actually slowly start to change your tastes and become “addicted” to healthier foods if you start eating them enough. (2)

It’s happened to me! My body is so used to my anti-inflammatory diet that when I eat processed junk food, it’s never as good as I “remembered.” And I actually prefer food that makes me feel and look better now. My body craves it.

Why is it so hard to eat healthy
Get one of my favorite set-and-forget healthy comfort food crock pot bean recipes here.

How do you begin to eat healthy?

Establishing either good or bad habits takes time. It’ll be really hard if you go from eating pasta and bread every day to just salad all at once. Gradual, small changes are the way to make lasting change stick. (2)

This is a big mistake a lot of people make. And then they ask, “Why is it so hard to eat healthy?” You have to ease into it and you have to enjoy it to be able to stick with it.

Finding exciting recipes with healthy food that are easy to make is essential so you don’t get bored. Here are some easy meal planning ideas to help.

Easy Spicy VEGAN One-Week Meal Plan

Easy Spicy VEGETARIAN One-Week Meal Plan

Crock Pot Chicken Tikka Masala + 6 Other MUST-TRY Healthy Crock Pot Meals

Here are some practical tips for eating healthy even if your week is crazy busy and you have with no free time.

  • Make your own healthy, low-sugar smoothies at home and take them to work. You can keep them in the fridge and shake them up when you get hungry. Voila! You get a subtly sweet, filling, and satisfying smoothie in seconds and don’t feel deprived.
  • Take advantage of grocery store hot food bars. A lot of health food stores like Whole Foods have them, and the regular grocery stores are doing it now too. Choose lean proteins like chicken, fish, tofu, egg and steamed or grilled veggies. Get more ideas for how to eat healthy without cooking.
  • If there’s no hot food bar, there might be a salad bar. Make sure your salad has protein like chicken, fish, tofu, egg or healthy fats like avocado to help you stay full. Use olive oil with salt and pepper for dressing.
  • When you do make a nice big healthy meal on the weekends (maybe an easy one, like this delicious crock pot chili) store half of it in a glass container in the freezer. Then when you come home late one night, you can just microwave it and have a healthy meal faster than it would take to get takeout.
  • Some days you’re just too swamped to pack a healthy lunch, or you’re out of healthy leftover dinner food. In that case, do some research ahead of time on what healthy lunch spots near your work you can fall back on if you have to. (3) Look for places with lots of veggies, protein options, and healthy carbs like lentils. Avoid fried food and go for grilled or steamed.  
  • If you’re feeling totally overwhelmed by someone’s leftover birthday cake in the kitchen, take a walk. (3) A little exercise will boost your mood and get your mind off of the junk food. It’ll also help you connect with your body and remember why you want to stick to eating healthy.

Do you wonder “Why is it so hard to eat healthy?” When do you struggle the most with eating healthy? What tricks have you found that help you stay on track? Let me know in the comments!

Grab your guide to easy meal planning so that you CAN start eating healthy and stick to it happily.

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Nagina Sethi Abdullah, BA, MBA

Nagina Abdullah is a health coach for middle-aged women and professionals. She coaches women to boost their metabolism naturally, shed pounds and keep them off. Her work with weight loss clients led to the creation of Masala Body, an online weight loss platform that provides an easy and accessible system that helps women sustainably lose weight. She has helped over 1200 women successfully lose from 10-80 lbs and create a sustainable lifestyle change. Nagina earned her degree in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley.

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