The meaning of eating
Until the end of the previous century, the most important reason for food consumption was to survive. In contrast with the large amount of food we can choose from today, food-scarcity was not uncommon back in those days. After Second World War II, the meaning of eating shifted from ‘eating in order to survive’ to ‘eating in order to enjoy.’ People had more money to spend, food became less scarce, the variety of food increased and different new meals from all over the world were introduced. Cheese, meat, and chocolate were types of food that people associated with good prosperity.
Simultaneously, most agricultural work got replaced by office jobs. This shift, however, later appeared to have a downside: due to less physical activity during the day, the number of people with obesity, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes started to increase. Needless to say that these diseases are nowadays called prosperity diseases. Within this new environment, food became unhealthier and richer in calories, portion sizes increased and ‘ready-made food packages’ were introduced.
I’m too tired to cook
Today, people are used to living in a rush. Contrary to the traditional family roles, in which the father is breadwinner and the mother the caregiver, it is nowadays more common for both parents to work full time. When they come home from work, late in the evening, they are tired and don’t feel like putting effort into cooking an elaborate meal for their selves or their children. Instead, they want to use a minimum amount of time in order to create a proper meal. The ‘solution’: cooking with ready-to-use packages, choosing for take away and delivery food, or eating more fast-food. The result: the expectation that there will be an epidemic of obesity by the year of 2030.
Today, I’m really going to start
Although many people choose ready-made food and fast food over using fresh products in order to win time, we all do have intentions to lose weight and live more healthily. In fact, the desire to slim down is one of the most heard intentions on New Year’s Day. Unfortunately, these intentions usually last no longer than two or three weeks. Recognizable, isn’t it? But why exactly do we find it so difficult to convert our dreams and desires into actions? Psychologists call this the intention-behaviour gap, which can have different causes. For example, you simply forget that you had the intention to change your lifestyle. Or, in more cases, you are very used to eat ready-made food that does not require you to cook for more than thirty minutes. You perform this behaviour automatically; it became a habit. Furthermore, you can also change your opinion about your healthier lifestyle. “Why did I want to lose weight again? I’m not that fat, right?” Another reason is that you simply give up, because you get confronted with all the mental and physical effort it takes to change your lifestyle. Thoughts like “I can’t do this” and “never mind” will start to cross your mind. In fact, it is really hard to change your behaviour and to stick to your commitments. You don’t get immediate results and it requires lots of self-control. Fortunately, psychologists found a way how to break with all your bad habits.
Little changes, big results
There is famous trick to bridge this gap between intentions and actual behaviour, in order to make sure that your dreams do come true. It is called implementation intentions. Instead of setting a goal of desired behaviour, like “I want to lose fifteen kg before summer,” you formulate if-then plans. You visualize these if-then situations as lively as possible: “If I get into situation x, then I will perform behaviour y.” Even more effective is to also sum up the reasons why you think this is important for you. For example: “The next time I crave for another piece of chocolate at work, I will eat an apple because this is healthier for me.” Or: “When I come home from work this afternoon, I will prepare a salmon and vegetables dish for my children.”
Do Something Different
Although this method of implementation intentions has been proved to work many times, it requires quite a bit of energy and brain capacity to implement intentions successfully. Also, you need to practise continuously with the technique in order to change your lifestyle on the long term. This can be effective for many people, but there is another method that can help you with changing your behaviours and improving your lifestyle. This method is developed by one of our partner companies: Do Something Different. The idea is that instead of thinking about changing your behaviour, which is the base of implementation intentions, you perform small actions to actually do change your behaviour. These small actions are called Do’s. These Do’s are personalized and customized to your actual lifestyle, behaviours and habits. They take you out of your comfort zone, but in an unobtrusive and subtle way. By continuously performing these Do’s, you will be able to break with your habits and improve your lifestyle. This requires less energy than implementation intentions, since the Dos are so easily to perform. If you want to know more about this method, please visit the website of Do Something Different: http://dsd.me/.