It is a truth universally acknowledged that a writer in possession of a good premise must be in want of a functioning brain with which to execute it. Said brain is best nourished by blood pumped by a healthy heart contained within a healthy body, yes? Unfortunately, we Westerners live in an environment which discourages activity and encourages overeating. Indeed, some have gone so far as it label it “toxic”. The result? More than 70% of us are losing the battle to stay trim and fit.
On WU we’ve had several conversations about staying active and reducing sitting time. (Don’t Take Author Obesity Sitting Down and Becoming a Stand-up Writer.) That’s excellent. Unfortunately, it’s also insufficient. It takes me 15 minutes to consume a grande Carmel Macchiato with soy milk, but 1 hour and 10 minutes of brisk walking to work it off.
In the hierarchy of lifestyle medicine, this is why diet is proclaimed king to exercise’s queen.
Hope for Science-based, Simple Solutions
We all know that diets don’t work. We can talk about the science of this in another post, but willpower is a finite and easily exhausted resource. Turns out it takes as little as 15 minutes of mental effort to diminish the brain’s supply of glucose, thus undermining the part of the brain which weighs the desires of our future self against the present-day temptation.
Nor does it help to frame food choices as a moral decision (i.e. apples = good, chocolate bars = bad). If we do, it’s not long before we:
1) brew an outright home-grown rebellion or
2) deal with the Healthy Halo Effect—having made the morally superior choice to eat a salad, we feel entitled to eat the burger and cookie, thus consuming more calories than we would have otherwise done, all while living in denial about the outcome.
So if white-knuckling doesn’t work, and morality-based decisions backfire, what can move us forward?
If only it was possible to tweak our environment so that healthful food choices could be made by default. If only there was a research team dedicated to disseminating science-based recommendations on how to mindlessly reduce caloric intake on an incremental basis.
Happily, there is such a group. But before we pay them a quick visit, care to take a brief quiz on your food-environment literacy?
- The maximum size of my dinner plate should be ___ inches.
- Assuming two glasses have the same volumetric capacity, which shape encourages me to pour less liquid: short and wide, or tall and skinny?
- What object should be given a prominent place on my kitchen counter?
- True or false: When asked to estimate the calories contained within a specific meal, heavy participants are less accurate than their skinnier counterparts?
- In a kitchen designed to facilitate slimness, the freezer will be in which position on the fridge: top, side, or bottom?
- My fridge should contain no more than ___ juices or soft drinks (diet or regular) or energy drinks in single-serving containers.
- On average we control what percent of our family’s nutrition?
- What item should be placed in the front center of a breakfast cupboard?
- True or false: When it comes to measuring out food portions, food researchers and professional cooks—the experts—are able to compensate for cues like bowl size, spoon size, etc.