Updated: Aug 11
Behavioural nutrition is a fairly recent concept to a certain extent and is still in its infancy as far as mainstream acceptance and awareness is concerned. Generally when people have nutritional goals or lifestyle goals related to a particular dietary approach they simply focus on the food they ingest. Whether it be the type of food, the portion size, the category or a specific premise for these approaches, most of the time the focus is the food. You only have to visit the nutrition section in your local bookshop to find a multitude of books on diets, eating plans and specific nutritional niches claiming to have developed the latest and most effective approach to eating. One thing they nearly all have in common is the lack of focus on the behavior and psychology of people wishing to influence their current eating habits in a positive way. The emphasis seems to be placed heavily on the actual food and not the behaviour behind the choices we make as individuals. Several years of experience in the fitness industry as well as study and my own research, has lead me to believe that the food itself and the choices in relation to this food, are a result of our specific behavioural patterns. Master your behvaiour and psychology and you will master your eating habits.
The Human Brain has a way or normalising certain behavours, this is no different when it comes to food choices. The chemistry of our brain is wired throughout our lives and this becomes a default for us. Unfortunately we also have an addictive brain causing us to lean into problematic behaviours more often than positive behaviours, as they generally require less effort to maintain. Take for example emotional eating. Emotional eating is relatively similar to drug addiction. A person eats to cope with an emotional response and has developed specific neurological pathways, which have been established to create a sense of calm or control when initiated by a stimulus such as junk food. Over time this becomes a problem because the effect of the food on our brain and body has now started to diminish and plateau, causing us to need more food to have the same effect.
We are also highly habitual as is every other species on earth, at least the majority of them, particularly mammals. Our habits also influence our brain and are self perpetuating, forming loops which are based on stimulus and reward. These patterns of behaviour guide us unconsciously through our daily routine without a second thought, meaning your habits may have you eating a certain way in a consistent manner.
Your brain also pulls the strings of influence beyond the awareness of the average person. Imagine you are trying to lose weight but your partner isn't. They decide to buy one of the foods you crave because they like it too. Do you really believe you will be able to resist this food when it is in plain sight? In most cases what will happen is this- you will get hungry and your brain will start working on you. The mere sight of this food will set your brain into action. It will start to influence you towards taking the forbidden fruit by pumping you with chemicals, implanting thoughts and altering your physiology. The next thing you know you have eaten the forbidden food and you don't know how it happened.
Healthy eating is a choice and that choice can only be made by a person who has mastered his or her brain, behaviour and psychology. Once you master these areas, making the right nutritional choices will be is easy.