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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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What Motivates You?

As I was thinking about what to write about today, I mulled over the past week’s food/nutrition experiences, and a theme definitely emerged. For whatever reason, I heard one particular phrase several times this week from completely different people, “This is really hard!” (in reference to eating healthfully). I would LOVE to hear your thoughts about this. I live, sleep, eat, and breathe nutrition – I truly love what I do for a living and I wholeheartedly believe in it. It’s not difficult for me, but I do realize that for many people, it’s neither simple nor easy.

If you read the Diet Dish, you know that I strongly believe that some of the things that make eating healthfully difficult for consumers are unnecessary. These include banishing your favorite foods, and/or “dieting.” I don’t agree with either one, and I actually think they worsen health and weight.

But, I also know that moderation (i.e. eating splurge foods in smaller amounts or less often) isn’t a breeze. Many of the, “This is really hard!” folks have told me that they really, really like pepperoni pizza (or insert your food here) and don’t want to eat it less often (or eat 1 slice versus 4). I get it. Food tastes good, and eating feels really good in the moment, even if it contributes to problems later (like fatigue, weight gain, indigestion…). And we’re definitely socialized to eat in less than healthy ways. So when I hear, “This is really hard!” I usually pose the following question:

What would really motivate you to “live in moderation?” In other words, what would you get out of eating healthfully that’s more important than what you’d be missing? (remember, we’re not talking about giving foods up here, just changing the way you eat them)

The response is different for everyone, but I know my answer. Eating nutrient rich foods 90% of the time and enjoying my splurge foods the remaining 10% (in smaller quantities) helps me feel really, really good, both physically and emotionally. I know that eating well will reduce my risk of the chronic diseases that run in my family, and can even help slow down the aging process, but day to day, having energy and feeling great is what truly keeps me on track (after all, even though those wrinkles may arrive slower, there’s no stopping them!).

Yesterday, I read an article on Forbes.com about employers offering cash-based incentives to help employees quit smoking. This approach has been tried with nutrition as well. But if I’m being 100% honest, I have to admit that getting a bonus check wouldn't inspire me to change long-term. For me, the motivation has to be personal, internal, and tied to my every day quality of life.

But I’d like to hear from you. What currently motivates you to eat healthfully? Or what might? Would getting $150 cash money move you to eat 5 servings of produce per day and order 1 slice of pizza on Saturday night instead of a large pie? Or is looking or feeling good the key for you? Is it about reducing your disease risk, or something else altogether? And if you’re one of the “This is really hard!” people, are the barriers to following through more of a challenge than finding your motivation (i.e. living with people who don’t value eating healthfully, or using food for emotional reasons)? Please share your thoughts!

photo courtesy of Geek Philosopher
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About the Author


Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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