Even though the necessity of healthy food habits in promoting personal and environmental well-being has been emphasized on for quite some time now, the past decade has seen the slow emergence of developed means and methods to carry out the same. Today, companies are specifically directing products and services aimed at a consumer base that is increasingly determined to direct its way of life to a more healthy turn, whether it is through the massive database of videos and articles guiding the change into a more healthy diet, food challenges within social media, or specific food products that can be consumed as healthy alternatives. Evidently, consciousness with respect to diet and eating is reaching new levels.
But of course, there are many of us who are hovering at the boundaries, wondering if we are truly brave enough to jump the line and cut out the carbs from our diet, wondering if it’s truly even worth it to have that full meal during breakfast, and also constantly being plagued by weight gain, an unnatural degree of lethargy and a feeling of constant fatigue. And then there are also some of us who do not understand this hullaballoo around healthy eating, and think that we have come so far following our more or less normal diet—what’s another day?
We have been told for long that an apple a day keeps a doctor away, but very few of us believe or even recognize the need to change our food habits, no matter how many extra data charts we see on the alarming rise in non-communicable diseases, or the bulletin articles on the benefits of a healthy diet.
Why we eat the way we do
We must remember that our generation has borne several tumultuous changes—industrialization has meant most of our lives within the growing urban spaces are full of stress, overexertion and mental discomfort. Coupled with this, we have the rapidly developing sector of technology that is constantly reaping an enormous boost by means of providing excessively easy-to-access relaxation services, birthing the entire ‘Netflix and chill’ franchise. Day-to-day routines of people then, provide truly limited access to sit under trees or watch the night sky, to take a walk along a river or simply sit for a while with our close ones. Since we have been so overused by our painfully hectic schedule, we cannot go that extra mile and revive our interest in books; we just press the remote and watch some TV.
Needless to say, despite being the single most important aspect in a person’s life, food is given little importance. Ordering out is so much easier than making some homemade dinner after a long day at office, work stress forces you to binge on those burgers, pizzas and fries more than you’d like to admit, the option of having salad on an already bad day depresses you even further and those super easy-to-cook readymade packets of meals that can be made under a minute in a microwave provide you with a quicker, cheaper alternative to cooking a tedious meal. It is not a surprise then, that unhealthy eating habits is something most of us possess. The national health survey (2015-16) conducted by the Indian government’s Health Ministry made some eye-opening revelations. According to an article on Livemint, the survey showed, “Over half of all Indians, especially women, eat an unbalanced diet devoid of fresh fruits, green vegetables, pulses, meat and milk products that are needed to lead a healthy life”.
Why do we need to change the way we eat
That there is a problem is evident. But research also suggests that this problem must be eradicated to reap long term benefits in one’s well-being. So, let us try and push at least one or two of us over to the other side and tackle the big issues of why we need to change unhealthy eating patterns in the first place. Extensive medical research has revealed that chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, PCOS, hypertension, etc. are directly linked to deteriorating food habits within the international community. Fried foods and unhealthy beverages have shown to increase the risk of having these diseases by a significant margin. Contrarily, such diseases can almost certainly be curbed and controlled to a great degree by regulating food habits.
Further, studies also suggest that healthy food habits also spike up the likelihood of happiness and overall mental well-being as well. Many psychological issues that mar most of the people in our generation, of which stress and anxiety are one of the most primary, can be changed by means of a healthy diet. The microwaved instant ramen might save us a few extra minutes on a late night, but it causes us much more harm and does little to soothe our already tense nerves. According to Medical News Today, “In 2016, researchers found that a diet with a high glycemic load may cause increased symptoms of depression and fatigue”. Our perpetual fatigue from tough days of rigorous schedules can be cured by a good dose of healthy food enriched with necessary nutrients.
Lastly, we must also remember we are not the only ones worthy of attention in this planet. Our current food habits have not been good news for the environment. Non-vegetarianism in particular, has been linked to the deteriorating climate conditions. According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, “Scientists say that food production including growing crops, raising livestock, fishing and transporting all that food to our plates is responsible for 20% to 30% of total global greenhouse gas emissions.” We must also not forget that the capitalist economy has nurtured an industry that fosters all our unhealthy food patterns, we all know how many flourishing joints all fast food companies globally possess. In such a situation, following dietary recommendations can actually make a change for not only individuals but also the environment.
How do we change the way we eat
This is perhaps the most difficult part of the entire process of persuading non-believers of rallying over to the healthy food bandwagon. Even if one believes the truth of the facts and figures that have just been presented, how can he/she implement this in his/her own life? There are three steps. The first is to keep reminding ourselves of the necessity of continuing to tread on this new path once we have made a decision. Being committed to any goal means you need to truly believe in the benefits of what you are doing.
The second is to remember eating healthy does not mean eating bland, tasteless food. There are great options and mouth-watering recipes provided by professional chefs, food media companies as well as diversified food products such as organic fruits and vegetables, vegan substitutes, alternative cheat foods to fast foods and so on. If you look for it, you will succeed in making your changing food habit a path to discovering a plethora of new tastes.
Lastly, force yourself to factor in a cost-benefit analysis of continuing to eat unhealthy– the serious harms you will incur for yourself and the environment for a few moments of momentary ease far weigh out the benefits. Every human being more or less follows what he/she finds rational. This analysis is just a way to do just that and prove to yourself that beyond a point, it makes little sense to have a poor lifestyle.
Give that little nudge to yourself and have that apple, the doctor, as the saying goes, will stay away. We didn’t say it. Scientific research did.
**To resolve this dilemma and make it a tad bit easier for you to make this leap of faith, Indianfolk provides to you a new series on healthy food— a set of articles that guide you through the steps mentioned above, inspiring you to stay committed to a goal that will make you as well as the world you live in better. Stay tuned to the site for our next issue.**
Picture Courtesy- NPR