It’s true! Everyone wants a heathy long lasting lifestyle. But, how do we do that? What drives us from healthy to unhealthy eating habits? Well, don’t worry! The answer is right here!
Unhealthy eating habits have become a health concern around the world. Some of them have become trendy. Making people adopt them as a new normal. However, people are unaware of the dangers they pose to health. The main danger posed by unhealthy eating habits is the threat of diet-linked non-communicable diseases. These diseases kill a lot of people every year. And modern medicine can’t do anything about it. That is why we need to go back to the root causes of these diseases. And in this article, we explain factors that encourage unhealthy eating habits.
The first article in this series explained unhealthy eating habits with main focus on Africa. Even though the focus was on Africa, unhealthy eating habits affect everyone. If you haven’t read that article, get it here!
Unhealthy eating habits definition
In “unhealthy eating habits in Africa” the terms habit, eating habits and unhealthy eating habits were defined. Read the full article here: Unhealthy eating habits in Africa.
So, what are unhealthy eating habits?
Unhealthy eating habits can be defined as the incorrect eating of unhealthy or healthy foods consistently. In this, any case unhealthy foods can be eaten consistently. Or healthy foods are eaten incorrectly in a consistent manner. Both of which lead to undesirable health effects. For the definition of eating habits and habits read the first article.
Now, what causes unhealthy eating habits to develop.
Factors that encourage unhealthy eating habits
Different reasons compel people to eat unhealthily. Surely, people can practise bad eating habits knowingly. Nonetheless, a lot more people have no idea what they are doing! Here are the factors that encourage unhealthy eating habits!
Trends and social media
Trends and social media can encourage unhealthy eating habits. People can be easily influenced by online perceptions about how others eat. Social media and online trends can generate guilty about unhealthy eating habits. This generates stress and resignation. Which leads to more unhealthy dietary behaviours. An example is snacking to relieve stress.
Social media trends
A study by Aston University shows that social media greatly influences dietary behaviours. Social media users are more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables. This is due to the current trends in vegan diets. However, they are also more likely to snack on junk food; that is if they think their friends are doing the same. Or if they think it’s trendy or classy. This shows how social media can fuel unhealthy eating habits.
Some people rely on junk food as main meals. This may be due to different reasons.
The study also showed that Facebook users take extra portions of unhealthy foods. Especially, if they think someone does the same. These foods include unhealthy snacks, sugary foods and sugar-sweetened beverages. In other words, people can eat a ⅓ more junk foods if their friends do the same.
Hence, it’s important to note that online trends and social media can fuel unhealthy eating habits.
Online nutrition advice
Most people now search for nutrition advice online and on social media. But some of the popular social media profiles do not belong to health professionals. Most of them belong to social media personalities and celebrities. As a result, most of the information from these profiles can be inaccurate. This becomes a challenge because this can drive unhealthy eating habits.
Other trends include types of snacks that make people look cool. This includes snacks in boarding schools or college. It’s easy to follow a popular and trendy opinion. All this fuels unhealthy eating habits.
Peer and family influence
Peers and family can influence your dietary behaviours. It’s possible to learn or copy eating habits from peers or family. And this is done through daily social interactions. Most people usually discuss diet preferences with family or friends. So any dietary decision they make are influenced by these discussions. It’s easy for individuals to copy unhealthy eating habits from their family.
It’s very easy for a child to hate eggs because their parents do. And they would have been conditioned to do so. It’s also easy for anyone to avoid the crust of bread because their friend hates it! If not, why do you hate the bread crust then?
If people around you encourage certain foods or eating habits, its easy to adopt them. Sometimes the actions and mannerisms are copied subconsciously. So, it’s very possible to mimic these behaviours.
People must be careful about the dietary behaviours they copy. Because it’s very easy to be influenced by unhealthy eating. Especially being influenced by family and peers.
Financial resources and time can influence unhealthy eating habits
To buy healthy foods, you need two things. Firstly you need adequate funds and you need time to shop and prepare the food. Without the other, it’s difficult to build healthy eating habits.
Havin money to finance healthy diets but no time to prepare it
Some people have money but they can’t spare enough time. That is time to buy and prepare healthy foods/meals. Healthy shopping comprises planning and preparing a shopping list. It also entails carefully choosing healthy foods.
People who cannot spare time settle for eating out. Or they can prepare quick fix unhealthy meals. The meals start as an alternative to long food preparation. However, they can develop into unhealthy dietary behaviours. And make people settle for quick fixes or eating out even though they have time.
No time to shop for healthy foods
Whilst some people have the money to buy healthy foods; they lack the time to shop for it. If they don’t have time to shop for food. Then they can’t spare time to prepare healthy meals.
As a result, they end up eating out, settling for junk foods or unhealthy snacks. Therefore, they can develop bad eating habits.
Having a taste for unhealthy foods
Some people may have both money and time. But they opt for classy unhealthy foods. That’s why most medium-income individuals become victims of diet linked non-communicable diseases. An example is Zimbabweans who settle for fried/roasted chicken and French fries for breakfast or supper.
More time, no food!
On the other hand, some people do not have enough funds to buy food. Even though they have more time to prepare. These people cannot make healthy food choices at all. Because they eat what’s available for survival. So, no matter how much they try, their meal will always fall short.
Thus factors play a part in the development of unhealthy eating habits.
Inadequate nutritional knowledge can influence unhealthy eating habits.
Lack of nutritional knowledge so can result in poor eating habits. People lack knowledge about the consequences of unhealthy eating. While healthy eating habits can improve health, unhealthy eating habits damage health. For health eating habits to be practised people need to know why and how.
Knowledge transforms a healthy diet idea into reality. It’s one thing to know that you need a healthy diet. But its another to practice healthy eating habits.
Adequate nutritional knowledge enables planning for healthy meals. It also ensures healthier food shopping and preparation. Therefore, the lack of adequate nutritional knowledge fuels unhealthy eating habits.
Some people have adequate nutritional knowledge. But they don’t have money to buy healthy foods. Making healthy food choices requires access to healthy foods. Even a nutritionist cannot eat healthily if they have poor and limited food choices. So both adequate knowledge and funds help eliminate unhealthy eating habits.
Justifying unhealthy eating habits
Many people tend to justify their eating habits. Even if they are unhealthy, these people find a way to justify everything. The perpetrators give a reason for why they eat unhealthily. And this gives them a false sense of security.
Justifying overeating with exercising
People who do exhaustive exercises are the biggest perpetrators. They eat big portions every time justifying with exercises. But there is always that one time they won’t be consistent with exercises. What will happen then? Of cause, the effects of unhealthy eating will catch up with them. The truth is they won’t be able to quit their big portions on time. And the thing is once a bad habit is ingrained in your mind, you can’t stop. After 5 years of regular exercise, you can still mess up. That’s why people should be wary of unhealthy eating habits.
The other day I posted about the harm vegetable oils can do to health. Someone replied, “Its good for me because I exercise regularly.” Is it? No one exercises consistently throughout their lives. And also bad habits cannot be quickly dropped like tissue paper. This means the moment exercising becomes less consistent. The negative effects of unhealthy eating habits will catch up with you!
“I am healing the body that works”
Some justify overeating because they were doing manual work. They say they are replenishing the strength they lost while working. In Zimbabwe the phrase, “rega ndidzorere ropa” is thrown around a lot. It means “let me replenish the nutrients I lost”. The problem is that the food used to recuperate the body may be unhealthy. Or they will consume more than they used. Instead of strengthening the body, it damages the body.
Overestimating calories burnt by exercises
Also, people tend to overestimate calories lost during exercise. And they will go overeat food and justify it. At the end of the day, they will be surprised to have a potbelly! Healthy eating is an important component of a healthy lifestyle.
People use many different reasons to justify unhealthy eating habits. These 2 are only drops in an ocean.
Poor regulation of unhealthy foods
When the advertisement of unhealthy foods is poorly regulated unhealthy eating results. Why? Because most of the times food outlets mislead customers. They tend to mask the health consequences of their products. Some dial a notch and entice the customer. The poor customer follows their stomach, not the brain. And fall victim to these deception masterminds.
Enticing junk food adverts
If you have noticed, all brochures from fast food outlets are appealing. They make the mouth water. The mind is coerced into buying unhealthy foods. There are no warnings or nutrition information for the meals. You will just suffer the consequences. But the delicious foods won’t be there with you in the future. When nutrition linked non-communicable diseases are doing their work!
Regulations allow for some disclosure by the food sellers. However, this is not enough. Because the human mind is programmed to prefer fatty, greasy and tasty foods. It all comes down to personal control. It also comes down to the knowledge of the dangers posed by unhealthy foods.
Studies show that unhealthy foods advertisements are poorly regulated. Individuals should learn to make healthier food choices. This enables them to see through the aggressive and deceptive advertising of unhealthy foods.
Abundance and easy access to unhealthy foods
Easy access to unhealthy food makes it easier to eat unhealthily. Its difficulty to resist cravings when the unhealthy food is easily accessible. This is the reason why vending machines and fast food outlets are located in places near workplaces or near routes taken from work. The vending machines become snares on the unsuspecting tired minds of the consumers. Consumers who allow hunger and cravings to make their decisions. This is one of the biggest factors that fuel unhealthy eating habits. The same happens at home. When unhealthy foods are abundant, then its easy to eat unhealthily.
Snacking at home
For example, is of snacking at home. Snacks cannot be ignored for long whilst they are accessible. You may try to ignore, they are there. However, you will feel an itch in your subconscious. Something unbearable and desires to be scratched. Oh, let me just taste what it feels like, one is not too much…
Boom 1 hour later, 10 packs of snacks lay at your fit!
Even some workplaces have vending machines for snacks and sugar-sweetened beverages. Rather than go out for a proper lunch, the vending machine becomes the lunch box.
The same is true for young children. If unhealthy foods and tasty snacks are present, it’s difficult to control them.
It is therefore important to try and limit access to unhealthy foods. Access to unhealthy foods both at home and at work limits unhealthy eating.
Role of colonisation on unhealthy eating habits
Did colonisation play a part in the development of unhealthy eating habits in Africa?
Colonisation may be a thing of the past but the effects are still being felt. It has played an important role in the development of eating habits, especially in Africa.
Glorifying junk foods
Some Africans try to mimic foreign and western diets introduced to them by colonial masters. Unfortunately, some of them only mimic bad habits. For example, junky foods are given a high class. Same as foreign foods.
The curse among African teens is that of potato chips, meat burgers and roasted chicken. These are some of the biggest contributors to unhealthy eating!
Denigrating traditional foods
Some have deviated from whole grain meals to refined meals. For example, dehulled maize meal is given a class over whole grain meal. Whole maize meal is associated with poverty and being poor. But it’s known whole-grain meal has several health benefits.
Backyard gardens are seen as a sign of being poor. Whilst buying food from markets is given class. The words “ndiri murungu”, “ndirikudya zvechirungu” and “handidye zvekumusha” are exchanged a lot. All terms used to belittle healthy traditional foods. They also encourage the consumption of unhealthy refined and super-refined foods.
In another world, colonisation may have predisposed people to unhealthy eating habits. Because when people mimic these habits, they mimic only unhealthy foods and meals.
Glorifying overeating encourages unhealthy eating habits
Unhealthy eating habits also start when people glorify overeating. This is common in children. When you brag about how your child eats, much. Surely they are going to want to eat more. Children can be encouraged by simple things. And once they are used to overeating, it’s hard to stop. I have seen people who brag about how their children eat big portions. Now let them try to reduce that portion when they have a Potbelly. It becomes a very big problem. Because whilst overeating is easy, losing fat or weight is not!
It doesn’t stop with children. Glorifying how much people ate at parties or gatherings is also a bad habit. It becomes very easy to repeat the action at every other gathering. And then it becomes a seriously bad habit. The other problem is that overeating in a short period overwhelms the body. This causes a lot of problems for the body.
I have seen people who gate crush parties for food and alcohol. All these contribute to unhealthy eating.
Glorifying overeating tends to encourage unhealthy eating habits. It also contributes to peer pressure, especially among young children.
Body shaming, weight discrimination and failure to achieve weight loss goals.
All these factors can lead to stress, depression and resignation. This results can result in unhealthy eating to relieve stress or depression. It can also result in the development of an “I don’t care” attitude. It means people no longer care about how they look or their health. They just eat what they want. This can lead to serious unhealthy eating.
All of these factors can result in stress and depression. And stress and depression can trigger binge eating. They can also fuel unhealthy snacking. All of which can result in eating disorders.
Many different factors help build and sustain unhealthy eating habits. Identifying them ensures that we avoid them and move towards.
Do you think there is another factor that encourages unhealthy eating habits? Just pop it up in the comment section and I will take a look!