Are there people in your life who can’t take ‘no’ for an answer? Are you lured into making unhealthy choices all too often? Read this article to learn about the many types of food pushers and how to strengthen your defenses and be able to push back.
Food pushers are all around us. Every day, we’re bombarded with the wrong messages about food. TV commercials, billboards, and radio ads are constantly showing us images of happy, attractive people enjoying greasy fast food, judgment-impairing cocktails, and dehydrating caffeinated drinks that decrease brain function and lower your self-control.
Corporate America is highly skilled at pushing people to eat and drink things that are not good for brain health.
Restaurants and fast-food joints train employees to “upsell” as a way to increase sales and subsequently, expand our waistlines. Here are some of the sneaky tactics food sellers use to try to get you to eat and drink more:
- Do you want to supersize that for only 39 cents?
- Do you want fries with your meal?
- Do you want bread first? (This makes you hungrier so you eat more!)
- Do you want an appetizer?
- Do you want another drink?
- Do you want a larger drink? It is a better deal!
Your response to all of these questions should be, “No!” Eating or drinking more than you need, just because it’s cheaper, will cost you far more in health care problems in the long run.
Why do restaurants serve baskets of bread before each meal for free?
Why not cheese? Why not almonds, or chunks of beef or chicken? The reason is that bread makes you hungrier and encourages you to eat more.
Bread, especially white bread made from bleached and processed flour, spikes your blood sugar and boosts the natural feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. Serotonin helps you feel happier and less anxious.
On brain SPECT scans, I have seen that serotonin interventions help to relax or lower function in the PFC. When I prescribe antidepressant medications or supplements that boost serotonin in the brain, my patients often say they feel better, but that they are also less motivated. Anything that lowers PFC function makes you more impulsive and less worried about long-term consequences. The bread or simple carbohydrate to start a meal helps you feel better, but also more impulsive when the dessert tray comes by later on. Hold the bread, wait for your meal, and you will be happier with the end result.
READ: 50 Tips for Dealing With Food Pushers
Your beloved friends and family can also make you unhealthy… if you let them.
A 2007 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that your chances of becoming obese increase dramatically if you have friends and family who become obese, regardless of how far away they live.
The researchers repeatedly evaluated the BMI of 12,067 people over a 32-year-period. They found that:
- Having an obese pal increased the risk for obesity by 57% and added an average of 17 pounds to one’s frame.
- Having an obese sibling raised the risk by 40%.
- Having an obese spouse increased it by 37%.
Friends also play a major role in influencing the eating habits of tweens and teens, as demonstrated by a 2009 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Researchers tested the snacking habits of 23 overweight, and 42 healthy weight young people. Results showed that:
- The young folks gobbled up substantially more snacks when they were with a friend compared to when they were with a peer they didn’t know.
- Also, when an overweight kid ate with a friend who was also plump, they consumed more about 300 more calories than if they ate with a friend of healthy weight.
Is obesity contagious? To a certain extent, I would have to say yes. As I like to say, you are who you eat with.
If you surround yourself with people who have bad brain habits, it is easy to get sucked into those habits. In most cases, your friends and family inadvertently influence you to adopt their bad habits. Sometimes, however, they may willfully try to undermine your efforts.
My Own Experience With a Food Pusher Invasion
Recently I came home to a houseful of girls. Chloe had just finished third grade and she invited friends over to swim. As I walked into the house, a mother of one of her friends walked into the house with a box full of greasy French fries, cheeseburgers, and large sodas. I thought to myself, “This is going to be interesting.”
The woman offered them to Tana with a look of pride, “I was at a party and they had food, so I brought you some.”
Tana politely said, “that is not the type of food we eat.”
“Oh come on, its fires, cheeseburgers, and sodas. Everyone likes them.”
“Not everyone,” Tana said, still trying to maintain a friendly tone.
The woman looked at me, “Don’t you eat this way?”
“I don’t think I’ve seen this kind of food in our home for years. Thanks for thinking of us, but you can take it with you,” I said, trying less hard than Tana to be polite.
“I’ll just leave it in case you get hungry.” And with that she left with her daughter.
I looked at Tana and she looked at me. “What just happened?” I said, “It was like we just had a food pusher invasion.”
I took the food and promptly threw it out. I didn’t want to have time to start craving after something that would hurt me.
When you start living a brain healthy life and losing weight, it can make those around you uncomfortable, especially if they are overweight or have a lot of bad brain habits of their own.
Deep down, some people—even those who love you the most—don’t want you to succeed because it will make them feel like more of a failure.
For others, their habits are so ingrained that they simply don’t know how to react to your new lifestyle. Many of my patients notice this kind of behavior with their families, friends, and coworkers. For example, a friend who smokes may thoughtlessly light up in front of you even though you are trying to quit. A neighbor might show up with a box of home-cooked brownies for your birthday when you are trying to curb your sugar intake. At work, the receptionist may bring in doughnuts and coffee for your company meetings, or your supervisor may invite your team to go to happy hour for some high-calorie cocktails.
On the flip side, your new brain healthy habits may rub off on your friends and family!
Once people see the new and improved you, they may be inspired to get on the brain healthy bandwagon.
When you enlist your friends, family, and coworkers to support you in your new brain healthy lifestyle, they will be much less likely to put you in situations that jeopardize your weight loss. It is also critical to create a strong support group of like-minded brain healthy role models, such as our online community, where you can turn for help when you need it.
Related: Influence Others for Their Good
People aren’t the only pushers. Places and environmental cues can trigger cravings and overeating too.
Almost everywhere you go, you will see reminders that tempt you to engage in your old unhealthy behaviors. In the addiction field, they are called “slippery places.” Go to the movies and you’ll have to drive by the fast food place where you used to hang out with your friends and get high. Take a cruise to Alaska because you want to see the beautiful scenery, and you’ll have to face unbelievably copious amounts of food and desserts at the buffet and free-flowing alcohol. Join your colleagues at a convention in Las Vegas and you’ll have to deal with all sorts of temptations that threaten your brain health and recovery.
Even though churches can be very good for your soul, many of them can be terrible for your waistline.
I have gone to church my whole life and lately have been frustrated by the generally poor food they serve their parishioners. Recently, I went to church near my home. My wife Tana dropped our daughter off at children’s church and I went to get us our seats. As I walked in I passed the donuts for sale for a dollar a piece, men were cooking sausage and bacon, and I saw hundreds of hot dog buns stacked up for after the service. I was so irritated that when my wife joined me she saw me making notes to myself on my Blackberry. Giving me one of those disapproving looks that only she can give me about typing on my Blackberry in church, I showed her what I had typed in:
“Go to church and get dollar donuts, sausage, bacon, hot dogs … send people to heaven early. They need to know how to become a brain healthy church.” Tana agreed and forgave my indiscretion. Work to help your church, school, business and family a brain healthy place.
Food Pushers You May Have to Face:
- TV commercials
- Radio ads
- Servers in restaurants
- Cashiers in fast-food outlets
- Vending machines at work/school
- Office/school cafeterias
- School administrators
- AA organizations
- Community clubs
- Movie theaters
- Sports arenas
- County fairs
- Amusement parks
- Brownies selling cookies
- Little Leaguers selling candy bars
- Vendors offering free samples
Learning to deal with, and say no, to all of these pushers in the home, on the town, at work, and at school is critical to your success.
Read the blog, 50 Tips for Dealing With Food Pushers and find tips that will help you push back.