When will we decide that the way we have been fighting obesity isn’t working?  

The New York Times reported today that health officials are surprised and disheartened that the news about obesity is still so grim. About 38% of American adults were obese in 2013 and 2014. That’s up from 35% in 2011 and 2012. Read the NYT article.

Sugar consumption is down. Soda consumption is down. Calorie consumption is down. And yet, obesity is up.

Nutrition education doesn’t impact habits as much as health officials hope.

Nutrition education is predicated on the belief that “you do better when you know better.” As much as I like that philosophy, it just isn’t true when it comes to eating. Indeed, the more we push healthy eating, the more we medicalize the meal. Everyone knows that medicine can make you better, but nobody actually enjoys “eating” it.

People eat for hedonic reasons. Here’s one study that proves the point.

It’s time to change the conversation from nutrition to habits.

When it comes to nutrition education, we’ve done an excellent public messaging job. Not so when it comes to habits.

The more you know about nutrition, the more you know about food. Habits tell you how to translate nutrition into behavior. And there are only three habits people need to know.

  • Proportion: Eat the healthiest foods the most frequently
  • Variety: Eat different food from meal-to-meal and from day-to-day
  • Moderation: Eat when youo’re hungry, stop when you’re full and don’t eat because you’re bored, sad, or lonely.

Sadly, most people I encounter can name the food groups but they can’t name the healthy eating habits. When we don’t know how we ought to eat, it’s almost impossible to eat the right way.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~