Making Behavior and Lifestyle Changes
Food for thought: Does simply telling someone to do something, or judging someone for not doing what you think is right, actually help that person change their behavior?
As an Official NEM Nutritionist, I wanted to take a moment to bring what may be a different perspective to the table. Some may be familiar with these concepts; some may think I am way out in left field. Life is a lot about perspective, so even if I can give a new perspective to a few people I am okay with that. Here are two concepts that are just food for thought! They are usually very detailed and complex, but for the sake of this post I want to be as straightforward as possible.
1) Behavior change. Our group is based a lot around the changing of lifestyles and behaviors. Behaviors are psychological, and deeply engrained. They are habits, and a lot of times when it comes to food-related behaviors they are even addictions. They are very difficult to change, which is why many different theories and models in the scientific field that are used to explain behavior change. I don’t want to go into detail of course because you are all busy moms and don’t have all day to read a post that sounds like a lecture. The key message I want to bring here is changing behaviors is HARD. It involves many different steps and factors to change a behavior (e.g., motivation, education, support, confidence, etc.). If you think ‘clean eating’ and living a healthy lifestyle is hard and you are alone because everyone else is making progress or some people make it look easy – think again! We all have difficulties at some point or another (we just don’t always show it, especially on social media), and with the right support and motivation (and accepting that we will have set-backs and no success comes without failure), we can overcome them.
2) Social Determinants of Health. This is another concept I don’t want to bore you all with and go into detail, but I just want to introduce for those of you who may not have heard of it. This is a premise that lifestyle choices are largely shaped by many different factors, including: income and income distribution, education, unemployment and job security, employment and working conditions, early childhood development/experiences, food insecurity, housing, social exclusion, social safety network, health services, aboriginal status, gender, race, and disability. Each and every one of these factors influences the choices that we make, and we don’t always have control over a lot of these factors (a lot of these factors are set by society, and individuals have no control over this). Just one example (there are many other examples, but again for the sake of us busy moms): people in various family situations (from low to middle income; single to two parent households), cannot afford a healthy diet. This is by no means their fault for many reasons, one being the cost of living (has risen significantly, and increase in wages have not kept up with the many costs of living (food, shelter, transportation, childcare, etc.). This means many families cannot afford to eat healthy, but it is not their fault. Now there may be many other factors that influence say a low-income families’ ability to purchase a healthy diet – e.g., knowledge, skills, childhood experiences, stress, etc. So as you can see, a person’s decisions around food can be very complex!
We are all human. For the most part we have good intentions and want to support and help each other by giving advice and what works for us, and we do an incredible job! Some days we might have a bad day and post something in the wrong way. Misunderstandings can happen. I get it and I think for the most part we all do. We are all busy, and most times trying to post something in between other daily responsibilities. BUT, I do know there are moms in here who feel overwhelmed at times with conflicting advice, and/or they feel ashamed because certain things that they perceive as the ‘right thing to do’ doesn’t fit their lifestyle. These feelings can really hinder someone’s progress. Telling someone to do something is one thing, but again, we all have different factors that affect why we do what we do.
My 2 takeaway messages are: 1) try to be a little more understanding of just how many factors influence a person and the decisions that they make. If we all try to be a little more understanding of this, we may be able to support each other even more than we already do; and 2) if someone gives you advice and it works for them and not you – that is okay! We are all human, different things work for different people. It doesn’t make us any less of women or mothers. We are already doing so much and are hard enough on ourselves (but shouldn’t be) – so let’s not be hard on each other!