Do you know WHY you choose the foods you eat? When we ask this question the answers usually range from “I like it” (taste) to “it’s easy” (convenience). And while those are the easy answers I think there is a lot more that goes into it that we don’t consider until we start thinking about changing what we eat. That's when we realize we aren't as in control as we thought.

There are a few things that unconsciously control our food choices:

Culture – What you like, what tastes good to you, is much more about how you’ve trained your taste buds than it is anything else. And your taste buds have been trained by the culture where you grew up. How much fat, sugar and salt you like in your food depends on in what part of the world you spent your formative years.

Media/Advertising – Have you ever been sitting in front of the TV and suddenly thought, “hmmm pizza sounds good?” If you can honestly answer no, I’d be shocked. They don’t run TV ads for the fun of it. We are bombarded every day by food ads. They are even on social media. Every time you see gooey cheese dripping off of pasta or potatoes or whatever, you can bet your brain is storing that information away for later.

Cost – Maybe you think that cost doesn’t really drive your food choices. But if you’ve ever thought “organic is so expensive” or this fast-food lunch is only $5 then cost is part of your food choice process. I get that we’re all on a budget. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be. I’m just saying we need to be aware.

Habit – If you watch our daily lives you’ve heard me talk about Pavlovian eating. Eating we do because it’s time to eat, we always have popcorn at the movies or even turkey at Thanksgiving (which is also cultural).

Easy – Yep. Convenience is really a thing. But it’s not just, “this food is here” like at an office lunch. Unconsciously we also think, “Do I need a fork to eat this?” “Do I have to sit down?” “How hard is this to chew?” I had someone tell me that eating plants was hard because it took too long to chew it (that’s a whole conversation for a different day).

Many times, dare I say MOST of the time, what we choose to eat has nothing to do with hunger and worst, nutrition never crosses our minds. But let’s say you’re ready to change that. Where do you start?

Here are a couple of tips:

  1. Notice when you make a food choice. Paying attention is half the battle.
  2. Ask yourself WHY you are making (or made) the choice. Identifying triggers gives us the opportunity to change.
  3. What would it look like if you made a different choice? Pay attention to the story you tell. It is heartache and pain or joy and happiness? The story you tell about food is important.
  4. Look at your cost/benefit analysis. That sounds complicated but it’s not. What are you telling yourself about your food choices and your health (this is part of your story)?
  5. Don’t get caught up in all or nothing thinking – There seems to be a prevailing belief that you either have to eat 100% healthy or throw your hands up and give up. This is not a pass or fail class. If you can average a B+ you’re doing really well!

Try thinking about it using this scale:

A+ = Whole plant foods. Stuff that looks like it came out of the ground (sweet potatoes, fruits, veggies, etc)
A = Minimally processed plant foods (steel cut oats)
A- = A little more processed plant foods (unflavored, instant oats)
B+ = Still more processed plant foods (whole wheat breads and pastas)  
B- = Junk “health” foods (tofu, veggie burgers)
C+ = refined carbs (food stuffs in packages)
C = oil, wine, coffee, fried plants
D+ = Meat, including fish
D = Dairy and eggs
F = Fried meat, dairy and eggs

The unfortunate thing is, eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) will give you an average of a D, D+ at best! I know you can do better than that. Let’s get those averages up by being more aware of what we are eating on a daily basis!

If you are ready to address how your food choices are negatively affecting your health, let’s set up a free get-to-know-you chat. Send me an email and let’s get you on track to taking control of your stress eating.

Dr Robyn is a former competitive volleyball player turned psychologist with continuing education in nutrition. Russ is a former competitive bodybuilder and trainer on the Mr. Olympia Tour. They are the co-founders of Whole Food Muscle and the authors of How to Feed a Human The Whole Food Muscle Way. To work with them one on one to improve your health and fitness or to have them speak at your event or organization email them at