Updated: Mar 12
I want to talk about nutrition right now. Specifically, I want to talk about underlying issues that affect people and that cause them to have ongoing issues with nutrition in general, with weight loss, and with any such topics that you want to throw in there. What I am not going to focus on is motivation. It goes without saying that the first and foremost is thing a person needs is motivation. Whenever we talk about any topic motivation is an underlying necessity.
Pushing motivation aside for the moment if somebody struggles with nutrition, with troubles with weight loss, with eating for health, etc. there are two underlying issues. This applies whether the person 300 pounds or 125 pounds, male or female, young or old, wants to lose weight or gain weight but cannot, etc. The exact details of the person do not matter, as the two underlying issues remain the same.
The two underlying issues are either they have an underlying medical issue that is not being addressed or they have habit and/or behavioral issues. Perhaps I should not say and/or but instead say habit/behavioral issues because we often talk about them as the same issue. Regardless, the underlying issues that prevent someone from achieving nutrition-based goals will be an underlying medical issue, habits/behaviors, or both.
Underlying medical issues that prevent nutrition success Underlying medical issues can be anything from insulin resistance to digestive issues to hormonal imbalances that affect the way the body digests and absorbs food and the nutrients therein. If a person has trouble digesting certain foods or if the body reacts oddly to food, reacts bad to foods, it can really affect the way that person feels. Underlying medical conditions that may affect nutrition include:
The list is not exhaustive, and many other conditions, both minor and major, may affect the way a person’s body process food and therefore be an underlying issue that affects nutritional success.
Underlying habits and behaviors that affect nutritional success We talk about habits / behavioral issues we're talking about issues mental sticking points that people may or may not be aware of that interfere with their nutrition-based goals. That is why we say behavioral and habit, because for some people they are in habits that they are very well aware of but they are not doing anything about. With some people it is more like an underlying behavioral issue that they are not aware of and are therefore not addressing it. These can be emotionally eating, eating food as a reward, binge eating, and other behavior that go beyond just bad habits and tie into a person’s overall psychology. In many instances, there behaviors are rooted in years of pattern making and people have their emotions so tied to food that a change in behavior needs to be made to affect changes in nutrition.
Examples of “bad” habits
Not counting all foods and condiments such as a healthy snack like carrots or a condiment like ketchup
Grabbing a few nuts from the nut bowl at home multiple times without thinking
Not planning meals in advance
These are simple things that can we have encountered with clients are that are usually easily correctable by making person away, given that individual is motivated. People do not include these things because they don't think they do not matter. In reality, here and there, these things go not matter, but if a person regular does not account for these “mindless” habits, the cumulative effect can add up. For example, one ounce of nuts has 15 grams of fat. If a person walks by the nut bowl at home and grabs one ounce—which is a very small amount—three times per day, the result is 45 grams of fat, which equals 405 calories. If a person is trying to lose weight, that 405 additional calories will make a difference. Even 100 can. In these instances, people simply need to be made aware and to be motivated.
Examples of underlying emotional behaviors The underlying emotional behaviors are far more complicated. For example, you have likely heard the term “eating their feelings.” When we talk about people eating their feelings for we mean that when they are emotional—generally upset like they're crying, depressed, etc., but it could be anger or happiness or anything— the person eats to calm the emotional response. In essence, they “eat” their feelings because they are trying to eat themselves to feeling better.
Related, is eating as a reward is very common in many cultures. Food is a big part of socialization, when people get a promotion, when kids do school, or when people are happy about achieving some goal. These individuals will often go out to celebrate and one of the most common things that people do when they go out to celebrate is have food and/or drinks. This becomes ingrained from an early age with people. For example, when you were a child and did something good, you might be rewarded with candy, going out for ice cream, etc. This becomes an ingrained behavior and people continue to reward themselves over time. Most people have this under control. Others do not and they reward themselves for every little thing.
From here we start to delve into recognized eating disorders such as binge eating. The National Institute of Mental Health notes:
“ People with binge-eating disorder lose control over his or her eating. Unlike bulimia nervosa, periods of binge-eating are not followed by purging, excessive exercise, or fasting. As a result, people with binge-eating disorder often are overweight or obese. Binge-eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the U.S.
Eating unusually large amounts of food in a specific amount of time, such as a 2-hour period
Eating even when you're full or not hungry
Eating fast during binge episodes
Eating until you're uncomfortably full
Eating alone or in secret to avoid embarrassment
Feeling distressed, ashamed, or guilty about your eating
Frequently dieting, possibly without weight loss”
As with clinical mental/emotional disorders, treatment through therapy is often advised, and part of that process will include engaging in positive nutrition habits. These are not the only emotional eating habits and eating disorders present, but these are the ones we see most commonly.
A few final thoughts People do not end up overweight, and certainly not 300 pounds, overnight or because they want to. Many people who struggle with nutrition are affected by more than one of the above issues. Often these people are not aware, and once they become aware, may feel lost for what to do. Their habits, their behaviors, are internal and produced through years of acting in the same manner. The things I bring up here are compounding and working in conjunction with each other to prevent somebody from being successful so there. Medical condition, underlying behaviors, and mindless habits can all lead to a lifelong struggle with nutrition, weight, health, and emotions. The thing is, a person can make changes by recognizing, acknowledging, and facing these issues. They will often need the help of people around them, such as friends, coworkers, and family, and may need to help of professionals, such as therapists, nutritionists, and trainers.
If you are someone struggling, reach out to friends, colleagues, family, and/or professionals.
Thanks for reading, if you want to find a find a personal trainer and nutritionist to help you or someone you know, we can help. From our Women’s Weight Loss Plan to our Online Nutrition Coaching to our various online fitness programs, we have a solution. Visit our site to learn more.
Nathan DeMetz holds degrees in Exercise Science, Business Administration, and Information Technology as well as certifications in strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, run coaching, and other areas. His credentials come from organizations such as Indiana Wesleyan University, Ivy Tech College, and the International Sports Sciences Association. Nathan has 17 years of personal and professional experience in the health and fitness world. He works with people from across the globe, including locations such as Kuwait, Australia, and the USA.