I love this word, truthiness. Thank you, Mr. Colbert. The word has a certain playfulness to it, some ambiguity that allows for the bending of truth. Ever do that with food or with your weight? I bend it all the time. “Cookies? What cookies? Didn’t even know we had any in the house, couldn’t have eaten them.” Or, in response to my partner’s inquiry of how the scale treated me, “Oh, it wasn’t that bad of a weekend, only a couple of pounds.” Truthiness has afforded me that flexibility.
How about the word “healthiness”? I hadn’t heard that one before yet it jumped out at me when reading a soon to be published study in the journal Appetite. Seems we all judge “healthiness” of food a bit differently, especially if we are focusing on our weight. I love this highlight from the article:
“Consumers’ ideas of weight management (WM) and healthiness are intermingled.”
Without knowing the definition of “healthiness” I would agree. The article summarizes some interesting concepts on how we approach food and I’ve excerpted a paragraph here:
“According to many studies, people are relatively well aware of the principles of healthy eating that support weight management (e.g. Holm, 2003a, Margetts et al., 1997, Niva, 2008 and Paquette, 2005). However, research also shows that putting this knowledge into practice in everyday eating and food choices is problematic. First, health advice and nutrition guidelines may be challenging to reconcile with everyday life with its social and work-related commitments, time constraints, food traditions and taste preferences (Ely et al., 2009 and Holm, 2003a). As Ristovski-Slijepcevic, Chapman, and Beagan (2008) have suggested, people’s ideas of healthy eating draw on various kinds of cultural and traditional, nutritional as well as ethical discourses. Official health advice and nutrition guidelines are only one, albeit important element in this whole. Second, the generic advice is targeted for ‘average’ people and does not easily take into account individual nutritional needs or skills. Third, for non-experts it is challenging to estimate calorie or nutrient contents of foods let alone meals. Studies have shown, for instance, that people easily overestimate the calorie contents of ‘disreputable’ foods with unhealthy images and underestimate the calorie contents of ‘reputable’ foods with healthy images (Oakes, 2005; see also Carels et al., 2006 and Carels et al., 2007). Meanwhile, the market with expanding varieties of foods with differing nutritional contents and increasingly detailed claims on their health benefits, presumes people to be watchful and invariably concerned with nutrition and health aspects of food.”
Yesterday I mentioned the difficulty I have with real world eating. That is to say self-moderating when outside my normal food environment. Good to know that others have a hard time “putting this knowledge (principles of healthy eating) into practice in everyday eating and food choices…” The other pieces that caught my attention in the above paragraph are that people’s ideas of healthy eating come from a diverse array of information and that generic advice doesn’t take into account individual needs or skills as they relate to nutrition. Preach it, Sister Mari!! We overestimate calories of bad foods and underestimate the healthiness of “reputable” foods, like apples? You don’t say? Ever rationalize the energy bar you’re snacking on as meal replacement or say that the pre-made meals and snacks that your weight loss company promotes are good for you? We assign a high degree of healthiness to foods we are told are healthy and that we inherently believe to be healthy. This is a key to why we eat what we do.
People will repeatedly and consistently speak to the negatives of a small amount of high calorie, high fat chocolate while also screaming from on high that 7 cups of cottage cheese are healthy. When, in fact, 7 cups of cottage cheese are way more energy dense than 1 ounce of chocolate. We believe what we are told, we believe what works for us in keeping the “bad” food away, and both lead us to why we eat what we do. Healthiness matters. We just have to get it right.
Based on our own experiences we all ascribe different healthiness values to different foods. When listening to others tells us what to eat that experience gets lost. What to do? What to do about real world eating when faced with foods that I feel lack healthiness? Enjoy in moderation. Don’t have 7 cups of cottage cheese, have one. 6 cookies? Try 2. I just haven’t figured out how to moderate yet. Simply walk away? Easier said than done.
As far as I can tell healthiness may be described as how much I believe a certain food will impact my weight. Based on my individual experience I may think a food to have more healthiness than you. Why do I think a certain food has healthiness and you don’t? Personal experience, advertising, locker room conversations. Why do we eat what we do? Because we believe what we are told in terms of healthiness. Just because Weight Watchers tells us to replace our meals and snacks with their food, doesn’t mean we have to, and it doesn’t mean those choices are healthy.
Just another piece of the puzzle I find fascinating. Inherently we know the principles of healthy eating, yet, as the above excerpt makes clear, we have a difficult time deploying that knowledge. Healthiness is personal. Healthiness is challenging. Healthiness is moment by moment.
Damn, this weight management and food stuff is complicated. I am going try to moderate.
Thanks for letting me ramble.