Are People Who Don’t Seem to Need to Watch What They Eat Lucky?
- Mar 11, 2021
Are people who don’t seem to need to watch what they eat luckier? This is a question that has been echoed by many. As we enter the month of St. Patrick’s Day, the idea of luck starts to creep into our consciousness in the search for explanations for happenings both good and bad. People begin to question whether luck plays into picking the fastest line at the grocery store, to more life-altering impacts of luck on health and well-being. Some see people who are considered a healthy weight enjoying a burger and fries and think to themselves, “They are so lucky they can eat that stuff and still be healthy”! How much does luck really play a part in our ability to consume high caloric density food and still be healthy? If it is not luck, then what is it? In this article, we will challenge the construct of luck as an element in our health, with respect to weight. As an alternative to relying on luck, we will also explore eating techniques employed with mindfulness to reach our health goals.
Missing the Full Story
One explanation for those so-called lucky individuals, who seem to eat whatever and still stay healthy, is that perhaps they do not eat this way all the time. Perhaps we have simply observed this person eating this calorie-dense meal that is weekly scheduled. In this sense, it has less to do with luck, and more to do with how this person divides up different types of meals during the week. More likely than not, you probably tend to eat the least healthy and indulge the most when you are with friends, at parties, or during events. Therefore, it’s unfair to both the other person and yourself to assume that the snapshot that you saw of their diet describes their overall eating behaviour. It’s not helpful to compare yourself to something that is not real, so try not to judge the way other people eat unless you know the full story.
We can also consider genetics. Genetics certainly factors into the rate of our metabolism, and at some level it can be considered a crapshoot as to which genes we inherit from our parents, thereby connoting an element of luck. However, biostatisticians will tell you that there is a degree of predictability with respect to the inheritability of certain traits based on regression scales, extrapolation models and other axioms of probability. Within a stated degree of error, there is a certain probability that we will inherit specific genes via a complex cascade of events occurring on a microscopic level that will predict our rate of metabolism. Looking at it this way, not only takes the fun out of it (apologies to the statisticians out there!), but also points us in a direction where luck does not feature.
Luck as Force
One might counter this statistical approach with something more esoteric, and less tangible. Luck could simply be an unidentifiable and mysterious force that garners some individuals the ability to consume foods with little consideration as to the content and still show up at the doctor’s office with cholesterol in the normal range and blood sugars that are stable. This approach serves as a tidy and psychologically fulfilling explanation. Luck becomes a practical tool; it leaves the onus of and power over outcomes to something beyond our control. It is partly this idea of luck having power as to why it has been such a pervasive element in many cultures. There are many amulets, symbols, and figures devoted to actualizing the concept of luck. When one concedes their outcomes to an external force, the psychological term is referred to as having an “external locus of control”. Alternatively, when one alters their environment to steer the events to their desired outcomes, the psychological term is referred to as having an “internal locus of control”. A natural, healthy progression of thought is to forgo anchoring one’s health outcomes on luck and instead bring the locus of control internally. Once someone has identified what factors are within their locus of control, they can employ a self-determining mindset that will make it easier to build positive habits based on what they have personal agency over.
Locus of Control Mindfulness
What can we do to increase this internal locus of control, and remove luck from the equation? One approach is mindfulness. We have touched on this in previous posts; in this post we will take a deeper dive into what this looks like. To understand what mindfulness is, it is helpful to define it. Mindfulness is tuning into our innate ability as human beings to exist in the moment with full awareness of our surroundings by employing all of our senses and interrogating the situation, while simultaneously maintaining our emotions to minimize reactivity to our environment. When in this mindset, we are focused only on what we are doing in that moment. According to Seguias and Tapper (2018) individuals who mindfully eat, eat fewer calories. A meta-analysis by Fuentes Artiles and colleagues (2019) resulted in the same conclusion. Evidence supports the engagement of mindful eating as an intervention for improving health outcomes related to weight.
To mindfully eat, it is preferable to be in a controllable environment. Of course, this is not the case for many of us, much of the time. Yet, if we can find the time and the space to do this, even a few times per week, the trajectory of altering eating habits can be positive.
When mindfully eating, attempt to reduce as many distractions as possible. This can mean putting the mobile in a drawer, turning the TV off, or walking away from the computer/tablet/laptop. If possible, sit at a cleared-off table with your meal. Before starting your meal, take a moment to observe your surroundings. Notice the lighting, the tabletop, the comfort of your chair, the smells, and any noises. Involve all of your senses. Next, turn your focus to your plate. Notice what is on there. Think about where the food came from. Appreciate the colour of the items, the smells emanating, and the arrangement. Now visualize what the food will taste like. Imagine the flavours, textures, how the food will sound when you bite into it, how it might feel between your teeth and going down your throat. Now take a bite. Really pay attention to all of those aspects you just visualized. Notice the food entering your mouth. Notice the fork in your hand and on your tongue and teeth. Focus on the consistencies, sounds, flavours, and smells. Concentrate with all of your senses throughout the chewing and swallowing actions. Take a few seconds between the bites. Place your fork down. Take a sip of your beverage and let your mouth be completely clear of any food before starting this procedure again with the next bite and continue this throughout your meal.
This will be a time-consuming way to eat however, by slowing down the eating process and tuning in to each of your senses with those bites, satiety can come more quickly. Again, it will be challenging to eat this way at every meal. For those times when you can eat this way, each foray into mindfully eating may start to strengthen over time.
This post ends here, and I would like to end it with this; good luck with your mindful eating and Happy St. Patrick’s day! (wink;-))
Fuentes Artiles, R., Staub, K., Aldakak, L., Eppenberger, P., Rühli, F., & Bender, N. (2019). Mindful eating and common diet programs lower body weight similarly: Systematic review and meta‐analysis. Obesity reviews, 20(11), 1619-1627.
Seguias, L., & Tapper, K. (2018). The effect of mindful eating on subsequent intake of a high calorie snack. Appetite, 121, 93-100.
Bernadette van der Boom-Bebb