According to a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, when people were asked to taste food described as "healthy" they reported being hungrier afterward compared those who ate the same exact food described as "tasty." In fact, they felt hungrier than if they hadn’t eat anything at all!
This brain backlash against “labeled” food is what can trigger someone to raid the fridge a few hours after eating a “healthy” dinner (has that ever happened to you?). Even if your dinner provided enough calories, a perfect balance of nutrients and truly was tasty, it’s all about perception.
Certain “labels” (healthy, diet, light, etc.) create a perception, and that perception can be powerful enough to influence your experience. For example, if you won a trip to an all inclusive resort, you might experience it differently if you were told that the trip was worth $5,000 and the resort was rated 5 stars than if you were told nothing at all.
If in your brain, if the value or meaning of the word “healthy” is synonymous with boring, bland, unsatisfying and restrictive, you’re a lot more likely to feel like you seriously missed out, and your brain may trigger a way to make up for it.
But there’s an important caveat to this research. The effect was greater when people felt obligated to eat healthfully. In my experience with clients, the ones who’ve been the most successful were motivated internally, by positive, meaningful goals - not just losing weight or fitting into a smaller size or because they were “supposed to” eat better, but because they truly wanted to have more energy or endurance, feel more self confident, or even become a role model for their friends and family.
If you’re struggling with a healthy eating push-pull, try this exercise: take out a sheet of paper and make a list of all the reasons you want to eat healthfully. There’s just one catch. Only include incentives that make you feel happy. Rationales that trigger rebellion probably won’t result in results!
What’s your take on this topic? Please share!