Sunday, August 2, 2009


Have you ever stopped to think how much what we believe about the world affects our behaviour?

Beliefs are essential to us as without them we would have to learn the world a new each day and from an evolutionary point of view this would not work. You have to believe going too near the edge of the cliff is dangerous if you are going to get to breed!

Our beliefs are also inextricably linked to our values, and together these things have an enormous effect on our behaviour.

Let us look at avlues first. Most of us value the feeling of being loved, it is something we seek from our very first breath and it never really leaves us, we might value honesty, integrity, fun, warmth, comfort, acceptance all manner of things.

On the other side of the coin their are values that we do not like that usually we move away from such as pain, humiliation, hatred, embarrassment, discomfort.

If you stop and think about it everything we do is to either get or avoid these things, and in the end that all comes down to a feeling, an emotion that we are either seeking or trying to avoid.

The belief part is the 'if' part of the 'if, then' evaluation that we are subconsciously going through all the time.

To give an example, if I am approaching a door that has a lever handle, (even though I have never been through that door before) I have a learned belief, which is that if I push that handle down then I will be able to get through the door into the toilet beyond which lies a feeling of comfort that I am looking for!

Or I believe that if I stand at the right bus stop the right bus will come along which will allow me to get to my significant other, and when I do I will feel soooooooooo good!

So I do a certain behaviour because I believe if I do I will get a feeling I want or avoid a feeling I do not.

Of course we do not think these things consciously as we go about life or we would bearly be able to funcition. I use the examples to show that it is our beliefs and values that underly all our behaviour.

Indeed I have a belief that no human behaviour is random everything we do has a positive intent. Now some people will be saying 'OK Will I have been with you until now but not all human behaviour is positive'. That is not what I am saying the key word here is 'intent'.

Excessive drinking or drug taking is definately unhealthy and negative for our well being but people do it with a positive intent, though it often starts out with that intent to get the good feelings such substances can give, it often ends up being done usually to numb the pain that not having the drink or the drugs brings.

So how does this relate to healthy eating?

Well our beliefs about food will have a huge effect on how much we eat and what we eat. I once new a woman who only really ate boiled chicken and steamed veg. It wasn't that she was slimming or anything it was just she did not like food very much. Consequently she was stick thin but a bit boring!

Now speaking personally my beliefs about food have definately led me to where I am today! As a child money wasn't plentiful so clearing my plate got me praise from the two people whose approval I sought above all else - mum and dad!

I also grew up with the belief that generosity was a value worthy of aspiring to that to feed someone was an act of friendship, even love, and that small portions were mean and meanness was without doubt to be avoided.

So perhaps you can see what I am getting at here we all have learned beliefs that lead us towards certain behaviour in many areas of our life not least with food.

To complicate matters we do not just have single beliefs on any particular subject we can hold many, some of which can be very much conflicting, and that is where the problems really start.

Take our old friend chocolate. Many people reading this will hold the belief that eating too much chocolate is not a healthy thing to do. However those same people will probably also hold the belief that eating chocolate is extremely pleasant and enjoyable and makes me feel feel good while I am doing it!

So what can you do???

Firstly become aware. The key to success is calm awareness. I say calm awareness as if you are in an aggitated or upset emotional state you are unlikely to make good choices on food or anything else.

Secondly, don't beat yourself up about what you have done in the past. everything you did was with a positive intent even if it gave you a negative outcome!

Thirdly take some time to sit down and write down ALL the beliefs you have about food and link them to the value you will get by doing that behaviour.

e.g. eating chocolate is pleasant (belief) as it gives me a real buzz when I am actually eating it (value).

The more you can write down the better.

Then look at if any of these beliefs are conflicting. I suspect there will be a few.

Now there are techniques that can deal very effectively with conflicting beliefs but it is not something I can take you through on here.

However I believe that by just bringing your beliefs and values into your awareness is a big start.

Once you are aware of the effect that your beliefs have on your eating behaviours you can start to develop strategies to make you choose the healthy option rather than the unhealthy when it appears before you.

If anyone want to know more on this subject or any of the others covered on here please do not hesitate to let me know.

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