Health: What keeps us from eating well?

When I was a kid, I would ask myself WWSD (What would Spock do?).

Spock, of course, was the First Officer on the starship Enterprise. Half Vulcan and half human, he would suppress his human emotions and make decisions based purely on logic.

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If you’re not a trekkie (that means Star Trek fan for those who aren’t), you could ask yourself WWSPD (What would a smart person do?). That’s not a personal insult. It’s something we should all ask ourselves when we find areas of our lives off track.

We don’t make smart choices when we’re in a rush, stuck in a routine, following the crowd or sidetracked by emotions. Every parent knows that a two-year-old throwing a tantrum acts like a baby and a five-year-old like a two-year-old. A teenager still acts like a teenager. Adults in a rage make very foolish choices.

When we take a calm moment and reflect, we recognize where we can make some improvements. Understanding that what we inhale, drink and consume is crucial to our physical and emotional wellbeing, we could make better choices.

What are the barriers to eating the healthiest diet?

It seems easier to continue the old routine of eating the same breakfast or skipping it altogether. You may eat the same fast food meal just because it’s easier than trying something new. You may order your usual specialty coffee without thinking about calories or fat content.

To change an unhealthy habit requires time to reflect on healthier choices and repeated attempts to establish a better routine.

Your emotional connection with food
We all have our favourite foods. They may be comfort foods that remind us of happy times past, like a hot chocolate on a snowy day. They can be snacks or drinks we crave so much that we forget how bad we felt the last time we consumed them.

Giving up emotional eating requires the discipline to reflect before we eat and choose what is best for us. With age and wisdom, you may eventually discover that even if we don’t satisfy a craving, it will eventually subside.

Your cultural connection with food

Growing up Chinese-Canadian, you have to be antisocial to avoid eating in Chinese restaurants with the usual high salt, high fat and high carb meals. Fortunately, my mom cooked brown rice, lots of veggies and low fat meats. We ate Western food and Chinese food every other day. My sister and I would know to set the dinner table with knives and forks if we used chopsticks and soup spoons the night before.

Television commercials are designed to make us crave fast food. Big screens and high definition make bad food look even better. Imagine what those commercials would be like if restaurants were required to state the health risks as they do in American drug commercials. This bacon, double cheeseburger combo may increase your risk for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks and premature death.

Many people rely on TV, the internet and their friends for medical information, including the basics of a healthy diet. A more reliable source is Canada’s Food Guide on Health Canada’s website. It provides practical information on finding adequate nutrition from a variety of foods.

Often less nutritious food is cheaper than healthier choices. Eating on a smaller budget can be a challenge. In upcoming columns, I’ll discuss the basics of healthy eating with some tips for eating on a budget.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is the physician lead of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice. To learn more about upcoming health education events, see the BDFP website at For more on achieving your positive potential in health:

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