Posts Tagged barriers

Rage against the alarm clock

This article about exhaustion and sleep in the Chicago Tribune got me thinking about barriers to behavior change.

Who would have a problem with sleep?

But in a culture turbo-charged with things to do, where speed is important, hours of sleep kind of get in the way. Burnout is seen as a badge of honor. And as this article mentioned, seeking treatment for exhaustion can elicit eye rolls. People can be seen as lazy when they sleep more. Who wants to be seen as lazy?

The thing is, people really can be doing too much and sleeping too little. Burnout is not a good thing when people have things they want and need to do — it doesn’t deserve a Burnout Award, it’s counter-productive. Feeling exhausted can be a sign of mental illness and other diseases like cancer.

Compared to that, doesn’t it seem stupid to not seek what we need because people might think it’s lazy?

But attitudes like that are real barriers to behavior change. Cultural beliefs are barriers to behavior change. In order to help people feel free to get better, we should minimize these barriers in addition to advising people about actions they could take. Do research, do some digging into people’s concerns, into their outright fears. What is really getting in their way?


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Yes we want fries with that. But please no potatoes.

Why? A New York Times story Told to Eat Its Vegetables, America Orders Fries looks at why:

  • Not done right, vegetables can taste terrible (try at your own risk to get me to eat okra ever again).
  • Vegetables take planning and time to prepare.
  • Buying enough vegetables costs more than other foods.
  • If you didn’t plan your meals well, you throw out rotten vegetables.

Sound familiar? This is why there are “vegetarians who don’t like vegetables.” Actually I live in the same house as one. That’s how my husband sometimes introduces me. It’s not completely true. We did have a great vegetable-laden dinner this weekend that featured tasty grilled baby zucchini.

Baby zucchini is tasty — and you could do really cute things with it for kid’s meals — but it’s more expensive than full-size zucchini, it’s not available everywhere nor is it available all year. Ours came from a local farmers’ market. Actually why should you have to pay anything for zucchini when at certain times of the year, friends/neighbors/colleagues are begging you to take some of theirs? The media talks about trends that would make you think people are eating more vegetables, like farmers’ markets, heirloom seeds, more people growing backyard gardens, and there’s enough people who know what “locavore” means that there’s a Locavore iPhone app.

Still, the  CDC says only 1 out of 4 American adults eat vegetables three or more times a day. People who eat 2,000 calories a day are supposed to eat 4 1/2 cups of fruits and veggies daily.

The Times article says:

“It is disappointing,” said Dr. Jennifer Foltz, a pediatrician who helped compile the report. She, like other public health officials dedicated to improving the American diet, concedes that perhaps simply telling people to eat more vegetables isn’t working.

“There is nothing you can say that will get people to eat more veggies,” said Harry Balzer, the chief industry analyst for the NPD Group, a market research company.

Of course simply telling people to do something won’t make it done. But all hope is not lost. While there’s not much left to say, there are things that could be done. Look at how to exchange the barriers and benefits around convenience, lower cost and taste.

Here’s a simple trick I use — don’t cook the vegetables if that’s not convenient for a busy life. Plus to cook some vegetables right, you need to be a food science genius like Alton Brown. But vegetables like red and orange bell peppers, baby carrots and other crunchy veggies are good cold, right from the fridge. Pico de gallo salsa is very easy, just open and scoop. Look for veggies where you only have to open a package or at the most, slice or chop then eat.

The recent finding that Americans don’t eat enough vegetables is not a surprise at all. It is not easy to eat enough of them. As soon as we acknowledge that, think about how to make it easier to squeeze a few more vegetable meals in your life.

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