Do You Make Unhealthy Choices Because of Your Budget or Because You Are Impulsive?

In Self-control by Yuliya Richard

Don’t be limited by your budget or impulsivity – learn how to plan well


I recently read the Sydney Morning Herald article “Sydney’s Growing Divide: the Rich Get Fitter as the Poor Get Fatter”. What can we do to improve the health and wellbeing of Australians regardless of their income? The article discusses not only the differences in Body Mass Index measures but also the lack of exercise. Professor Rosemary Calder, the director of the Australian Health Policy Collaboration, was quoted in the article saying that we are “a remarkably overweight population” and that this is becoming more apparent in our children. According to Professor Calder: “For obesity to be at such high levels among this young group, something is going very wrong.”

Maybe better health promotion campaigns are needed, better education, better choices, better price regulations. But perhaps the most important change needs to come from ourselves – the choices we as individuals make in our eating habits.

Upon reflection, I thought it might be a good idea to revisit my own eating habits and to start eating more vegetables again. Feeling very motivated, I marched into a local organic store – I thought to myself: not only will I eat vegetables but they will be locally produced and organic.

As I walked in, I was thinking about all the potential ingredients in my salad: OK, avocado, tomato, cucumber… and suddenly I saw a sign “6.95 AUD Each, Organic Certified Avocados”. I took a look at the nearby tomatoes and they were priced at 14.95 per kilo. It’s hard not to think about the money when just one ingredient of your meal costs 7 bucks. So, of course, it makes sense that many people will choose the Thai place two doors down, where for 10 bucks you can buy a main, a drink and two spring rolls.

So, here is the dilemma running through my mind: I kind of want to be healthy but it is true that I might have to pay a bit more. I might have to make it myself. It might be a long time before I feel as strong and powerful as Popeye. It costs less to have yummy Thai takeaway. If you ever find yourself in this situation, and you love your Thai meals and struggle with your healthy diet, there is a high likelihood that you will convince yourself that one more takeaway is okay and tomorrow you will eat healthy.

That is the problem! We simply don’t plan well. If you don’t plan well, on the day all fruits and vegetables are going to be more expensive and you might not be in a mood to prepare your meal. As a result, you might feel “Okay, maybe today I don’t have to worry about my diet” and decide that tomorrow you’ll be good and start the health kick. But then you order pizza.

Don’t lie to yourself anymore. If you want to succeed, plan ahead and plan to succeed.

Here are some tips:

  1. If you want organic and more affordable fruits and vegetables, try local fresh produce markets. In many suburbs, on weekends you can buy produce from local farmers.
  2. Buy fruits and veggies that are in season, they are obviously going to be much cheaper. If you have the time and space in your garden, start growing easy plants like herbs and tomatoes that will eventually save you money and a trip to the shop.
  3. Do research online to find great recipes and then experiment with them on weekends.
  4. Prepare your healthy weekday lunches in advance.
  5. If you hate cooking and preparing meals, do research on what other options are available to you. It doesn’t have to be your traditional calorie-restricted meals – many different artisan options are available to dieters now.
  6. If you cannot bring your own lunch to work, research your local takeaway shops, there is always a healthier option for you to select.
  7. Do small swaps. For example, even if you are choosing your local Thai takeaway, swap your usual coke for water, or swap deep-fried spring rolls for a small salad.
  8. Even if you feel that you didn’t make the best choice for lunch, don’t give up today, just plan for a better dinner.
  9. If you didn’t plan well and now you are standing in a store staring at that rather expensive avocado and want to throw the whole health-food quest out of the window, simply pause and look around. What other options are available to you? What other vegetables or fruits can you purchase? What else will be both nutritious and make you feel good after eating it?

So, this dilemma of healthy organic fresh produce versus cheaper deep-fried and immediately available food will always be there. But here is the last hint, think about yourself in 10 years’ time. Keep this image in mind. Think about your health and fitness – what do you want to look like? Keep that image in mind every time you have to make the healthy choice.