Beware – Where Healthy Goes, Unhealthy Often Follows

“Drop a bunch of kale into your cart and you’re more likely to head next to the ice cream or beer section. The more “virtuous” products you have in your basket, the stronger your temptation to succumb to vice,” says Alex Hutchinson in his New York Times Op-ed, How Salad Can Make Us Fat, which described a recent study using motion trackers on shopping carts to study the habits of 1000 grocery store consumers.


As I sit here eating my green salad as a prelude to what I’m really looking forward to – my decaf cappuccino and dark chocolate, I can definitely relate. Apparently, I’m not alone. All of our health choices are ruled by what marketing researchers call the “licensing effect” – we have a pre-conceived notion about how healthy/unhealthy we are, and when we go too far in one direction, we take immediate steps to balance the scale.


Hutchinson says this balancing act is dangerous in today’s environment of “health boosting products of dubious efficacy.” The idea that as long as we take a multi-vitamin, we can eat what we want, or that a morning smoothie made with powdered “greens” somehow fulfills our veggie requirement gives us license to reward ourselves later with poor choices.


So how can we be sure we’re choosing healthy and coming out ahead? Redefine your notion of how healthy you are and raise the bar to overcome the licensing effect, Hutchinson recommends. Stick to what you know is healthy (daily exercise, plenty of water and sleep, reducing stress, real food and mostly plants), and be confident that where your health is concerned, no man-made product can replace these wholesome, basic human needs.


By: Dr. Robynne Chutkan