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How We Got Tricked into Developing Unhealthy Eating Habits

Have you ever wondered how people developed so many bad eating habits? The answer is simple: marketing.

Through clever marketing, companies were able to change many of our healthy behaviors and replace them with new behaviors that involved the consumption of whatever they were selling. Unfortunately, many of the new habits they helped us develop were not very good for our weight and health.

Companies spend millions of dollars doing studies or paying research labs to do studies to prove the effectiveness of their products. Today, you can find studies to prove whatever you want.

These companies get authority figures, like doctors and PhDs, that people trust, to confirm how great whatever they are selling is. Remember how Edward Bernays, who was hired by Beech-Nut Company, used Doctors (authority figures) to get people to eat more bacon? He didn't even have to come up with a study to convince people that eating bacon and eggs is good for them. Merely getting an authority figure to tell people that bacon and eggs are good for them, people followed without questioning what they base their opinion on.

The Milgram Shock Experiment perfectly demonstrated how the vast majority of people would follow the orders given by what they perceive as an authority figure, even if those orders could end up killing someone.

Stanley Milgram, the psychologist at Yale University who conducted that experiment, carried out 18 variations of his study with the same conclusion.

Most people would follow orders if given by what they perceive as an authority figure, even if those orders went against their own better judgment.

In the article "The Perils of Obedience" (Milgram 1974), Milgram summed up his findings:

'The legal and philosophic aspects of obedience are of enormous import, but they say very little about how most people behave in concrete situations.

I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist.

Stark authority was pitted against the subjects' [participants'] strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects' [participants'] ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not.

The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding an explanation.'

We have learned from very young to follow and obey what we see as an authority figure, like a mother, a father, a teacher, a police officer, or a doctor. Having a degree makes you seem more like an authority in the field you have a degree in than someone without a degree.

Besides seeing certain people as authority figures, some institutions are viewed as the authority in certain subjects. For example, if the CDC (Center for Disease Control) announced how dangerous some new disease is, people would pay more attention and believe it easier than if some local college made the same announcement.

Aman Motwane explained it perfectly in his book "The Power of Wisdom." We have become a society that we no longer think for ourselves. If we have a problem, we go to some expert (authority figure) and take their opinion without too much thought.

Our society has been brainwashed to automatically believe authority figures like doctors and PhDs. We believe that people with degrees and certain institutions are unbiased and only have our best interest in mind. Companies, especially politicians, know this and use it to promote their agendas.

Another psychological trick that works great in convincing people that something is true is popularity. People tend to believe the many; in many cases, they would believe the many over their own eyes.

If you have kids, you most likely would have heard this excuse when they did something they were not supposed to. "My friends did it too" and usually you would tell them that if your friends jumped off the cliff, would you do it too? Of course not. And yet that is what most people do in their daily lives.

They buy one product over another because one product is more popular, and we automatically assume that the many are always right.

Dr. Gregory Berns, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Atlanta's Emory University, demonstrated through two different experiments how most people would follow the opinion of the many, even if it went against their own better judgment.

If you would like to read about these two fascinating experiments, go to Both of these experiments support the idea that humans are social animals and have a deep need to conform.

Most people follow the crowd and take the opinion of authority figures and institutions because most people are overworked, overstressed, and have way too much on their minds. People don't realize how much energy you expend by thinking. Did you know your brain uses around 20% of all the calories you burn daily? In modern society, people are mentally tired, and having to think about one more thing can be very hard. This is why most people take the opinion of others they consider as authorities in the subject that they are interested in or they go with what is popular. They figure that if so many people bought the product, or they believe a certain thing to be true, it must be true.

Smart marketers, like Edward Bernays, know that, and they use it to convince us of things that are partly true and many times completely false, like how Bernays convinces the public that bacon and eggs are a healthy breakfast because 5,000 doctors said it.

Have you ever noticed commercials for some drug or diet, and the presenter wears a white lab coat? That person is not a real doctor (they usually have some fine print that nobody can read saying that), but he/she wears the lab coat because more people would see him/her as an authority figure and believe what he/she is saying.

I find it interesting that most Doctors are not exactly the picture of health, yet that is where many people get their health advice. Here is something to think about. If you were trying to lose weight, and some fat person told you he/she knows the secret of how to lose weight. Would you take their advice? I highly doubt it. Again, don't get me wrong, I have nothing against doctors, but doctors are not trained to help people achieve optimum health. They are trained to help people manage diseases, acute health issues and injuries.

However, just because somebody is in great shape, it does not mean they make an excellent example to follow either. That brings me to the next tactic marketers use to brainwash us.

Many life coaches say that if you want to achieve something, find somebody who has achieved what you want and follow their example. On the surface, that sounds like good advice, and in many cases, it is excellent advice. However, it does not always work, especially when it comes to losing weight and getting in shape. Let me explain.

Around 95% of people who lose weight regain the weight. So, only about 5% of people are able to keep the weight off. If you were looking to lose weight and keep it off, you would want to find out what that 5% of the people are doing to keep the weight off and follow their example. Not so fast. Do you know how most of the 5% of people can keep the weight off? They keep the weight off by continually thinking about their diet and workouts. I know a few people like that. Yes, they stay in great shape, but their life is all about fitness. That is not how most people want to live, and I don't blame them. I don't want to live that way either. Their example does not work for the vast majority of people because most people don't want to sacrifice all their free time to worry about their diet and when to get their workouts in.

Unfortunately, because these people look so good, people tend to believe whatever advice they give out. Many diet and fitness programs use these people as their spokesmodels to make their message more believable.

Using studies is another way marketers try to convince people their message is true. The fact is, I can pretty much find a study to prove whatever I want. The truth is that studies can be easily manipulated and show whatever the researcher wants you to see. The breakfast studies are the perfect example. I am sure you have seen all the studies on breakfast supporting the notion that eating breakfast is very important for weight loss and health. Dr. David Allison of the Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the University of Alabama and his colleagues took a closer look at breakfast studies. They found that after they analyzed 92 breakfast studies published between 1994 and 2011, there is very little reliable evidence to support the notion that breakfast makes any difference in losing weight. Most of the studies were observational. Simply put, the author suggested an association between breakfast and weight change based on his or her observations, but there may have been other behaviors common among breakfast eaters that they did not take into account. Often the biases of the researcher influence the conclusions of the research.

According to Dr. David Allison and colleagues, the bottom line is that there is no hard evidence that links eating breakfast with weight loss, despite all the studies out there.

The registered dietitians and physicians from the Pritikin Longevity Center agree with the University of Alabama scientists' conclusions.

Here is what Dr. Jay Kenney, Pritikin's Nutrition Research Specialist had to say about breakfast: "The assertion that we all must eat breakfast, or that skipping breakfast promotes weight gain, rests on very weak credible data." There are, unfortunately, many truisms in the world of nutrition that are not true at all. Others include "we should drink eight glasses of water a day" and "we must eat every three hours to keep our metabolism going."

If you would like to learn more about how studies are manipulated, check out the book "Unsavory Truth" by Marion Nestle. She perfectly explains how food companies skew the science of what we eat.

Anyway, my point is, don't follow anyone mindlessly, no matter how many letters they have after their name or what studies they present. Make sure it makes sense to you; if it does not, ask questions.

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