Ask a doctor: ‘Why do I keep eating foods that I know are bad for me?’

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Most experts agree that nearly all foods are OK in moderation and that it’s fine to indulge now and then — but many Americans fall into patterns of continually making unhealthy choices, even though they want to stay on a healthy track.

Why do people continuously eat foods that they know are bad for them?

Fox News Digital spoke to two medical doctors about what’s driving this unhealthy behavior and how people can pivot their mindset to make smarter choices.

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The main reasons for this pattern are rooted in human nature, according to experts. 

“Unfortunately, it’s just human behavior,” Jesus L. Lizarzaburu, M.D., a family physician with TPMG Grafton Family Medicine in Yorktown, Virginia, told Fox News Digital.

Many Americans fall into patterns of continually making unhealthy choices, even though they want to stay on a healthy track. (iStock)

“We tend to gravitate toward things that are enjoyable, and a lot of things that are bad for us are very enjoyable.” 

Convenience and comfort can also factor into a repeated cycle of making poor food choices.

“There’s a reason they call a lot of these foods ‘comfort foods,’” added Lizarzaburu. “They bring us a lot of joy at a primal level.”

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When discussing dietary choices with his patients, Lizarzaburu said he attempts to learn about their preferences and behavior, delving into not only their food choices but also portion size. 

“One common denominator that could help everyone is decreasing the serving size,” he said. 

man working at desk

“We tend to gravitate toward things that are enjoyable, and a lot of things that are bad for us are very enjoyable,” one doctor said. (iStock)

Patients can also log what they are eating as part of setting health goals, the doctor suggested.

It’s important to enjoy and savor foods as well, he said, which can actually help to regulate consumption.

“We have forgotten to enjoy our food,” Lizarzaburu said. “We just eat because it’s time to eat, and we’re so busy that we forget to enjoy a meal. When we do enjoy a meal, we tend to eat less of it.”

How are food prices affecting unhealthy patterns?

Natasha Bhuyan, M.D., a family doctor with One Medical in Phoenix, Arizona, told Fox News Digital that the poor quality of many Americans’ diets isn’t an individual issue, but rather a systemic problem. 

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“Processed foods are often more affordable than healthier options,” she said. 

“When we do enjoy a meal, we tend to eat less of it.”

“They are also convenient, especially for people who are working long hours, families and other groups who may not have the luxury of time.”

Processed foods are often filled with sugar, starch, sodium and unhealthy fats, Bhuyan warned.

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“They also increase the risk of things like obesity, diabetes and heart disease,” she said.

How can people break the cycle?

To help patients get on a path to better health, Lizarzaburu said he often brings people’s feelings into the equation. 

Woman pushing away junk food

One doctor advises patients to prioritize their nutrition just as they would other important areas, like family, work and finances. (iStock)

“It’s worthwhile to appeal to emotion and help [patients] make a change for someone other than themselves, like for a child, parent or friend,” he said. 

“That is a lot more powerful of a motivator than me telling them it’s good for them.”

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Lizarzaburu also advises patients to prioritize their nutrition just as they would other important areas — like family, work and finances.

“As a family physician, rather than telling patients what to do, I like to engage in a conversation,” she said. 

Woman meal planning

Simple changes, like cooking at home instead of eating out, can make a big impact, experts say. (iStock)

“After we establish the individual person’s motivation for change, we talk about what realistic changes they can make.”

In many cases, simple changes can have a lasting impact. 

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This might mean drinking more water each day, adding more vegetables to dinner or cooking one meal at home rather than eating out. 

“Small and practical changes are often the foundation for successful healthy changes,” Bhuyan added.