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The Power of Associations in Your Diet and Lifestyle


The majority of adults in the United States lead busy lifestyles. Gone are the days where many of us just had ourselves to care for – now much of our time, energies and efforts are focused around raising children, nurturing important relationships, and excelling at work. Amidst the endless to-do list that accompanies daily life, most people still aspire to achieve and maintain good health.

What is considered to be “good health” and does one really ever “arrive” at this destination? If we define “health” as the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being – not merely the absence of disease or infirmity- then “good health” requires not only intentional efforts but also constant self-reflection on progress towards our goals. That’s where the term “associations” comes in.

Let me explain.

By definition, an association is a link between two or more things. From a psychological standpoint, an association refers to a mental connection between ideas, feelings and sensations. So, what does this have to do with achieving good health? Because we are complex humans with various needs, leading busy lives, taking a step back to evaluate what we are “attached/linked to” in the consistency of days and weeks, through the lens of our health goals, is wise. I’d argue many associations are made subtly, maybe unintentionally, but have the power to help or hinder progress towards whatever is being aimed to achieve.

Most people would agree that eating nutritious foods, exercising, getting quality sleep and stress management are key pillars to good health. With that in mind, the following are some examples of common associations (links, attachments) that could be disadvantageous for good health if participated in consistently:

  • Finishing the day winding down with a glass or bottle of wine before bed
  • Keeping an opened container of frosting in the fridge that can be easily (and often) accessed by spoon to satisfy a sweet craving
  • A cigar every time you are on the golf course
  • Grabbing a bag of candy at the gas station each time you fill up on gas
  • Bringing home a bakery treat each time you visit the grocery store
  • Sitting down to watch a show with a bag of potato chips
  • A beer with the guys or happy hour with the girls most weeknights because it’s cheap, fun and social
  • Hitting up your local drive-through after the kid’s sports practice or game, most nights of the week

These are specifically examples of common, every day activities that have been associated with patterns. “When I do this, I also have that”. This is not to be confused with associations that occur occasionally that would be less detrimental towards health. Life’s about balance, right?

But we are what we do consistently, and if unhealthful links and connections are made between activities and poor quality nutritional choices often enough, for example, your body will likely pay the consequences in the long-term.

Consequences of an unbalanced, poor-quality diet can manifest in various ways, such as the following:

  • Chronic disease onset like Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and/or cancer
  • Or, they can imply manifest in the inflammatory state of living overweight or obese, skin issues, weak immune system, cognitive decline, decreased quality of life and increase healthcare costs.

Yikes!

On the flip side, some examples of positive, health-promoting associations could be the following:

  • Reading a paperback book before bed each night, phone placed on “do not disturb” and minimal blue light interactions to promote better sleep
  • Starting each meal at a restaurant with a side salad before bread or the main course
  • Avoiding the candy and bakery aisles of the grocery store because you know they’re triggers for you, and if you don’t buy it, you don’t have access to it
  • Upon getting home from work, choosing to walk the dog rather than unleashing him in the fenced in backyard (which would be easier)
  • Enjoying evening screen time with a show or movie without the need to snack mindlessly

It’s worth taking the time to personally think about the subtle connections and links between events and activities as it relates to food and beverage, as this could be a blind spot hindering positive progression towards better health.

Recognizing the power of associations is the first step towards positive change. Awareness is key. Be encouraged! You’re always just one choice away from making a healthier decision, and I’m here to support you on the journey.

Sarah Rupp
About the Author

Sarah’s lifelong passion for health and wellness began in her early years, learning about nutrition and meal planning alongside her mother. As an athlete, she experienced the direct influence of nutrition on physical…

McMurray

Healthcare Disclaimer: This article offers educational insights from a registered dietitian on healthy eating principles. It is a supplementary resource and not a substitute for personalized advice from a medical professional familiar with an individual’s health history.

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