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Posts Tagged ‘Choice’

Choices of peanut butter on a shelf

As an Extension Field Specialist, I have coached traditional food pantries where food is pre-selected to help them transition to a client-choice model where food is chosen based on preferences and needs. Client-choice pantries provide a more dignified experience for people and can be more efficient at preventing food waste since unwanted items aren’t discarded. For many low-income Americans, choosing where and how to grocery shop might be viewed as a privilege reserved for those with greater incomes. The same could be said for people living in developing countries where food, water, and material resources aren’t as abundant. For those of us fortunate enough to have the privilege of choice, we face the challenge of having too much choice. Whether it be food, clothing, TV stations, housing, spouses, lifestyle, investments, hobbies, or even medical procedures, having too many choices can lead to isolation, paralysis in decision making, anxiety, and depression. At the societal level too much choice might lead to waste, tribalism, and perhaps public health problems.

Sometimes we are faced with so much choice that we don’t know what to choose and we become almost paralyzed in our decision making. We are afraid to make the wrong choice, and feel as if we need to further investigate all of the options, which takes time (something I seem to have less of). As a result, we sometimes put off big decisions. I’ve been thinking about purchasing a new insulin pump for my diabetes but there are so many products. In addition, working with insurance to purchase the new product is a headache, so I have yet to make a decision.

Another challenge is choice inflates our expectations and sometimes deflates our satisfaction if we think we made the wrong choice. For example, I was trying to decide between two restaurants the other night, one Indian, the other Mexican. I went with the Mexican and it was good, but part of me wondered if the Indian would have been better. As a result of this thinking, I wasn’t as happy with my experience and I likely missed out on some of the enjoyment of the outing. Although this example seems trivial, all of the choices we make everyday and the sometimes resulting stress, anxiety, and dissatisfaction could lead to mental and physical health problems.

At the societal level, too much choice contributes to many small and large-scale problems. Material goods such as food, electronics, and clothing are discarded because people have the option of newer and better choices. I’ve wasted leftover food because I’ve had the choice of eating out. Too much choice might lead to tribalism, isolation, and less cohesion. Growing up, my family had three channels on TV. We watched whatever was on as a family. Now, my three kids are plugged into their phones watching their own shows, etc. I hardly get to talk with them. Thirty years ago, our nation was more cohesive and less tribal. Everyone watched the world series for example, since there weren’t as many options for sports. In terms of public health challenges, we have so many choices for fast food, unhealthy snacks, etc that obesity is more common than ever. We can choose whether or not to get vaccinated, which places others at risk for disease.

What to do? There are two dimensions of wellness to consider for guidance: spiritual and environmental. Spiritual wellness can help people become satisfied and grounded with who they are and with choices they make. Some traditions teach that desires and cravings lead to suffering and seek to reduce these states of mind. Environmental wellness can help people reduce consumption, or reuse new products etc. and thus not feel stressed about getting the newest and greatest item out there.

Obviously, choice is a good thing, and I don’t think any of us want to live in a world where we don’t have any choices. However, we need to reflect on the consequences of having too much choice for our own health, and the health of our families and communities. In any event, I hope this was helpful in some way and I am glad you “chose” to read this…….

Author: Dan Remley, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition and Wellness Associate Professor, Ohio State University Extension, remely.4@osu.edu

Reviewer: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Sources:

Remley, D., Franzen-Castle, L., McCormack, L., & Eicher-Miller, H. A. (2019). Chronic Health Condition Influences on Client Perceptions of Limited or Non-choice Food Pantries in Low-income, Rural Communities. American Journal of Health Behavior43(1), 105–118. https://doi-org.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/10.5993/AJHB.43.1.9

Schwartz, Barry. The Paradox of Choice. TED talk. Accessed on 7/20/21 at The paradox of choice | Barry Schwartz – YouTube

William and Mary University. The Eight Dimensions of Wellness. Accessed on 7/19/21 at The Eight Dimensions of Wellness | William & Mary (wm.edu)

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