If you had to put it simply, what does it mean to eat well? In the words of best-selling author and food expert Michael Pollan: “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”

That’s sage advice. But it’s the tip of the iceberg.

From a behavioral perspective, the food choices we make aren’t random. They’re connected to our beliefs. And on the surface, these beliefs might not even be about food.

For example, if we believe recharging throughout the work day is a waste of time and productivity, that belief impacts our eating habits. We’re not going to value stepping away from our desk to have a healthy lunch and actually connect with our coworkers.

Beliefs like this are part of our burnout culture. We tell ourselves it’s better to power through. We hear stories about entrepreneurs who built their companies while subsisting on a diet of unhealthy food and believe that we have to choose between taking care of ourselves and striving for success.

When we understand how our beliefs and our environment affect our eating choices, we empower ourselves to make better choices that can fuel our bodies, our minds, and our overall well-being.

When it comes to healthy eating, most of us know what we need to do — but we simply don’t do it. We may make New Year’s resolutions to cut back on sweets, or alcohol, or caffeine. When eating out, we may force ourselves to go with the salad instead of the fries. We may even experiment with fad diets that promise extraordinary transformations in a short time.

But what we often overlook — and the reason those quick-fix approaches frequently fail — is how our food choices are shaped by our beliefs. And the fact is, many of us believe that healthy food choices must be sacrificed in the name of achieving our goals and getting ahead.

“Our fast-paced, high-stress lives — and a work culture that too often celebrates burnout — can leave us feeling that suboptimal food choices are simply the price we pay for being successful,” explains Maya Adam, a professor and director of the Stanford Center for Health Education Outreach at Stanford Medicine. When we buy into this belief, eating well becomes deprioritized — in fact, it might even seem like a nuisance or a waste of time. After all, who has the time or the headspace to plan a healthy meal when we’re up against pressing work deadlines, full email inboxes that follow us home at night, and to-do lists that just seem to keep growing?

Adapted from “Your Time to Thrive: End Burnout, Increase Well-being, and Unlock Your Full Potential with the New Science of Microsteps,” by Marina Khidekel and the editors of Thrive Global. Learn more and pre-order your copy here.


  • Marina Khidekel

    Chief Content Officer at Thrive

    Marina leads strategy, ideation and execution of Thrive's content company-wide, including cross-platform brand partnership and content marketing campaigns, curricula, and the voice of the Thrive platform. She's the author of Thrive's first book, Your Time to Thrive. In her role, Marina brings Thrive's audience actionable, science-backed tips for reducing stress and improving their physical and mental well-being, and shares those insights on panels and in national outlets like NBC's TODAY. Previously, Marina held senior editorial roles at Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour, where she edited award-winning health and mental health features and spearheaded the campaigns and partnerships around them.