Hi friends, hope you are having a good start to your week. I have been engrossed in my course and just finished a lesson and reading a few studies about real food. Doing the Whole 30 has obviously taught me a lot – as I have either annoyingly explained or possibly helpfully explained. But I think my biggest take-away is the importance of eating real food. I thought now would be as good a time as any to chat about processed foods – in the least preach-y way possible.
I have really come to learn that our food is very processed and nutrient void. Yes, even the food we think of as “healthy”: chicken from animals that are in cages and injected with hormones and antibiotics; oats grown in GMO soil, quinoa grown in nutrient-depleted soil, pasteurized greek yogurt. Yes I realize these things aren’t a Twinkie, but processed is processed. And I’m definitely not saying I’m never eating oatmeal again (blasphemy) but I think it’s important to educate yourself. Anyways, as with anything, it is a journey and it is totally up to you how you choose to go about this journey. Eating this way has helped me maintain proper digestive function and proper blood sugar regulation. It has given me clear skin and lots of energy. Ultimately, it makes me happy and I feel healthy.
Back in university, I used to eat a lot of really crappy, processed foods that modern technology has stripped of nutrition replacing it with empty calories and chemicals. Think: Sun Chips, Oreos, Twinkies, Ben & Jerry’s. I can’t tell you how often I craved this food. I, like so many people, associated my food choices with emotion and pleasure rather than nourishment. Bad day? Ice-cream. Stressed? Chocolate. Feeling fluffy? Salad.
My sugar cravings used to be intense. I’d get them and then demolish an entire tray of Oreos in one sitting because I physically and mentally could.not.stop. I kept on eating them. I was never satisfied. Sure it’s delicious going down, but how did I feel afterwards? Like crap.
That’s precisely the effect of Franken-food. Have you ever felt that way about a piece of grilled chicken? No, I didn’t think so. Because chicken has nutrients. Without getting too science-y there’s this idea of satiety and satiation. They sound like synonyms right? Well they kinda are but here’s what I’ve learned:
Satiety occurs in the digestive tract and when our bodies digest and absorb enough nutrients for our needs, hormones signal a feeling of nourishment to the brain, which decreases the desire for more food – like eating chicken. Satiation is regulated in the brain and is based upon our perceptions not a measurement of nutrients – like eating Oreos. Get it? When you process food out of its original form, you process all of the appetite regulating, filling potential right out of it.
It really was not until last year that I began my “real food” journey. And it definitely has been a journey (and still is). First it was ditching Sun Chips, Twinkies, Campbell’s soup, frozen dinners, Oreos, and all those other “delicious” things. Next it was saying bye to every kind of health and protein bar out there (except Larabars obvs). Then I ditched processed dairy and grains. Today, I focus on eating real food from sources that raise, grow or catch it right. [Source]
I obviously did not get here overnight and I’m not all the way “there.” But it first took the desire to make a change. Next, I educated myself. Then, it took a lot of time and commitment. But it’s worth it: to fuel and nourish my body with nutrient-dense, real food. A friend of mine recently emailed me:
I had McDonalds yesterday, I don’t even know what happened. But I am realizing how important my physical body is in the grand scheme of things. If I don’t take care of my body, where will I live?
Here are the steps I took and how it has worked for me.
1. Figure out what goes first.
I truly believe sugar is an addiction and most of the Western world is addicted to it. The cold turkey approach will likely lead to intense feelings of deprivation causing you to just want sugar more and then eat it. Figuring out what to eliminate from your diet first will vary. For me it was junk food. No more Oreos. Then I got rid of overly processed, sugar-filled dinners, bars, cereals, snacks. Basically most things that came in a colorful, pretty box claiming to be good for you. It’s a process.
2. Throw it out.
Yup. Toss it in the garbage. Once you figure out what you are getting rid of, start throwing it out. I guess you could donate it but I didn’t because I didn’t want other people eating it either. This will take some time too. I don’t remember how long it took me but one week I threw out Oreos, the next month I threw out Lean Cuisines, then I threw out Luna bars, etc. etc. Eventually I got rid of (most) everything.
3. Find helpful resources.
Now that you’ve overhauled your pantry and fridge, what next?! Deliciousness and nutritiousness, I promise. I needed to figure out how to cook with all this food. I found resources for recipes (Lexi’s blog was really helpful), read some helpful books (like this one or this one and definitely this one) and watched documentaries and listened to podcasts. There’s so much information out there, you just need to want to find it.
4. Make a plan.
This was really when I learned the importance of planning and preparing. It used to be so easy to come home and pop a (low-cal) frozen dinner in the microwave. Well when that was no longer an option, I started making a meal plan every week. I prepared food in advance so I would always have options. Are you sick and tired of me talking about this? Well the truth is, it works!
5. Establish a support system.
You need support. Most people will turn their noses up at you in judgement. That’s fine, that’s their choice. But that wasn’t so easy for me to accept at first, I let their judgement affect me a lot. “Why don’t you eat that?” There will be people who are supportive of your lifestyle changes and may even want to join you. Surround yourself with positivity and turn off the negativity. Remember: it’s your choice.
6. Do the best you can.
I think this is so important that I couldn’t just end at 5 tips. It’s a process. Of course I wish I could eat grass-fed beef, organic, non-GMO chicken, wild caught fish, organic fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds all the time. Heck, I wish I could have a farm. But that is not financially possible or realistic right now so I do what I can right now. I try to buy local foods from trusted sources. I ask a lot of questions about my food. I am figuring out what works for me.
I eat this way (the majority of the time) because it makes me feel good, healthy and nourished. I can honestly tell you that I have absolutely zero desire to eat Oreos anymore. Honey and dates are sweet treats and I know they actually have some nourishment. If I want something Franken, I’ll eat it.
Questions of the day…
What’s your take on “Franken-foods”?
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