Nutrition as part of getting healthy is unavoidable. It’s not like smoking, drinking, or some other vice where you can stop the habit all together. We have to eat to live.
Not only are we unable to just refrain from eating, it’s so ingrained in culture, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the routines you’ve had established for years (and maybe decades). When I say culture I mean celebrations, norms, hanging out with friends and family, advertisements, and the list goes on.
Plus we’re living in a time of more food abundance than ever before. I know there are food deserts out there and such, but I mean in terms of total calorie production per capita, the world in general is producing more food than it ever has before. The United States, for example, produces nearly 3,700 calories per person. Yet the USDA still recommends us eating an average of 2,000 calories per day (this number may or may not be bogus anyways).
But I think it’s safe to say we have more food than we need right now.
So not only is food shoved in our faces almost all waking hours, other developments in today’s society have rendered people incapable of healthy coping mechanisms so we turn to food. Anxiety, depression, and a myriad of other emotional distress is often a trigger for people to turn to food to cope. Modern food engineering has made damn sure that food OVER stimulates all those feel good things in our brain and we can’t help ourselves.
What the hell is going on? It’s starting to sound like the three-pronged food attack on our bodies! Well, we did it to ourselves, just not with any sort of awareness on a larger scale (ha! I didn’t even mean this to be punny, but I’m leaving it in now that I noticed).
Your Food Identity
As I mentioned, eating is unavoidable so there HAS to be ways to not fall victim to the food trap, right?
Just so happens there is (probably several). But the solution I’ve found is to mentally change how you view yourself and food. I say mentally because I’m taking a page out of James Clear’s book here with identity-based habits.
He says our habits are a reflection of our current identity. So if you consider yourself an unhealthy eater, your habits likely reflect it and you eat a bunch of junk.
But what if instead you began to think of yourself as a healthy (or healthier) eater? The change won’t happen overnight, but when you’re out at a restaurant you might see a fried chicken sandwich on the menu and think, “I’m a healthier eater than that” and subsequently choose a healthier option. Or maybe it’s even simpler – what if as a healthier eater you just chose not to supersize your McDonalds meal and just got the regular size?
As your new identity as a healthy/ier eater comes to fruition, your small changes like this begin to add up over time to monumental changes in your overall diet. It’s also why I don’t believe in doing diets – they’re rarely sustainable. But changing one small thing each day to bring your behaviors closer to your identity will compound into huge results.
It Doesn’t Have To Be Hard
I’m a firm believer that nutrition doesn’t have to be hard. Yes, there is a science to food and how we eat and blah blah blah. But for a normal person just trying to get a little healthier, it’s not rocket science!
There’s no debate that eating real foods (unprocessed, no added stuff, etc) is the healthier way to go. There’s no debate that supersizing and all-you-can-eat and food-challenge sized portions are not the healthier option. Even if you’ve never taken a nutrition or food science class in your life, you KNOW the general principles of what constitutes a healthy diet vs. an unhealthy one.
When in doubt, eat less C.R.A.P. and eat more F.O.O.D.:
- C-carbonated drinks
- R-refined sugars
- A-artificial sweeteners & colors
- P-processed foods
- F-fruits & veggies
- O-organic, lean protein
- O-omega 3 fatty acids
- D-drink water
I’m of the opinion that those principles are self-explanatory and almost everyone can figure out which category a food falls into. And don’t get caught up on the minutia – organic or lean doesn’t have to be the emphasis, the protein is the goal, but P isn’t in the word ‘food’. Or if you’re wondering about genetically modified foods being artificial or processed, you’re overthinking it.
And when you want to indulge occasionally, DO IT! You might recall my post about Eating the Damn Pie and I stand by it. Eating a slice of pie every once in a while doesn’t derail your healthy goals or force you out of the healthy eater identity. Just don’t start eating a slice of pie every day for breakfast. Using nutrition for a healthier life is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be intimidating.