So...I'll try to make this short and sweet...(yeah, right.)
Eating healthy isn't just about what you put into your body, it's also about what you don't put into your body. I know...no shit, Sherlock -right? I mean, it goes without saying that if you want a healthy body, then don't build it out of soda pop and Little Debbie Swiss Rolls (no lie, my lunch nearly everyday in 8th grade...don't tell my mom. Incidentally, I spontaneously and mysteriously threw up a lot that year.) We know these things have no place in a healthy diet, and they should be eliminated completely. We know this.
Now I know it's not realistic to expect someone to completely change the way they eat after three or four or six decades of eating crap. Unless of course, they just suffered some major life-threatening trauma/diagnosis that scared the piss out of them -but really...is that what it's going to take to get YOU to eat like a grown adult? Sadly, for some people the answer to that is yes. But usually by then it's too late. The damage has been done. You can't blow an engine and expect to fix it simply by changing the oil.
It's. Too. Late.
Had you changed the oil 30,000 miles ago like you were supposed to, or paid attention to the strange noises coming from under the hood and the poor performance and gas mileage, you might not have ended up stranded on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck at 3 a.m. Yes, I'm saying that putting tape over the "check engine" light is a horrible strategy for automobile maintenance.
Like a car, your body is fantastic machine, capable of doing amazing things -provided you give it the right fuel. But humans are also "cursed" with free will, and that can lead to some pretty poor decision making sometimes. So how can we mitigate a lot of the damage done to our health by the irrational parts of our brain -especially when we're craving something...dirty?
First, understand that your brain is taking marching orders from either the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight), or the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest.) When the PNS is in charge, the prefrontal cortex is online, and you're straight-up-stone-cold-cherry-chillin'. Not only are you able to relax and make more rational decisions or think more clearly, your digestive system is also properly engaged to do it's job correctly.
The SNS engages parts of the brain that favor survival over anything else, and it's in charge whenever you're stressed. It's going to make you do some pretty silly things because it wants you to stay alive. Except instead of battling bears and tigers, we go to war with strangers on FB over politics and have 9-5 jobs we hate...or kids bouncing off the walls because they've eaten nothing but sugar and excitotoxins all day long. Or all of the above.
Hello stress eating.
You see what I'm getting at. Getting a grip on our stressors is a fundamental part of healthier eating, because we need our rational, thinking brain to be in charge. But not just when you're eating, because eating presumes that you've already BOUGHT the things you're about to eat. This means that your thinking brain needs to be in charge when you go grocery shopping too, so don't buy food when you're stressed or emotional or high AF.
Now getting a grip on your stressors is a post or two in and of itself. I can usually help with external stressors, but really -that's more in your own wheelhouse. I tend to focus on ameliorating the internal stressors via lab testing, as well as teaching you how to modify your lifestyle and habits to heal your body and eliminate those internal stressors. But for now, let's assume you're in the right frame of mind to grocery shop. Ready to have your mind blown?
Don't. Buy. Shit. (aka DBS.)
As long as you DBS, you won't bring it home and eat it or feed it to your kids. Revolutionary, right?
Before we continue, I want to be clear moving forward: this post is about "healthier unhealthy foods," because I know most of you aren't going to give up things like ketchup or peanut butter or ice cream right off the bat...if ever. That's okay. We'll talk about "healthy foods" and "healthy food swaps" in upcoming posts. DBS will apply across the board, with everything you buy -not just food. You're in charge, right? DBS.
Did you know that for nearly every unhealthy food out there, there also happens to be a healthier unhealthy version of it? You can buy ketchup without high fructose corn syrup and food coloring. You can buy organic peanut butter without hydrogenated oils and sugar. Instead of Häagen Dazs, there's coconut milk ice cream. Bread. BBQ sauce. Peanut butter cups. Cookies. Cigarettes. Vodka.
None of these things are good for you -even the healthier versions- and I can't stress enough that you would be better off without them. But the healthier versions are a hell of a lot better for you than their unhealthy counterpart by virtue of what you're NOT putting in your body...BPA, MSG, parabens, food colorings, preservatives, those things have no place in ANY human body -young or old. You're still usually getting a healthy dose of sugar or starches or whatever, so I emphasize -these things are still not good for you to consume on a regular basis. But humans being human beings, we like to live dangerously.
Yes, sometimes these things can be a tiny bit more expensive, but not more expensive than replacing your engine. Next time you're at the grocery store, remember to DBS. Take a little more time to seek out a better version of the things you know aren't any good for you. They're there. If you have questions, ask me. I'll do my best to help you find a healthier unhealthy version of what you're looking for. Eventually, the plan will be to gently wean you off these things and on to a more healthy, whole food diet, without ever missing the crap.
But for now, DBS.
Of course, this also means you need to learn how to read a label. Empower yourself with the knowledge of what's in your food so that you can make a more educated decision about what to buy. IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO BE AN INFORMED CONSUMER. If you think the food industry actually cares about your health and well being, then I have a vaccine to sell you.
Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a couple of great apps you can download for free, so that when you go shopping you can scan the bar code and get more info on that product, as well as a better option. EWG's Food Scores app deals with food, and their Healthy Living app deals with food, cleaning supplies, and body care products. We'll be addressing cleaning supplies and body care products in future posts, so you can just stick with the Food Scores app for now, if you want.
That's it for now, punks. Sorry I started out this post with a lie. I'll try to make them shorter. (No I won't. That's a lie too.) #sorrynotsorry