Eating healthy is not hard for the reasons you think
April 29, 2016
Let's debunk this myth once and for all: eating healthy is not hard, or rather, not for the reasons you think. Eating healthy, just as most health practices, is depicted as a form of constraint, as a life of sacrifice or as missing something. This is actually the opposite of healthy. It's just that most people simply do not understand what healthy means, and thus when they try to be healthy they try to go in a direction of a different sort of unhealthiness, one that has these constraints and these unmet needs, and they fail. You cannot not need what you need, not desire what you desire or not want what you want. Trying not to want, to resist, not to desire requires a lot of energy, causes suffering, and ultimately will lead you nowhere. The key to eating or living healthy is in fact in the opposite direction, it is precisely to meet those needs, to satisfy those desires and to get what you want. Only you don't realize that you are not yet doing it, that is why you eat and live unhealthily. Let's clarify this one step at the time by debunking the erroneos belief systems that encourage us to living unhealthily.
Myth 1: the real good stuff is unhealthy, healthy stuff is not as desirable. This could not be further from the truth. The reason you believe that is because when you try to go healthy, you prevent yourself from having tasty treats and foods and instead you try to eat foods that are not tasty and satisfying because you think those foods are healthy. That is completely wrong. The healthier a food is, the more tasty, satisfying and desirable it is. The problem is you don't know what those foods are, because you have been mislead strongly by the food industry. The food industry tells you that eating healthier means eating diet coke instead of coke, or a fat free milk instead of milk. Actually, all those foods are extremely unhealthy, especially the ones in the "diet" category, which is why you feel worse when you eat them. I'll explain what healthy foods are and why they are great tastying and satisfying below.
Myth 2: you and your taste buds love unhealthy foods. Again, completely untrue. Although it is true that you seem to love some unhealthy foods, such as chocolate, sugar, fat, coffee, etcetera, the truth is that you don't love the taste of it, rather their addictive effects have messed up with your natural sensory system, and your brain confuses the chemical fulfillment they give to replace what they have unbalanced in your system as pleasure, or good taste. To see what I mean, try to give a cup of coffee to a child who has never tasted it, they will likely spit it up. Yet as coffee-addicted adult we love the taste. It's not really the taste that we love, rather our brain has confused the addictive effect - the "fix" - with tasting pleasure. The thing to understand about this is that the only reason you need that "fix" on the first place is because you have messed up your chemical system with that addictive substance. When trial subjects who are chocolate addicts are given a opioid blockers, in a study, they stop liking the taste of chocolate. If we don't eat those addictive foods on the first place, your body's natural ability to "fix" itself is not lost, and you are no longer addicted to those foods, thus they no longer taste appealing to you. You can try this as an experiment on yourself. Chose a food you're addicted to, such as sugar, or chocolate, or meat, or dairy, or eggs (yes all those are highly addictive), or white processed flour/grains, or highly salty or highly fat foods. Once you have chosen one of those, try to not eat them for three weeks. After three weeks taste them again. If they still taste good do you, please write me and let me know. There is another important point in this myth category. It is not only the addictive property of foods that plays a role in distorting your taste perceptions. Taste buds naturally adjust to the taste of whatever you've been eating. Thus if you are used to eating highly sweet or salty foods, your taste buds will adjust by de-sensitizing themselves to sweet and saltyness, thus that level will seem normal or 'good' to you. Once you start moving to eating healthier foods, with a more delicate taste, your taste buds will adjust to those, and in fact highly sweet or salty foods will start to taste bad for you. Don't believe me? Try it for yourself. If it doesn't work, again write to me.
Myth 3: going healthy requires discipline and perseverance. Again not true. Although making changes in your habit will initially require a little bit of discipline, this is only to make the initial change, not to keep it. Continuous perseverence is only needed when the change you are making is not healthy. Discipline basically means forcing yourself to do something you don't want, or not to do something you want. Although this can sometimes be helpful in order to change bad habits, note that if you try to do this on a persistent basis not only will you be at a constant battle with yourself, but you will drain your energy, and eventually fail because it's simply impossible for you to not want what you want or to not need what you need, and in fact there is no good reason to. After all your body knows what you need. Instead the key is to meet your needs and wants directly, by changing your habits to healthier ones. Once you do that, it will be easy to keep those healthy habits, because you are not depriving yourself of anything.
Ok, now that I debunked the main reasons you thought were actually blocking you from eating healthy, what is truly blocking you and how to overcome that?
Reason 1: you are not truly meeting your needs, desires and wants. You think you are. When you are reaching for that bag of chips or oreos, for that cup of coffee or bar of chocolate, you are not actually meeting a need or desire, you are often replacing it with something else. You are using those foods, habits as a substitute for what you actually need, desire, because you are afraid of going for what you really need or desire. This can be something psychological by the way, not necessarily physical. When your body and or mind makes you feel a feeling, weather it be pleasant or unpleasant, weather it be something you want or not want, it is telling you in what direction you need to move in order to fulfill yourself, to be who you are, to be happy. But often people are afraid of this for a variety of reasons. They may be afraid of change, for fear of losing their attachments and connections, not realizing that those attachments and connections are precisely the replacement for what they truly need. They may be afraid of feeling the unpleasant feeling because they don't realize that by following it instead of resisting it, you find the way to resolve it and it disappears automatically. There may be other reasons as well. The point is that those treats do not fulfill your needs and desires directly, they only pretend to, and that's why not only you keep needing them (since your needs are never met, you constantly feel that void), but they make you feel bad and unhappy in the long run, since they prevent you from going in the direction of your happiness.
Reason 2: you don't know what healthy foods actually are. As the food industry has done a great job in disinforming you on what healthy foods are, I feel the urge to inform you on what they actually are. Healthy foods are any foods that are natural, whole, that look like they could come from a tree or plant as supposed to a factory, and therefore are not processed or refined. Moreover you want them to be in season, and local so they are fresh and ripe and in their optimal state and they don't contain chemical ingredients. Here are some examples of healthy vs unhealthy foods and the reason why.
Raw, seasonal, ripe fruits vs processed, unseasonal or unripe fruits. Raw, seasonal ripe fruits are delicious, try it for yourself! They are because they grew optimally, matured with a lot of sun and weren't picked too early: they are thus full of nutrients such as healthy simple sugars, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phyto elements. Your body can recognize the goodness of this stuff, and will make you feel it through your taste buds. Not only that, but fruit is extremely energizing, satisfying and hydrating. One note: fruits need to be eaten ideally on an empty stomach for best digestion.
White rice or grains vs brown rice or whole grains. White grains are basically whole grains ripped off of all their best and tasty parts: its minerals, vitamins, protein, fiber to mention a few. If you try to taste them you will see they actually have a much richer, satisfying taste because your body recognizes the good stuff through your taste buds (that's what they are for) as long as you don't fool it with artificial foods. They moreover will keep you full longer and make you feel more energized due to the high content of fiber and vitamins.
Meat, fish, eggs and dairy protein and fats vs beans, nuts and seeds protein and fats. Instead of getting protein and fat from meat, eggs, and dairy, which besides being highly addictive, are full of some of the most unhealthy substances for your body, you can get healthy fats and healthy proteins plus a lot more fiber, minerals, vitamins from beans, lentils from nuts and seeds. What's so unhealthy about animal products? I could write a whole chapter to clarify all the reasons, but it should serve to suffice that besides containing high levels of saturated fats, cholesterol, no fiber, little vitamins and minerals, these foods are filled with toxic chemicals which are introduced in intensive farming practices, not to mention the effects of growing animals in extremely unhealthy, depriving and painful conditions. Moreover those foods are not ideal for our digestive system.
Oils vs nuts and seeds. Oils are essentially the product of extracting fat from healthy whole foods. Whereas whole nuts and seeds contain, in addition to healthy fats, also protein, fiber, minerals, vitamins and other nutrients, oils only contain fat. They therefore give calories but no nutrition.
Refined sugar vs natural sugars such as fruits. Just as with oils, sugar, especially refined sugar, is the result of extracting one nutrient, i.e. sugar, from a whole food filled with fiber, vitamins, minerals, water, etcetera. Not only does sugar extracted this way have absolutely no nutritional value other than the caloric content per se, but in addition since our bodies are simply not designed to eat sugar extracted this way, it is actually very harmful: it unbalances our glycemic levels, and our energy and performance levels. Our bodies are designed to eat sugar in whole foods such as fruits, as their fiber ensures that the sugar is absorbed gradually, without unbalancing our levels, moreover all the vitamins, minerals and water provide nutrition and hydration which are essential for health.
So what are some practical steps you can take to actually move your habits towards a healthier direction? Here are some suggestions I propose.
Tip 1: change your habits one small step at the time. Do not expect extreme changes from one day to the next from yourself. Although this is certainly possible, it is also extremely hard. When you change your habits to healthier options, some feelings might surface that you have been repressing for years with your unhealthy options. Also the physical abstinence effects of some addictive foods might come up. Facing everything all at once is too much to expect from oneself. Instead do it a little bit at the time. With time you will develop the ability to feel yourself more, to feel what you really need and what you really want instead of repressing your feelings with a substitute. It takes practice. Give yourself a big pat on your shoulder for every small achievement. Do not try to over perform.
Tip 2: eliminate processed foods from your sight and reach, and fill your environment with healthy foods. If you have junk foods, processed foods, refined foods, you name it, in your house, and you want to eat healthier foods instead, eliminating them, and replacing them with healthy, whole foods will greatly help you. When you will get hungry or feel like snacking, your default option will be something healthy, not unhealthy. This makes a huge difference, as it takes away the need to resist, given that you cannot control your hunger or your wants: you will simply encourage yourself this way to change your habits from replacing your needs with things that do not fill them to things that actually fill them. This won't get rid of your addictions right away however, and it will take time for your cravings to completely disappear. Yet it will help grealty.
Tip 3: when you have a craving for something unhealthy, actually cook it yourself from scratch. To get healthier you do not have to give up unhealthy options all together; after all you've been using indulgent foods as an anaesthetic or comfort for a while for a reason. Don't take that away from yourself completely if you're not ready. However promising to yourself that whenever you have an indulgence you will actually cook it instead of buying it prepared, not only you will take time for yourself and will make this a more occasional and enjoyable treat, but you will also actually see what goes in the food and won't be using the toxic chemicals that the food industry uses.
Tip 4: pair healthier eating habits with other life-style changes. Food is not the only way you have been harming yourself, and in fact you might have been using foods as a way not to deal with other problems in your life. To really make this a permanent life-style change, you need to look at other areas of your life that need improvement as well. Are you exercising enough? If not, find some fun activities to do where you use your body. Are your relationships healthy? If not you might want to look into why, and perhaps change them. Do you meditate, do you spend time in nature, do you cultivate your hobbies and passions? If not, you might want to look into what's preventing you from doing so and change that.
Conclusion: your body knows exactly what is good for you and how to get you to feel great and satisfied, but you keep messing with its ability to do so by giving it "distorting" foods, and fake foods as well as addictive ones. Instead help your body do what it's best at doing, i.e. at getting you to live a great and happy life by telling you what it really needs: take small steps to change your habits, and you will feel ever better and better, more satisfied and happier.