From the “Too Good” to the Truly Good
One of my passions is to encourage and inspire people to be “IN” our culture, but not “OF” it. Easy when applied to our kids, right? But what does that have to do with nutrition?
The diet and food culture we live IN....promotes and manufacturers foods that are “too good.” “Too good” foods hardwire our brains to crave and over-eat them; they alter our palettes. We are inundated with these foods: commercials, specific diet ads, on the end caps and filling every aisle in the grocery store, and along our highways every time we get in the car (I pass 9 fast food restaurants on just ONE side of the road on my way to work....NINE!!!).
“Too good” foods share many common traits: packaged, advertised, convenient, fast, grab and go, typically lacking nutrient value, and always have compelling marketing strategies. “Too good” foods are too sweet, too salty, and/or too greasy. “Too good” foods create insatiable cravings specifically for them (Big Mac attack, Thin Mints, Cadbury Eggs, Lay’s BBQ potato chips). They turn off our internal signal that we’ve had MORE than enough. Often we eat “Too good” Foods to the point of feeling sick to our stomach. (Who ate all those mini Kit Kats you scream as you sit surrounded by empty wrappers in a euphoric haze of horror...cue the guilt).
But perhaps the most insidious aspect of “Too good” foods, they hijack our palette. Our palette can no longer detect natural sweetness and real food begins to taste sour or bitter. Ok, hijack may not be the right word. It’s more that too sweet dulls our sensitivity to balanced, natural sweetness. We respond by needing sweeter and sweeter foods to feel satisfied. (There are also some complicated hormonal responses and changes in gut bacteria that feed the sugar beast as well...but that is another post). For now, just know that “Too good” food causes the “truly good” food to become unpalatable and undesirable.
If it seems impossible to resist the alluring, seductive and deceptive temptation that “Too good” food provides, then I would encourage you to shift your thinking. Move from being OF our current diet/food culture by changing your mindset. OF this culture you typically begin with this mindset: with enough willpower, starting this Monday, I’m going to quit eating: sugar, carbs, alcohol, gluten, meat, etc. Rather, begin by accepting that you have to live IN this mindset thinking but don’t have to be OF it. What does that mindset shift look like? Shift from the thinking that focuses on what you must eliminate to what you need to add: the truly good.
“Truly good” food is Fuel. It is the food that grows, is minimally processed, unpackaged, fresh, is not shelf-stable, minimal ingredients (often just the ONE), typically on the perimeter of a grocery store. My kids call it ingredients because there is no food in our home....you know the stuff you prepare and cook! Fuel for your body is nutrient dense (phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, Omega 3, fiber, protein, essential amino acids, antioxidants); it provides all the things your body needs for optimal health, an efficient metabolism, hormonal balance, satiety, energy, mental clarity and lean body composition.
Remember by being OF the current culture you have caused some (or a lot) damage to your metabolism, created imbalance between your satiety and hunger hormones, altered your palette, created some degree of insulin sensitivity, caused inflammation and knocked your gut bacteria out of whack. As well, you have consistently practiced the diet/food culture habits that promote these ill-effects for years. Undoing this mindset and habits will not be quick. Or easy. But anything of lasting value never comes quickly or easily.
KNOW you can choose to change. Know you can fix this. Know that you can live IN this culture without the desire to be OF it. Know your health, wellness and body composition goals are not only attainable but sustainable. It requires a mindset shift and the discipline to build new habits over time.
Shifting from the “Too good” to the “Truly good” begins with adding Fuel. It begins by believing that a well-fueled body will begin to correct all the damage. You will naturally crave “Too good” less. You will begin to feel better and shift your focus from the momentary satisfaction of consumption to the lasting sense of wellness after. As you add each new “Truly good” food your palette will re-awaken: fruit will be the best fruit you’ve ever bought, veggies you once found bitter will suddenly be wonderful (Mom, what do you mean I spit out Brussel sprouts?! I don’t believe you) and “Too good” foods will reveal their ugly under-belly (sickeningly sweet, coats the inside of my mouth with filmy grease, taste “chemically”, wow is there too much salt in this?). You will begin too crave the “Truly good.”
With enough time and consistency, “Too good” foods will become naturally rare and when consumed (my only never is fake, sugar substitutes....yes you can have a Cadbury Egg) you will choose to eat less and control the intake when you indulge. Perhaps the best added benefit of adding the “Truly good”, you will begin to cook more often and have more family dinners together. You will begin to plan, shop, prepare and enjoy food as it was intended: mindfully and reverently. You will create a new, better culture in your home. A culture you will be OF that causes you to thrive and live your best life!
Quick “cheat sheet”
What makes a food “Too good”?
- It is physically easy to consume (slides down the gullet; you can be unaware of how much you inhaled)
- It strongly and immediately stimulates reward pathways in a druglike fashion. I’m talking dopamine and serotonin here.
- It’s “craveable” and provides an immediate, superficial reward that does not fundamentally satisfy or nourish. This means the experience is always nutritionally deficient, which leads to an endless pursuit of satisfaction that cannot actually be achieved via the consumption of that food. In other words, you keep eating, and don’t really ever feel any satiated.
- It’s deliberately manufactured by teams of food scientists to cater to human vulnerability and create desire (sugar stamp, I see you natural flavors).