Looking Forward to that Cookie

Do you ever feel like you read this newsletter just to find out how unhealthy you are? At the same time as I’m writing about foods to eat and foods to avoid, I think it’s important to acknowledge that for many people it’s the “unhealthy” foods—like coffee, sugar, ice cream, processed junk food, even alcohol and cigarettes—that give them something to look forward to and help them get through the day. While being healthy is nice, if it means giving up the one thing that really helps you to handle life, then you’re not going to want to do it. This is not just because these junk foods have highly addictive properties (they do). Processed junk food also creates balance in our lives, and balance is one of the most fundamental characteristics of health. If you stopped eating sugar, but still had to deal with all the stress of your life, what would you do? You would be unbalanced, building up tension without releasing it, and probably, you would explode in a bad way. So junk food is not really the problem—it’s the solution. It helps us find balance.

The downside is that processed foods weaken the body and leave you vulnerable to serious sickness. They’re also only a short–term solution; they make you feel better for a little while, but then once the effects wear off you feel even worse than before, and you need more (hence the addiction). Nevertheless, what I recommend is that you go ahead and embrace your junk food of choice. Don’t let health and nutrition gurus make you feel bad about it. Junk food may have its disadvantages, but it serves a purpose. Feeling guilty about something you actually need in order to create balance in your life just unbalances you all over again and creates more stress. High–sugar, high–fat foods are meant to be enjoyed, so that’s what you should do when you eat them.

There’s still the nagging question of your health and energy—of how to break the cycle of eating junk that eventually makes you feel worse and makes you crave more junk. What I suggest is that you focus less on giving up your favorite foods and just experiment with including more healthy foods in your diet. They don’t have to replace the junk food, but they can help neutralize the effect. For example, if you drink soda and coffee, that’s fine—but try having some fruit juice or water first. You may have less appetite and less need for the junk food than you thought. Or, if you really want something deep–fried and covered in butter, go ahead and eat it, but eat some vegetables too.

What happens to my clients is that once they start adding foods to their diet that are healthier and more balanced, they start to prefer those foods to the food they were eating before; they lose their taste for the junk food. They expect a big struggle with giving up their sugary snack or potato chips, and then they realize they just don’t want it any more. Once they develop a balanced diet that includes plenty of whole grains, vegetables, fat, natural sweeteners, and protein, they don’t want to return to the cycle of a stress high, followed by a sugar high, followed by a sugar low, which leads to a stress high, etc. So, ultimately, my recommendation is this: stick to your junk food and continue to love it unconditionally, but make room for some more whole foods, and just see what happens. Don’t be surprised if you end up looking forward to brown rice at the end of the day!