Is your healthy diet making you sick?
Most of the people I know who are healthy eaters haven’t always been that way. Several of them will insist that they have been, but really, were just following the latest fads in eating. Nutrition experts, well meaning doctors and parents all did their part in carving out this path for us. Before they were truly healthy eaters, they were stressed out shoppers, trying to make the best food choices they could with the knowledge they had been given.
People have always had a desire to be healthy, the problem was, over the years, the premise of what’s actually healthy has changed over and over and over again. How is this NOT supposed to be stressful for us? We think we are doing what’s best for our bodies and then we find out it wasn’t healthy, but we actually were making ourselves sicker. As was the case in the 70s, 80s and 90’s when people across the western world adopted a low fat diet. Along with eating low fat came awful products almost-named after the foods they were created to resemble (read: I can’t believe it’s not…).
Walking into the grocery store and seeing shelves filled with actual eggs, butter, and lard must have been quite stressful for those looking to partake in a low fat diet. Scanning the shelves in search of products that were similar to those high fat foods, without all of the fat, was, (I am certain) a painstakingly difficult process. Over time however, food manufacturers heard the cries and made sure to stock the shelves full of foods that tasted (sort of) like the foods we loved without any of the actual foods inside of the product. Egg substitutes, butter substitutes and fat substitutes were supposed to be our saving grace and eating them was going to improve our health. Or so we assumed.
As time went on this wasn’t enough. Scientists in laboratories were doing studies on our low fat diets and how it affected our health. People were not getting healthier and no one could figure out why. As people ate low fat diets they were getting fatter and their health was declining. The stress this placed on those who were considered healthy eaters was enough to make them sicker! They were doing everything they were told, fruits, veggies, low fat crackers, low fat non-dairy products, and lean meats or even non-meats. Heck, their health was declining and they weren’t even enjoying the low fat foods they were consuming! People were seeking answers and researchers were desperate to find those answers.
What did these researchers find?
Lo and behold, they found that people were consuming too much sugar. Where was the sugar coming from? We certainly weren’t consuming spoonfuls of sugar right out of the sugar jar. So where were we getting this sugar? (Talk about stress!) Well, that answer lies with the food manufacturers themselves. When they started meeting the demand for low fat foods, they realized the products they were making had very little flavor.
As I mentioned earlier, we were eating (what we thought was) a healthy diet and we weren’t loving it. Food manufacturers had to fix this and they did so by adding extra sugar to our food. Ah! So that’s where the extra sugar was coming from! What was a person to do? We were hooked on these low fat foods as a part of our diet and, in many cases, they became a matter of convenience! As people were forced to scour food labels looking for sugar content in prepackaged foods, grocery shopping and cooking became an extremely stressful experience.
Food manufacturers once again heeded our call and started taking the sugar out of our food and started adding in chemicals that resembled sugar. All of these sweeteners were overly sweet, some more so than others, but they were meant to be a healthier alternative to eating packaged foods loaded with sugar, so we were able to overlook the taste. At least some of us were. People started buying soft drinks, cookies, gum, candy, salad dressings, juice, really, almost everything, without sugar.
The American public loved this, and we were thrilled to have the ability to enjoy the products we had come to love over the years, without the added sugar. Were artificial sweeteners the answer to all of the stress that surrounded these packaged foods we conveniently bought and prepared for our family meals. All we had to do was go to the grocery store and look for the words sugar-free and low fat. How difficult could that be?
Sadly, this fad too had its holes.
No one could argue that consuming too much sugar was problematic, but was replacing that sugar with a synthetic chemical really the answer? As we sat on the sofa and watched the evening news, the stories starting coming out on just how bad these sweeteners were for us. Then the conflicting stories hit the airwaves, these sweeteners aren’t bad, they are perfectly safe, feel good about eating them, after all, it’s for your health. And so the roller coaster of health and stress continued to take us all on this confusing and sickening ride. We were finally starting to feel comfortable in what we were eating, when someone threw a wrench in it.
So here we sit today. Confused and running in circles.
How could this be? How could someone take something that humans did for thousands of years and make it so freaking complicated? How could the simple act of buying food be so confusing? We watched our mother and grandmother cook countless meals and they never seemed to get as stressed as we get about buying and preparing our food!
Hours are spent googling topics such as “healthy food” “healthy cooking” and “healthy recipes”, hoping to find answers on what we should eat for our bodies to best preform. Instead of actually preparing food, we hunt for recipes, watch cooking shows and scour the shelves in the grocery store trying to find what’s right. We spend so much time watching people prepare these exotic complicated dishes, we assume that in order to eat heathy, we must put that much time and effort into our food preparation. WHO has 3 hours to prepare a complicated recipe off the internet or TV every night? We are left stressed and devalued if we don’t take that much time to prepare our food, after all, that must be the answer to eating healthy.
Even if we completely understood the best ways to eat for our health, we have left ourselves such little time to actually prepare the foods we want to eat in the style we think we should. Thus leaving us with (seemingly) no other option than to hit the drive thru or frozen food aisle hoping to find something to cook without all of the effort.
Eating healthy has become a stressor
With the help of scientists, food manufacturers and advertising, we have made eating and health extremely stressful topics to ponder. I am happy to say, it doesn’t have to be. Being healthy isn’t simply about abiding to rules such as sugar free or low fat. It is about nourishing our bodies with foods that will truly aid in our bodily function. Ripping open a bag of chips or crackers offers us no real nourishment, neither does opening a can of soda or chewing on a stick of gum.
Truly finding health depends on us including a myriad of fruits and vegetables in our diet, each and every day. This doesn’t mean only eating organic produce. This means simply eating produce. Yes, eating organic local produce is certainly much better for your health, however this isn’t always feasible. Sometimes we have to just buy the broccoli because we need to eat it, and not wait until we can find a stalk of organic broccoli. Making small choices such as that, can really help to take the stress out of eating healthy.
Look at buying meat the same way. Yes, free range, hormone free, antibiotic free is the best way to go, but that isn’t always an option. Whether this is because your grocery store doesn’t carry that type of meat, or even simply because you can’t afford it, either way, we need protein. Look for the best possible cuts of meat (with fat included) you can find and bring them home for dinner.
Cooking can be easy!
Cooking, as I mentioned earlier has become a major source of stress in many households. It doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t have to sear then bake then broil in order for a meal to be nourishing and delicious. Sometimes cooking just means seasoning a piece of meat and placing it on the grill or in the oven. Cooking veggies can be just as simple. You can quickly sautè them in a high quality fat, such as ghee or coconut oil and then season with some salt and pepper. By simply doing these two things, you have a nourishing meal you and your family can feel good about eating.
Meals like this can be prepared faster than going though a drive through. Plus you will feel so much better afterwards. There’s no stress about whether or not you made a good choice. You can sit happily knowing you did the best you could in preparing that meal. Take pleasure in knowing your health is headed to a better place, simply by cutting out processed/fast foods.
We already have enough to stress about
There are many reasons to feel stressed in our lives. Cooking and eating shouldn’t be the cause of daily stress. Eating the proper foods should actually defray the stress we feel not add to it. Just remember, stick with whole, unprocessed foods. Nothing in a wrapper, box or any other package should be a part of your daily routine. If that doesn’t seem doable, try to replace one meal a day, maybe your dinner, with whole nourishing, real foods. In time, prepping foods this way will become second nature. Before you know it, you will be replacing all of your meals with wonderful foods such as those mentioned previously. You will find more confidence in cooking and may be willing to try new foods and different preparations never before considered. In the meantime, baby steps. Start cooking now, before your stress gets the best of you.
For more information on the top 6 diet myths check out this post by Mix Wellness on the top 6 diet myths!