It will soon get easier to eat whole foods.
Have you already made some of the changes to your diet that I wrote about in the Q15 ebook? By now, you should have cleaned out most or all of the processed junk food from your home, and should be eating mainly whole foods.
Do you feel like you’re missing a little something? Maybe it’s that sweetness that processed foods usually have that has you craving something sugary after breakfast, or a little snack before bed? Maybe you think that a glass of soda could really make your dinner experience way better?
In the beginning, eating whole foods when you are used to eating hyper-palatable processed foods can be an underwhelming experience: Where is the flavor? Everything tastes so bland! You are waiting for that sweetness or that crunchy buttery saltiness, and when it doesn’t come with your meal it might make you crave dessert even more.
What is happening is that your tastebuds and brain are “withdrawing” from being hyper-stimulated. This might sound a little crazy to you…it’s not like you’re addicted to processed foods, right?
- a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing well-defined symptoms (such as anxiety, irritability, tremors, or nausea) upon withdrawal or abstinence
- a strong inclination to do, use, or indulge in something repeatedly
Well, maybe you are addicted to processed foods just a little! In fact, I think we all become just a little addicted to the typical American way of eating because it’s just so pleasurable and comforting. No matter how bad your day is, or no matter what you feel you are lacking, you can always find something to eat that tastes amazing and satisfies a different part of you, at least for that moment.
With most addictions, you don’t realize how hooked you are until you try to stop. Then come the cravings, and the single-minded thoughts about getting another few bites of something tasty. It can be hard to think about anything else until you satisfy that craving!
But, if you can get past the first two weeks of eliminating processed hyper-palatable foods something amazing will happen…actually a few amazing things will happen!
You will begin to taste real food again. Once your tastebuds recover from their sugar- and salt-induced haze, they will regain their normal sensitivity to taste all the nuances and subtle flavors of real food again. For example, you will be able to appreciate that a simple baked sweet potato has both a natural sweetness, an earthy nuttiness, and a creamy texture. Who needs all those toppings, added sugar, and artificial flavors? Not you!
You will feel better physically. Switching to a whole-food diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein will usually reduce or eliminate many of the physical ailments that come with eating poorly. You can look forward to having lower blood pressure, less abdominal distress, less heartburn, less bloating, healthier looking skin, and many other improvements that you can see and feel. Don’t forget that your insides will also be healthier too…you just can’t see them. Reduced inflammation in your gut and vascular system can lessen the incidence of diseases like a heart attack, a stroke, fatty liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and most cancers too!
You will feel better mentally. How crazy is it that we accept that after a big meal we will feel so fatigued that we can fall asleep at our desks or on the couch somewhere? Food should energize you, not suck the energy out of you! Processed carbs and high-calorie junk foods cause your body a lot of difficulties with digestion. They also promote a diseased population of gut bacteria instead of a healthy and diverse microbiome. Eating the typical American diet of processed high-calorie foods leads to energy crashes, cravings, and that cloudy feeling in your head that people call “brain fog.” A steady supply of energy from real food will make a big difference in how your mind functions!
You will have a better, healthier relationship with food. Food should be fuel for our body and mind. High-quality nutrient-dense natural food, much like high-octane fuel for a fancy sports car, should keep our body performing at its finest. Food should not an emotional crutch. Eating is not a hobby. Hyper-palatable processed foods are specifically engineered to stimulate the pleasure centers in our brain, and over time eating processed ultra-tasty food becomes a stimulus-reward situation. The wiring between neurons in our brains slowly changes as we keep getting better at pressing that dopamine button again and again: To get the same amount of pleasure, we need to consume more and more of the substance. This is the same thing that occurs when someone uses any drug of addiction!
Eating natural whole foods can break this cycle of pleasure and reward associated with simply eating processed food. Once food becomes more fuel than reward, it becomes easier and easier to stop thinking about eating junk. That is, the longer you eat whole foods, the easier it becomes. The cravings are worse in the beginning, but you will slowly adapt if you can keep consistent for only a few weeks. You will come out the other side much healthier and probably much happier too. You will still get pleasure from eating, but it will be different. It won’t just be a fleeting pleasure from a cheap hit of sugar…you will feel the real satisfaction of actually being healthier, and best of all you will have earned it!
Over time, the pleasure and reward centers in your brain can be rewired to derive pleasure from doing healthy things, like eating naturally, exercising, stretching, meditating, helping others, working hard, and creating. In 40 days, eating deep-fried sugar-coated dough to get a dopamine high will seem like a distant memory of a much stranger time in your life…