Junk food is a topic that I think we can all relate to. No matter, how motivated you are or how much willpower you have, we have all eaten things we believe we shouldn’t have. However, I am convinced that it is precisely that negative relationship with food that may be holding you back from your goals. It is my hope that this blog helps you develop a different relationship with food. A relationship that promotes balance, consistency, and enjoyment.
What’s really interesting about the term 'junk food' is how individualized it is. It really depends on your own individual perspective. Some people think bread is junk food. Some people think pizza is junk food. Believe it or not, some people think fruit is junk food. For simplicity sake, I’m going to define the term junk food as the negative relationship between a certain food and our own personal perspective. In other words, the feeling we get when we eat something we 'feel' we shouldn’t have.
With that in mind, the term junk food is a mindset that is doomed from the beginning. The term junk food insinuates that the food you are eating is inherently bad for you. When you call something junk food, you are supporting the negative relationship you have with that particular food. In reality, the negative relationships you have with food may be slowing down your progress.
Thinking about food in terms of 'good' and 'bad' will bring a sense of guilt into the equation. Guilt and shame are the two areas that cause the most damage when it comes to wellness. From my experience, these culprits can take you down two paths.
The first and most common path is overeating 'bad' foods (what you believe is bad) because of the negative feelings derived from guilt/shame. Eating 'negative relationship' foods leads us to consume excessive amounts because we have the 'already screwed it up' mentality. Instead of being able to enjoy food, realize it’s importance, and move on, we eat excessively.
The second path is when you completely eliminate foods you believe are evil. Eventually, depriving these foods will cause cravings to set in. The majority of the time, these intense cravings will lead to overeating. I spent years and years traveling back and forth on these paths. I didn’t get the results I wanted and it was miserable. Quite simply a lose-lose situation.
I want to challenge you to stop viewing food through the lens of junk food and healthy food. Instead, we should be viewing food evenly through the structure of a pyramid. The nutrient dense, whole, unprocessed foods are found in the base. The more refined, processed, foods are found towards the top of the pyramid. The shape refers to the amount of each food you should consume. The base consists of the 80% of the food quantity that is consumed. The top refers the other 20% of food quantity consumed. For some reason, people believe that certain foods get you fat instantly. You know the phrase, 'don’t eat that, it will go straight to your hips'. When in reality, the foods at the top of the pyramid are critical to the structure of the pyramid as a whole. Eating 20% at the top of pyramid allows you to eat 80% at the base of the pyramid and vice versa. The top helps maintain cravings and can even support metabolic processes, while the bottom provides your body with nutrient dense foods on a consistent basis. When you realize the top is just as important as the bottom, nutrition starts becoming more simple, sustainable, and enjoyable. Realizing both sides play a crucial role is so incredibly important in reaching your fitness goals.
It is so much more effective to view food equally this way. First of all, you will have a more consistent caloric intake. This will lead to more consistent results and that will give you additional motivation. Secondly, a balanced pyramid will not deplete willpower reserves and as a result, nutrition will become a sustainable system (recent research supports the claim that willpower is a limited resource). Viewing food through this pyramid structure leaves room for life to happen while reaching your fitness goals. You don’t have to refuse social gatherings at restaurants or when your co-workers offer you that cookie. Win-win.
Most importantly, it allows you to develop a healthy relationship with food. That is so incredibly important because fitness should enhance your life and not take away from it. If it’s a miserable process, why are you doing it? Your best is yet to come!