If you are struggling with clean eating, you’re not alone. Many beginners and even seasoned clean eaters who have gotten “off track” struggle from time to time. Life gets in the way, things happen, schedules are busy and let’s face it, junk food is cheap and easy! There are many people who say, “clean eating is just too hard. I can’t stick with it. I give up!”
But is it? Is it really cheap and easy? Let’s break this down….
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CLEAN EATING IS JUST TOO HARD. OR IS IT….
When you struggle with clean eating:
There are several factors at play here.
- Processed foods are manufactured to create cravings. You aren’t imagining those cravings and you don’t have a lack of willpower. The odds are truly stacked against you with processed foods.
- Learning to cook with real food can definitely feel overwhelming at first. But like anything, once you get over that learning curve, life becomes much easier.
- Old habits die hard. Those old habits hang on and they are a tough opponent.
- Your taste buds betray you. Those processed foods have tricked your taste buds into thinking that anything NOT processed tastes terrible. But the funny part is, once you get used to the flavors and textures of real food, you realize that it was actually the processed foods that tasted like the chemical storms that they are. Gross!
I don’t know about you, but I can make a salad or a stir fry in the same amount of time (or less!) as it takes to prepare a package of boxed macaroni and cheese. You have to put “easy” into perspective by asking yourself, “what is it about this packaged food that makes it so easy?”
- Is it a lack of dishes used?
- Short cooking time?
- The ability to swallow it almost whole? (You know what I mean. Processed foods can be swallowed easily without much chewing. We can shovel it in faster!)
- What would it require to prepare a cleaner option with the same amount of dishes and cooking time?
- Is actually chewing my food so much harder? (Don’t laugh, I’m serious about that one. It’s a thing!)
Padding Your Wallet… Or Not…
Is eating processed food really cheaper? I’m sure you’ve read these comparisons before, but they are worth repeating. Is eating some chicken and vegetables really more expensive than eating processed foods when you consider the cost of:
- Medications needed due to failing health
- Co-pays and medical bills from doctor visits needed due to failing health
- Needing double the amount of food to feel truly full
Are We Lazy?
I don’t subscribe to the idea that we are lazy when it comes to food.
We make choices, and those choices are typically based on our level of knowledge as well as whatever causes the least amount of pain or discomfort in any given moment. That, or the maximum amount of pleasure in that moment. As human beings, we turn to food for comfort or to feel good. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing unless it gets out of control or we turn to the wrong foods. I find tremendous comfort in a small bowl of lentil soup! It’s all a matter of perspective.
The truth is, processed food have been manufactured to make you think that you will get greater comfort (no matter how temporary) from that box of macaroni and cheese than from that chicken and vegetable dinner I mentioned. And we think that because we only have to wash one pot instead of two, that we are saving oodles of time and energy.
But the truth is, it takes all of 1 minute to wash that extra pot, and if we would just make that initial effort, we would actually have more energy to wash it!
So How Can You Begin To Make Real, Lasting Changes?
- Focus on one meal at a time. Before you sit down to eat, actually LOOK at your plate and mentally evaluate it. What works, and what can you do better on next time? It’s not an all or nothing thing. If there is something on your plate that is not the best, take note of that and promise yourself not to buy it again! Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Or in this case, all your progress with one little mistake.
- Get to know the foods you are eating. This is your best defense. Take notice of what’s on your plate at each and every meal. Eating “blindly” will get you nowhere fast.
- Don’t give up! If you keep giving up, you’ll have to keep starting over. That is the “dieter’s mentality”.
You can never fail at eating. It’s just not something that can physically happen unless you somehow stick your spoonful of soup into your nose instead of in your mouth. Failing at eating would be, to not eat at all. There is no failure in food. There are only choices that benefit you and choices that don’t. And choices are something we can always change as needed. It’s a process, not an all-or-nothing thing. So you ate some white rice with sausage in it and had regular apple pie a la mode for dessert. SO WHAT!!!???!!! You haven’t failed at eating. You did that pretty successfully actually! Don’t throw away any potential progress by continuing to eat that way. Don’t get into the mindset of “clean eating is just too hard”. Adjust your course, and make your next meal a clean one. Don’t waste time feeling guilty about a failure that never happened. Just focus on making choices that benefit you at each and every meal thereafter. Eventually, it just becomes habit. And good habits are what good health is all about!