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We hear it all the time, “If you want to eat healthy or lose weight, just eat whole foods and avoid packaged, processed foods.” Here’s the problem: packaged/processed foods taste so damn good! The term used to describe this irresistible urge is “hyperpalatable”. This is the goal of the food industry, to create products that have the perfect flavor and texture for your taste buds to get us to crave more. These products also tend to be cheap and convenient options, making them even more appealing choices (especially when we’re stressed – Stress Eating). The cherry on top is that these processed foods are also heavily marketed, so you see them everywhere you go. Unfortunately, the high calories (primarily from fat and sugar), additives, and hyperpalatability that cause us to overeat these foods is of minimal concern to most food makers. It’s a tough predicament we’re in…so how do we navigate through it?
- Conscious eating
- Pay attention to when/where you’re being marketing
- Be mindful of the speed at which you’re eating (more chews per bite = slower eating = better ability to pick up on internal hunger cues)
- Create an “environment of success”
- Keep the processed foods out of the house or in difficult to reach places. This way, it’s there if you truly want it, but you’ll need to make a choice and then do some work to get it.
- Likewise, keep whole foods in plain sight and easily accessible.
- Be introspective
- Try to identify patterns and triggers of stress eating – who? what? where? when?
- Try to create new behavior in response to the trigger that’s more in line with your goals.
Let’s be clear. We do not recommend swearing off processed foods for good. Doing so will make most of us miserable and eventually trigger us to drastically overeat. It’s just not a sensible way of going about your life. If you’re looking for a general approach, think of the 80/20 rule, with 80% of your diet from whole foods and 20% from processed/packaged foods. However, your frame of mind is key when deciding to make these choices, to prevent falling into the traps set by the food industry. Yes, food is important for your health, but it also plays a big role socially and in other aspects of life. Processed foods should be enjoyed from time to time…just not ALL the time.