“I just eat too much junk! How can I change this?”
If you’ve observed that you eat a high amount of low-nutrient, high-calorie foods, you’re probably on the right path noticing this is something worth changing.
For reasons outside of the scope of this post, I’m not crazy about labeling foods with terms like “junk”. But in the case of THIS conversation, my objection is simple: it’s a distraction.
Entering judgment-mode and condemning all the “junk” prevents you from gaining key insights.
You need to take a holistic view of your eating habits – no, not in a “make sure to drink your alkaline water based green smoothie drink with coconut oil” type of way…
But instead, the broad view of where your eating habits fit into your life.
Food, of course, isn’t just for nutrition, it also has cultural and hedonic roles (the latter being fancy talk for “it tastes good and you like it”).
When you over-simplify and say “junk”, you’re ignoring what is really going on… what is driving you to eat…and to make the specific choices you’re making.
The most common example is when you are deliberately eating for pleasure.
When you can be clear on “I am eating too many low-nutrient foods specifically for the purpose of getting more pleasure from my meals”, that is infinitely more helpful than a superficial statement like “Eh. I just eat too much junk”.
And then in the case of a “pleasure deficiency”…you can start to reverse engineer.
Typically, the issue comes down to one simple root problem…
You are putting too much of a burden on those “junky” foods to be THE sources of pleasure in your diet.
You have your dry chicken breast, dry broccoli, and dry brown rice…and then 2 servings of ice cream so you can actually get some damn enjoyment out of your dinner.
When desserts and snacks are your ONLY sources of pleasure, you’re going to be more likely to consume them in ample amounts.
On the other hand, if you focus on maximizing pleasure by using flavorful recipes with more nutrient-dense foods, you can meet most of your pleasure needs before opening the freezer or cupboard.
Healthy, balanced eating doesn’t need to be unenjoyable. In fact, it’s imperative you DO enjoy it.
1) Because if you’re not enjoying it, that might actually be a sign it’s not *really* balanced. That example I gave before of the “healthy” meal of chicken breast, brown rice, and broccoli? Yeah, that meal would be woefully deficient in dietary fat without some oil or butter (or other fat).
2) So you can meet most of your needs for “Vitamin P” (pleasure).
Not only will you be able to reduce how much you eat of calorie dense foods in the short-term, but you’ll be more likely to stay on your new path.
For your results to be sustainable, your behaviors need to be sustainable.
And for your behaviors to be sustainable, they need to provide you with *immediate* value.
Are you working on nutrition changes that make your life at least *a little bit* better in the immediate term?
Do they give you more energy, less stress, more satisfaction, or better focus?
Or do they feel like burdens that will only be worth it if you get on the scale a month from now and see your weight has gone down?
P.S. Want some help with changing your eating habits (while getting MORE enjoyment from your meals – not less)? Check out the Habit Project.