Food addiction is an epidemic, and yet it continues to fly under the radar. Every day we are bombarded by marketing messages that link fast-food chains with a wholesome family picture, sports sponsored by sweets and ‘happiness’ born from chemical cocktails.
The Oxford Dictionary defines food as: Any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth.
Is this what we are being sold?
Processed ‘foods’, manipulated for profit, often contain more additives and fewer nutrients. Your body is searching for nutrients. This is why we binge eat substances that are not only lacking in what we need but are also often detrimental to our health, and yet we still want more. This results in dis-ease; a lack of ease of flow through the body.
What can we do about it?
Awareness is always the first stage, and then it is far more productive to be in support of what you believe in than in opposition of what you don’t. So while I have seven strategies to share with you on how to overcome cravings, make optimal nutrition your focus.
7 Strategies To Fuel Your Body By Weaning Yourself Off Processed Food
1. Be mindful and listen to what your body is asking for: If you’re craving sugary food you may need an energy boost, or if you find yourself going into full diva mode over who ate the last packet of salty chips, more minerals. Fulfill your body’s unmet nutrition needs. Himalayan salt and seaweed are both sources of minerals. Treat yourself to a Himalayan salt bath and take the time to put together a seafood platter (you’ll see how this can help in strategy 4). Plant derived minerals are the optimal source of minerals however, being most bio-available source.
You can also use Cronometer to analyze your diet metrics. While no replacement for a nutritionist, this tool can help you to see what may be lacking in your diet. Even if you don’t hit the gym or the trails your lifestyle may be more active (or stressful) than you give yourself credit for. Ensure that your calorie intake is sufficient to meet your daily needs.
2. Make step-by-step healthy additions and substitutions: Through increasing your nutritional intake, you will begin to turn the tides on cravings. A common side effect of eating raw food is the desire to eat more raw food. Once your body begins to receive these treasured nutrients, and put them to use cleansing, healing and rejuvenating, you may find that you won’t settle for anything less.
If apples and pears aren’t cutting the cravings, dates, mango and papaya, while high in natural sugars are a healthier option to any processed counterpart. These fruits can help prevent you from reaching for the biscuit tin. As all are so sweet and soft, they naturally taste like dessert. Due to the sugar levels, fruit is best eaten in its whole food form rather than juiced. Take a moment to decide upon the healthy substitutions you can make and next time you go shopping add them to your arsenal.
3. Make overcoming your cravings a challenge: My greatest passion in life is challenge. It’s life’s adventure. When you make something a challenge, your energy goes towards embracing, enduring and even relishing the struggle. What is struggle if not nature’s way of strengthening us. This is not to say that life should be a struggle. Remember, health is ease of flow. The more you challenge yourself to step outside of your comfort zone, the more comfortable (at ease) you become with rising to the challenge.
A simple way to do this is to time how long you feel the craving lasting for. It may be a shorter time frame than you think! Cravings will pass, and short-burst cravings can burn out in 3 minutes. Start by outlasting every other short-burst craving and then improve your score. Challenge yourself to wait out the craving for 15 minutes and distract your mind from thinking about snacking – this could be phoning someone for a chat, reading a book, surfing the web or reprogramming a healthy habit such as exercising.
4. Avoid craving triggers and snack-associations and instead reprogram new habits: When do you normally snack? Many of us use or have used television as a mind dummy; a way to switch off our over-active thoughts. Couple this with automatic snacking and you’ve just devoured how many packets of salty snacks, chocolate bars and processed carbs?
Cravings are often more psychological than physical. Going through the motions is how we end up binge eating. Mindfulness is the antidote. Clarify how you want to spend your time.
“It’s hard to stay motivated when you’re confused. When you simplify your life, it gathers focus. The more you can focus your life, the more motivated it gets.” ~Steve Chandler
Be mindful about the difference between hunger and cravings. Psychologically, you may be used to feeling full from heavier foods. Fresh, whole-foods are typically lighter as they contain a higher water content. Here are some tips on how to deal with feeling hungry while transitioning to a more raw food diet:
5 Ways to Make Fresh Food Feel More Like a Meal
- Eat slowly: Convenience food is prepared and eaten so quickly we barely register it. Chewing is an important part of the eating process so make sure that your mind fully registers the food that your body is receiving! The slower you eat, the fuller you will feel. When you feel yourself giving in to the craving fully engage in the vision you have for your life.
- Get creative: Be inventive with your food preparation, rather than reaching for a quick snack. This is a simple way to embrace a healthy and vibrant lifestyle. For example, cut your fruit and salad into slices and eat with a homemade dip. This takes longer to prepare and consume so both your mind and hands are kept active and engaged in activity.
- Make a smoothie: Preparing a green smoothie would be a good option as a snack replacement. Take the time to carefully select, wash and chop the produce, and then consume it slowly. By taking time to prepare the food you are connecting with what the earth has provided for you, not to mention distracting your mind from the craving and increase your staying power.
- Try a smoothie-in-a-bowl: By eating the smoothie with a spoon, instead of drinking it from a glass, you will feel more like you are eating a meal. Use a little less liquid content than you would normally and add ingredients such as half an avocado, ground flaxseed and few pieces of chopped frozen banana to thicken the consistency.
- Think outside the box: If your diet revolves around the same old meals, try something new. I’m a fan of seaweed and sea vegetables. Not only are they nutrient dense, but also make for fun and creative preparations.
During the ‘withdrawal phase’, you may feel constant background cravings as you transition into a healthier lifestyle. Ask yourself, “What needs to be done?”. You’ve always wanted to write that book, learn a new language and start your own business, but you’ve just never got the time right? Well, there is no time like the present.
5. Stop buying snacks and you’ll stop eating snacks: Consuming snacks doesn’t start with having a craving. Every habit has a ‘lead in’. When you turn down the junk food isle (or these days isles), the ‘writing is on the wall’ as you’ve just set yourself up for a chain reaction. Focus your intention on the fresh produce isles. Or even better, shop at a health food store or local produce market. If the junk food makes it into the house, it’s only a matter of time before you eat it. Cravings intensify, and because you know that it is there, you’ve just engaged in a battle of will. Either take junk food out of the equation or have your spouse/flatmate keep their snacks out of your reach!
Practice challenging yourself to walk past stores and food carts you’d normally stop at and invest in a cooler bag so that you can take your own lunch to work. You can also take a healthy snack with you to eat when you feel the urge to go buy something. Rather than relying on willpower, set yourself up to fulfill your goal. This is how habits are formed; it’s little things in life not the grand gestures.
6. Begin reflecting upon why you snack and what you gain from snacking: Are you eating to live or living to eat? While you know that processed foods can be detrimental to your health, everything serves a purpose. Processed food doesn’t just affect your physical body, but can also affect your mindset and mood. What emotional need are you meeting through snacking? This could be comfort, relieving boredom or revisiting familiarity. We feed and starve our emotions. When you embody an emotion, and it doesn’t give you what you need, you will counteract it. This can be consciously or subconsciously. Embodying an emotion and then counteracting that emotion makes you feel, on a rudimentary level, complete, whole and balanced. When you become locked into this cycle it becomes hard to break out of because this cycle serves the self. It meets the needs.
Tony Robbins calls this the Crazy Eight (think figure of eight), where we flip between a low emotion such as depression, helplessness, self-pity to an intense reaction emotion such as anger, self-loathing and frustration. We can spend our lives walking the same circuit and this cycle creates ever revolving self-destructing orbits that get increasingly intense.
The paths we tread the most we forge the strongest. For example, as a culture we tend to eat until we feel physically full. When you embark upon a cleanse or a healthier lifestyle there is an empty feeling that we can mistake for hunger. This can mean that you stick to The Plan throughout the day, but then end up binge eating throughout the evening to make up for it. We don’t actually need to eat up to that point of physical fullness – where we can’t eat anymore. Food has almost become an adult pacifier. Get in touch with why you do what you do; notice the difference between hunger and cravings, and practice eating to meet only hunger needs. Empty the mind, body and baggage.
7. Do what works for you: Overwhelm is a ‘condition’ that we all experience from time to time when we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. So take a smaller bite. Your mindset needn’t be centred on “Zero to Hero”. Determine the vision you have for yourself and your lifestyle, and then set measurable, progressive milestones.
I’m from the UK, but I love seeing American football in action. The game requires such dynamic movement; the players turning on a dime. Change of pace and direction happens in an instant, however there is a process and a practice that leads up to that point. Same goes here. The latin root of the word decision means to “cut off from”. You could decide to be whatever you want to be right now, however, most of us require a warm up and practice first. The more you practice the process of making decisions and creating change, the more rapidly you’ll be able to do so and the more dynamic your life will be.
Learn to Breathe More Consciously
Cleansing is an integral part of my life and I encourage you to make it a part of yours. If we can gift our mind, body and creativity with a clean canvass, then we can purposefully design whatever we choose. Having existing commitments doesn’t stop you from becoming more efficient with how you use your time and designing your life to meet your highest standards. Living to your highest standards is like being a minimalist, or a ninja; clarity of mind, conciseness of application. To do this, remove all the excess from your life that is no longer serving you and re-learn how to breathe.
Learning how to scuba dive is such a wonderful exercise in breathing; to breathe slowly, steadily and methodically, watching, hearing and feeling the breathe.
Slow everything down and focus on the fundamentals.
You can re-learn how to breathe by swimming underwater. Converse as it sounds, it is an effective practise to actually focus on exhaling your breathe rather than on your inhalation. If you don’t breathe out under water, and instead hold onto your breath, you will find yourself tense and gulping for air when you surface. In one small widow of time, you’d have to firstly expel the breathe that you where holding onto then take a full breath in. If you are holding onto all that you can in your life, in the fear of being without, try it. Instead of focusing on breathing in (receive mode), breathe out (give out). You will automatically and effortlessly be fulfilled with what you want. As is the body, as is life.
Start the Way You Mean to Go On
If a full cleanse or a raw diet is too giant of a leap, then start by increasing your intake of raw food, be it a smoothie or salad before every meal, and make food substitutions. This way you get to practice success. Once these changes become the norm, transition a little further. A sustainable lifestyle is created through building a strong foundation. This way, if you slip, you have a previous anchor in place. Then it is not far to regain the ground you had made. When you don’t place anchors, and conditions change, it’s a long way to fall.
In the end, transitioning a new lifestyle comes down to how much you want it. Everything we do is out of a fundamental need to avoid pain and gain pleasure. If the pleasure of gorging on chocolate, chips and pastries overrides the perceived pain of a world without them, then you’ll continue to eat this way. When you shift your perspective, your body follows. Associate more ‘pain’ with binge eating and more ‘pleasure’ with your goal and you’ll see results. You embarked on a cleanse or a new lifestyle for a reason. Reconnect with your reason why.
The raw food lifestyle goes beyond diet. For me, “raw” means to be connected to the essence of life.
This is your life. Create what you are inspired to see.
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