Let Your Food Villains Go

“I’m eating less sugar,” my new client said to me. “But I can’t seem to stop altogether,” “That damn sugar is my nemesis.”

I hear this kind of thing all the time from people. I’ve been hearing this kind of thing for years.

“I eat pretty well,” he said. “Pizza and beer, though, that’s my downfall. That’s why I have this gut.”

“Okay, I’m ready to do this,” she proclaimed. “No gluten, no dairy, no sugar.” “Here we go.”

Do you see a trend here? All these folks are talking about their food villains. Eating well, to them, is about slaying their demons.

Photo 112--The Joker

There’s one big-ass problem with this: It doesn’t work! For decades, our culture has become adept at creating food villains. Fat! Carbs! Bad fat! Saturated fat! Hydrogenated oils! Sugar! Gluten! Dairy! Mo ha ha…big, scary food! And what has the result? We’re a sicker, fatter people by the day:

  1. According to the John Hopkins University Medicine, 84 million Americans (27 percent) live with cardiovascular disease.
  2. According to the American Diabetes Association, 39 million Americans (13 percent) live with type-2 diabetes and the number of people living with type-2 diabetes is growing at a rapid rate. The total cost of treating type-2 diabetes in the United States increased 45 percent (from $174 billion to $245 billion) in just the five years between 2007 and 2012.
  3. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than two-thirds (69 percent) of American adults are overweight/obese. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of men are overweight/obese. Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of women are overweight/obese. More than one-third (35 percent) of children are overweight/obese.

Can you hear the record scratching? Could it be more clear? A Fear-based, villain-based approach to eating well just ain’t working.

There’s an approach in mountain biking that really helps me ride well, and frankly, stay on my bike and off the ground. When I’m riding down a trail and I come upon some big, gnarly roots and, a few jagged rocks, and a low-hanging branch, I say to myself: “Ride through the clearing.” I identify the opening, the space where I can smoothly ride between the roots, rock, and branch. “Ride through the clearing,” I repeat to myself and I focus intently on the clearing.

Like many other mountain bikers, when I was beginning, I would say to myself: “Don’t hit the rocks. Don’t hit the rocks. Don’t hit the rocks,” as I held on tightly. What I learned was the when I focused on the rocks, I, more often than not, hit the rocks.

When you go through your day and you keeping thinking and saying: “No sugar, no sugar, no sugar,” what you’re doing is thinking about sugar all day long. Sooner, later, or both, you’re going to eat some sugar. (Sugar by the way is a nutrient that exists in almost all plant foods and is essential to life. It’s the highly refined sugar in food-like packaged goods that causes people trouble. But I digress.)

I say release your food villains. Focus on what you are going to eat each day, not on what you are going to avoid. Let yourself be excited about eating fun meals with your family and friends. Let yourself be excited about eating a wide variety of whole, natural, real food. Let yourself be excited about shopping at all the cool, funky markets where you live. Let food and eating be thrilling like riding smoothly down a trail. Eating need not be a battle against your enemies. If you choose it to be, eating can be an adventure that you truly enjoy each day.



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