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On Processed Foods

They’re so easy.  They’re so delicious.  They’re so comforting.  They give me a little boost when I need it most.  They’re a treat.  They’re a habit.  They’re addictive.

Love – Hate – Love.

Love?  Hate?

I really fell into the processed food industry’s grip when I started work and, most especially, working overtime.  I’d always had a sweet tooth.  I’d always snacked on crisps.  But, despite a dearth of fruit and vegetables, my diet wasn’t that bad.  At least it was home cooked although I used a lot of packets and jars.  When I found myself without time to cook (and never having met a slow cooker) I ‘lived’ on ready meals, chocolate and crisps.  I felt awful but put it down to over-tiredness and accepted that this was the way grown-ups lived when they’d been made redundant and had to pay a mortgage.

A typical day involved no breakfast except sweet, milky coffee, at least two ready meals, pre-packed sandwiches, crisps and chocolate at random intervals throughout the day because I was tired, hungry or bored and probably a binge of chocolate and cake at night to ‘help’ me get to sleep.  I’d wake up bloated, sick and exhausted the next day.  And do it all again.

Today is very different.  I had a big bowl of porridge made with almond milk for breakfast (I sweetened it with stevia).  I’m in the middle of making Clean Eating Alice’s Salmon, Seeds and Dill for lunch and dinner will be Roasted Vegetable and Couscous Salad with Chilli and Lime Chicken (another of Alice’s recipes).  I’m unlikely to need or want any snacks although I will have some porridge oats soaked in Greek yoghurt at bedtime.  I have energy for my daily tasks, I don’t get hungry until it’s time to eat and I haven’t had a chocolate binge for months.  I’m not bloated, I visit the bathroom regularly and I don’t feel sick from over-eating.

To get from there to here has been a long journey of trial and error.  To begin with, I dieted.  I think I tried every diet known to mankind – from low-fat to high protein.  None of them worked because I couldn’t sustain the changes they asked me to make.  And I am grateful to each and every one of them for what they taught me about the way my body handles food, the way I think about food and the way it makes me feel.

Then I started reading about nutrition, eating disorders, and the history behind why we eat the way we do.  I kept learning.

I tried Overeaters Anonymous, intuitive eating and saw a Psychologist.  And learned some more.

For the past year, I’ve been practicing ‘clean eating’ or, as I like to call it, Eating with Integrity basing what I eat on what I’ve learned about food and about myself.  I’ve lost about 3 stones without counting calories (or anything else) and, indeed, without ‘trying to diet’ in any way.

I’ve deviated from the plan for two periods of time – while on bed rest after surgery and while my mother was very ill – and those periods have confirmed what I’ve learned:

Processed food does not satisfy my appetite or my body’s need for fuel.  Instead, eating it causes me to crave more and more of the same.  So I stuff myself with it continually and get sicker and sicker.  Processed food has addictive qualities.  Processed food is bad for me.



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