While diet itself doesn't determine whether we're healthy or not, it certainly plays a big role in how we look, feel, and the health (or lack thereof) we enjoy in our life. Paired with other healthy lifestyle habits such as exercise, proper hydration, kicking chemicals to the wayside, and practicing stress-reducing activities, fueling the body with the right foods is a (very large) piece of the health puzzle. But as anyone who's ever tried to make a change in their eating habits knows, it's not always as easy as just deciding to eat better. For one, processed foods can game our system with ingredients like refined salt and sugar, flavors, and additives that can actually be quite addictive. We also don't always eat out of pure physical necessity – emotions and psychology also play a (very large) part.
If you're looking to kick processed foods to the wayside for good – here are few mind-related hacks that may help you along the way.
Ditch the diet mentality; eat a rainbow instead
Instead of focusing on following a strict diet protocol which can feel limiting and restrictive (i.e. not sustainable for long-term), embrace a lifestyle change that focuses heavily on real, fresh, vibrant, organic foods bursting with the nutrition your body needs to thrive. When in doubt, eat more plants, and eat from all colors of the rainbow. It's one of the best ways to ensure we're getting a variety of different phytonutrients for optimal health.
Going primarily fresh doesn't mean you have to ditch all packaged foods. The key is to not get caught up in marketing claims; rather do your due diligence and turn over packages and read the actual ingredients. If it's full of ingredients you can pronounce, i.e. real food, then it's something your body will know what to do with.
Focus on abundance, not lack
Focus on exciting new foods that you can add to your diet, instead of what you may need to eliminate. It's psychology 101: we often want what we can't have. Ask any parent of a 2-3 year old (or teenager for that matter!) - we know all too well. Add more of the good stuff and watch the not-so-great stuff automatically take a back seat. There's only so much room on your plate - fill it with plant-based goodness first! Load up your plate with plenty of green leafy veggies which contain a wealth of trace minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients, amino acids, and fiber - make them a foundation of your diet. Everyone can benefit from more greens in their life!
Rest better to digest better
We've all heard the saying, “You are what you eat”, however, that's only half of the picture. It's more accurate to say we are what we digest. And when it comes to eliminating cravings for processed foods and feeling satisfied, what we digest and absorb matters in a big way. As one example, a lack of trace minerals in the diet may cause cravings for salty junk foods like chips. A magnesium deficiency often correlates with sugar cravings. When we eat empty calories or aren't assimilating what we eat, the body remains hungry for those missing nutrients even if our calorie quota has been met.
We have two main parts of our autonomic nervous system that interact with one another: the Parasympathetic and Sympathetic Nervous Systems. The former is responsible for activities within our body that fall under a “rest and digest” state. The latter is responsible for the response we all know as “fight or flight” -the stress response. We may be eating all the best mood-enhancing superfoods on the planet (raw chocolate, we're looking at you...), but if we don't take the time to slow down, enjoy our food, and de-stress our mind, our digestion suffers, our body becomes depleted, and our health starts to deteriorate.
Become a better body listener
While it's important to educate ourselves, consider new schools of thought, read up on the latest research, and be open to making changes to better our health, ultimately we have to tune in and listen to our own body and our own inner guidance. There is no one size fits all method when it comes to diet and feeling good; our individual biochemistry and needs are all so unique. You don't have to ask anyone's permission to do what's best for your own body.