Processed Plateau

So, this is where I’m at. I no longer diet. I exercise for pleasure. I’ve legalized foods. I’m not bingeing as much. I mostly eat when I am hungry. I’m working on stopping when I’m full. I only use the scale once a month.

But I’m eating crap.

I guess it doesn’t sound like I’ve legalized food when I use the word crap. But, I’m eating a lot of processed stuff. I eat fast food for breakfast. I eat a frozen entree and yogurt for lunch, and either fast food or frozen entree again for dinner. Add a banana or apple to the mix and call it a day.

I’m unsatisfied.

At first I thought, well maybe I’ve come to a point in my process where I’ve realized that food is just food, & it can’t bring me love or extra meaning. Maybe I’ve finally put food in its proper perspective.

But, no.
Not yet.

I get hung up on the word “processed.” Because even butter, milk, cheese, and tuna are processed. So, then I think it is a task that is impossible.

What is the impossible task?
Moving from fake food to real food.

As Michael Pollan says,
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

I am reminded by what the authors of Intuitive Eating say about Honoring Your Health & Gentle Nutrition, “Make food choices that honor your health and tastebuds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters, progress not perfection is what counts.” (Tribole & Resch)

I find it so daunting and scary.

I really struggle with ADD and organizational issues. Boiling water is over the top for me. Cooking (in my mind) equates planning, organizing, cleaning, putting away, washing, drying…. the list goes on and on.

About six years ago I took cooking classes with a friend of mine who at the time was also a noncook. At the end of the 12 weeks, she emerged as a Rachel Ray in training. I was still going through drive-throughs. It didn’t take.

I don’t know if my resistance to cooking is really about being organizationally-challenged.

Really, cooking, would be wonderful self-care.

But I am one of those people who if it doesn’t feel good in the moment,
I don’t do it.

I think in the long run it might feel better,
but I am not easily motivated by long-term gratification.

I lack maturity in this area.

Sometimes you have to suspend short-term discomfort for long-term gain.

What is the first step towards moving towards Gentle Nutrition?
How do you flip the switch?

I’m so looking forward to your words of wisdom,
dear readers.


About eatingasapathtoyoga

Learning to savor food, yoga, & life.
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20 Responses to Processed Plateau

  1. KL says:

    Does it help to think of preparing food, just one meal a day, or one meal every other day, or even one meal a week, as more like “assembling” rather than cooking? What I mean is that there are foods you can “make” at home that are really just putting together a couple of ingredients you can buy in their ready form. For instance, a whole wheat naan you buy in a store, with pizza/tomato sauce you buy in a store, with mozzarella sauce you buy in a store, put it in the toaster oven at 400 until cheese melts, and then take it out and throw on a pile of raw arugula (that you buy in a store) and drizzle with olive oil (that you buy in a store) and some salt. Even though it sounds like a lot of that is “processed” to some extent, if you buy the most unprocessed forms you can find (organic cheese, maybe, or a whole wheat naan or english muffin without too many preservatives), it will still leave your body feeling lighter and healthier than ordering from Dominos, and more importantly, you’ve made a small step towards the habit of putting together your own meals. A sandwich is another good way of doing this, or making a salad – there are lots of meals you can “assemble” without ever dirtying a pot. Your favorite green (arugula, frisee, etc.) tossed with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette, and put an egg on top (poach if you want to be daring, fry sunny side up if not), and you’ve assembled a home made meal with one pan. When I’m in a cooking rut, this is what I go back to – I buy as many components as I can, and I assemble yummy things, and it’s still better for my body than eating out.

  2. KL says:

    (And by lighter/healthier/better I’m not talking about calories – I’m talking about how I physically feel after I eat, whether I feel satisfied but still energetic, or whether I feel sluggish and tired).

  3. Megan says:

    You know it’s not just a choice between “fake” or “processed” food and “real” food, right? It’s not an either/or kind of thing, though believe me – I’m guilty of treating it that way sometimes, too.

    Here’s what I think: You can continue to eat the way you’ve been eating if that’s what you choose. Or you could instead eat the way you’ve been eating 18 times a week, and 3 times a week cook/prepare/assemble something yourself. Or whatever number works for you – there are 21 meals in an average week, after all. It’s not all-or-nothing – you can move graaaaadually toward providing yourself with less-processed meals.

    What are the frozen meals you tend to favor, because I can pretty much guarantee you there is some fairly simple way of approximating them at home. The pizza idea above is great (and seriously, there was a time in my life when I ate homemade pita pizzas almost nightly because I *hearted* them so much). You can also make most anything into a wrap. There are eggs in a million variations. And we mustn’t forget the awesomeness of Crock-Pots – it’s not even like cooking!

    Thinking about nutrition is especially scary for recovering dieters because it totally feels like start of a slippery slope, doesn’t it? But it doesn’t have to be! It can instead be a profound act of self-care, one that you really, really deserve.

    • I really love the Amy’s Indian food entrees!! Also, I love the Stouffers ones-turkey tetrazzini, chicken a la king, yum! I feel liberated that I’m not eating frozen entree that are all diet-y and tasteless! It’s hard, because I’m single, so cooking for one is very different than cooking for a family. I’m not a leftovers kind of person. Homemade pizza pitas is TOTALLY do-able!!!

      • KL says:

        I also live alone and cook for one, so I feel you on that. This is where the toaster oven comes in! Pita is a great suggestion for pizza in addition to naan or an english muffin. If you don’t like lettuce, but you want some veggies, you can also throw on a few strips of bell peppers, for instance, or even roasted peppers from a jar. Another easy one-step meal, as long as you are willing to boil water, is to boil water, put pasta in water, put some other cut up vegetable in the last 2-3 minutes (broccoli, broccoli rabe, green beans, even frozen peas), and then drain it all and toss it with olive oil, salt, pepper, and maybe sprinkle on some parmesan (add red pepper flakes if you want spice). If cutting up veggies seems too daunting, buy frozen cut up ones and throw those in instead. It’s basically still just assembling, except for that one pot of water. 🙂

      • KL says:

        Oh also, do you like eggs? If so, Cuisinart sells an egg-cooker that is $28 – and many companies have a similar one. It will soft, medium, hard boil or poach eggs for you, and it’s a lifesaver. Some sort of bread + some sort of cheese melted in the toaster oven, with a soft egg on top = ultimate comfort food for me, and I have control over the quality and sourcing of the ingredients. Poached/soft boiled eggs also great over a bunch of veggies tossed in olive oil (again, either bought already prepared at a supermarket prepared foods counter, or even cooked in the bag in the microwave if boiling water is too intimidating, etc.).

      • Eggs are okay. Sometimes I buy them already boiled. 🙂 Shortcuts rule!

  4. One of my goals is to stop thinking about food 24/7. There are many days that when I wake up I’m already thinking about what I’ll make for supper. So sometimes cooking can be a catch 22 for me. It’s cheaper, probably somewhat healthier but it causes me to sit and think and plan. Ordering out or driving through is a much quicker decision. Plus there are no dishes and usually no leftovers to call to me after the kitchen is “closed”. I’m not a big fan of cooking either. I like simple recipes with few ingredients that can be thrown together quickly. I’ve often asked friends for their favorite quick supper ideas. Are you someone who likes Pinterest?? Lots of recipes on there. I also can get really overwhelmed by the “clean” foods. And you shouldn’t have this or that but make sure you eat enough of this or that. Again it forces me to think all the time about food and I don’t want that anymore. I think this is a journey that you have to take one step at a time because if you try to do too much all at once you get frustrated and can easily fall back into old habits. I’m going to reread my Geneen Roth books and try to get back in touch with her ideas. Good luck 🙂

  5. Paleo Yogini says:

    First of all, you need to congratulate yourself on your progress. Recognize how far you’ve come, not how far you still want to go. I am trying to get to the point you are, where I can eat a piece of bread and enjoy it without beating myself up or having it be a whole loaf. Your menu sounds quite liberating to someone like me, who for years wouldn’t go to a restaurant without reviewing the menu first, who logged all her food for the next day the night before, and who was afraid to eat a piece of fruit because of the carb and fructose content. You are doing an AMAZING job. Celebrate your success.

    And then, maybe, rethink your parameters. You’ve written “I am unsatisfied.” In what respect are you unsatisfied? Do you feel not-so-healthy physically? Or are you looking at Intuitive Eating as something you can be “better” at? Do you think you’re getting it wrong when you eat food out of a box? Is your body leading you, or is your brain (your monkey mind!)?

    I did an exercise and nutrition program a few years ago that really helped me change the way I ate. But at the same time, I found myself bingeing a lot. I learned how to center my meals around lean meats and vegetables, how to portion nuts (and eat them raw), and how to take starchy carbs out of my diet. At the same time, though, I was taught that bread and sugar were the devil and that I should really ban them altogether. This made them something I binged on a lot, and still do now. Even though I want to incorporate them into my diet, I’m so resistant to this. It’s embarrassing to admit that they scare me. So putting more fresh fruits and veggies in your diet isn’t always a way to get healthier, at least from my perspective.

    Having someone who is not me advising me about what is a good thing to eat and what is a not-so-good thing to eat (even if it is Michael Pollan, who I adore) is triggering. Is that happening with you, even in a subtle, roundabout way? If so, and if your diet isn’t making you physically ill, why not hang with it for a little while and sit with your feelings of discomfort instead of trying to make them go away? Who are you eating for?

    And if you need more practical advice, like how to throw the good stuff in there, go to Trader Joe’s. You have one near you, right? It was my mainstay when I was logging my food. There is precooked plain chicken breast and turkey breast (not deli-processed, just sliced in packages) that you can combine with some salsa, guacamole, or open some jars of roasted red peppers, or just get a tub of cherry tomatoes and a bag of sugar snap peas and munch away. I don’t like lettuce so much either unless it’s mixed with cheddar and bacon and avocado and chicken, but TJs sets me up for this if I feel like doing a few minutes of chopping. Find a few go-to items in the produce or deli section that you consider healthy, that you feel good about, and that you enjoy eating. And yes, I agree that cooking for yourself is a form of self-love and self-nurturing. You are worth the time and effort if you want to change from the inside. It just has to be your decision, for you–not for anyone else.

    • I’m unsatisfied with how my food tastes and feels in my body. I think I end up eating more of it, because I’m searching for that perfect bite that never arrives because I’m not matching what my mind/body wants to eat. I definitely think I need to fine tune my Intuitive Eating, but right now I want to work on preparing foods that help me discover the satisfaction factor. Pretty much, principle 10 all the way! 🙂

      • Kara says:

        I got caught up on how food tastes too, it is one of my eating triggers. If food didn’t taste good or how I expected, I would search and eat other food to make up for the lack of taste. Now I know: sometimes food isn’t going to taste great, and that’s OK.

      • For me, if something doesn’t taste great, then I need to work on making a better match, because I know my body will tell me what it needs. Now, I’m not going to have 100% matches, but it is something to strive for. I know what I’m eating now doesn’t taste wonderful, because it is not whole food.

      • Actually, I should have thought about your comment a moment longer, I see what you are saying now. Yes, when we have a meal that isn’t totally where it is at… yes, we can say I look forward to the next meal being better and leave it at that. My problem is almost all of my meals are blah, so I need to change it up.

  6. Kara says:

    Wow, I can relate. While I don’t have ADD, I am easily overwhelmed. It’s funny how the diet mentality has us believing that we need to go from zero to perfect in 24 hours. I’ve found that building new healthy habits, one meal, one food choice at a time is a great way to gradually eliminate processed foods.

    Start with one meal. Whatever meal you think will be the least challenging to begin with. Perhaps it is breakfast or a snack. Pick a healthy breakfast that appeals to you and fits into your lifestyle. Think about this meal, picture yourself making it and try it on a weekend before you try it during the week. Then when you have all your ducks in a row, make the meal once during the week and add a second occassion the following and so forth. Then tackle your next meal/snack.

    For organizing, I take the Henry Ford approach. I assemble all the parts of my lunches and snacks for the entire week on the weekend, when I’m not rushed. Then it is just a matter of assembling everything in the morning or the night before.

    From your post it sounds like you are eating what your mind wants rather than what your body wants. Your mind wants to eat the processed food that tastes good, but your body wants you to eat nutritious healthy foods. Personally, I noticed my taste buds started craving for healthy foods after I switched my lunch from a sandwich to a salad. I’ve found that you crave what you eat, so knowing this may help you make the transition. But just take it one eating opportunity at a time.

    In any case, figure out the logistics that makes it easy for you to make a healthy choice.

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