Growing up, I was highly susceptible to the processed food and fast food industries’ marketing that really took off in the 80’s and 90’s. I ate it all – Oreos, POGOs, Pop Tarts, Chef Boyardee, Kit Kats, and so on, and so on. In many ways, I was fortunate that my mom and grandmother regularly cooked meals for the household, but being a willful kid, I often demanded (sorry mom!) junk food. And because I was the youngest, I usually got my way. It was an exciting experience to go to McDonald’s or KFC. All this type of food was scientifically engineered to excite my taste buds and bring me to the “bliss point” as author Michael Moss put it. They got me hook, line, and sinker.
Although I usually felt crappy after eating this type of food (physical symptoms and/or mood changes), I ignored these feelings. Especially as a young kid, I was unable to make these sorts of connections. The drive to eat junk food was very strong.
I was well into my 20s before I began to seriously consider what eating healthy means, and this was only after my doctor told me I had high cholesterol and was pre-diabetic. I always thought I ate relatively well, so this was a rude awakening. As I took stock of my diet and eating habits, I found a couple of places where I could make adjustments, starting with soda pop. Coke was my go-to beverage. I stopped drinking it cold turkey and was pleasantly surprised at how much better I was feeling with just this change, which motivated me to make more changes. Next to go were candy bars and McDonald's. Then I kept going. With all the diet modifications, my blood sugar stabilized and I lost weight, but the most interesting development was a change in my palate. It became more refined, which partly meant that I could better discern when things were cloyingly sweet (where before sweet was the overriding flavour sensation I was after).
My desire for the natural flavours in real whole food increased over time. Junk food became a fleeting cheap thrill, while real food gave me a deep satisfaction. I no longer associated food with “guilty pleasure”, rather I developed a great enjoyment of the varying flavours, textures, and sensations from good-quality food. Dropping junk food doesn’t make me feel deprived. Honestly, I don’t miss it at all. And in a way, I feel like I’m “sticking it to the man” by not buying the big food industry’s scientifically-engineered non-food (which satisfies my non-conformist nature too lol). Also, I now understand the passion and respect for food seen in the French, Italians, and Japanese who are also some of the healthiest people on the planet, which is no coincidence.
There’s no need to wait until some health crisis appears before you take an honest look at your diet and eating habits. Show you value yourself by treating your body right with the highest quality real food you can possibly get. Baby steps count. Don’t give up and don’t think you’re too weak to resist the pull of junk food. As my mom likes to say, “food isn’t stronger than me”. Enjoy and appreciate the eating experience with natural flavours and you too will develop a healthier palate that’ll last a good lifetime. Bon appetit!
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Also, I offer grocery store shop-alongs if you’d like some help navigating through the grocery aisles. I share my tips for making healthier tasty choices, reading food labels, eating well on a budget, answering your questions, and just generally showing you how grocery shopping can be an enjoyable experience!