Everyday I get a lot of e-mails about how complicated eating plant-strong is. I think for most of us (at least who live in the US) our perspective on what constitutes complicated is really skewed.
I have a friend that did not grow up in this country. She grew up in some of the most extreme and awful living situations in a small village in Uganda for 38 years. When I described the way we encourage people to eat, she responded: “that’s it? that’s the diet? why would anyone have a hard time with that??”
She was so confused by how we, as Americans, in a country where food is abundant, and all of the food that we are supposed to eat is more than abundant could have a hard time.
“But you don’t have to grow any of it Natala”
I laughed, she was right, any of us can walk into any store and pick up what we need, most of it is practically made for us. We can purchase frozen vegetables/greens that we just heat up. We can make brown rice in 10 minutes (or less if we get the already cooked kind). We can buy low sodium beans, already made for us. We can pick up any produce we want in the produce section, and if we really wanted we can buy the stuff already chopped/cleaned and ready to eat. We can make oatmeal in 5 minutes. We can get a healthy meal almost anywhere (if we ask). I’ve lived in cities large and small (one where the town population was 400) and I’ve not once had any trouble, even when the only shopping option was a very small general store.
Very few of us will ever have to worry about starvation. Most of us will always be fortunate to have what we need, a drive away.
So when my friend said “But you don’t have to grow any of it”, it made me think. Why do people see this as complicated?
The truth is that it really couldn’t be more simple. Eat as many vegetables, fruit, beans, whole grains/starches as you want. Skip the rest, the rest is distraction. Walk into any grocery store in the United States, and you have everything you need. Sure, it might take a few minutes of day of planning, but as far as their being harder things to do? Planning a few meals is never that complicated, shopping shouldn’t be that complicated.
So why is it? Why is that what should be the most simple diet on earth seem so complicated?
We are inundated with messages that trigger our addictive nature. Calorie rich and processed food (C.R.A.P)* hits all of our pleasure traps. It becomes like a drug. I’ve been around addiction in my life. And I always had the hardest time understanding why someone could not just stop drinking alcohol or just stop doing drugs. The people in my life who were addicts would always tell me how hard it was, how it was so difficult NOT to partake in those behaviors.
I wanted to yell at them and say “JUST STOP!!” I mean that was it, wasn’t it? Why did they have to complicate things, why were they letting these substances destroy their lives. Why weren’t they just taking what seemed like simple steps to eliminate the problems. Just stop.
Of course, when I realized I was no different, it was a different story. But food is everywhere, I’d say. But it’s all so confusing, all of this different information, I’d say.
I have a friend who struggled with alcohol for a very long time, when I asked why it was so hard, she said “Every time I stop, someone tells me that a little alcohol is good for me, it starts the justification process”
Justification process! That was it. That is the cycle I was constantly in. I would be doing great for a while, and then I’d hear a “study” on why coffee was good, or why using olive oil was good or someone would tell me if I didn’t have bad food I’d probably go crazy or not get what I needed, or that if I was craving bad food it meant that I needed it.
Really? So if a smoker craves a cigarette, it is a sign they need it?
There are so many factors in how we make decisions, and often I think we allow these small lies to get the best of us.
“One won’t hurt”
“I eat better than my friends”
“I need more fat”
“I need more protein”
“I’m craving X, so I must need it”
“The information is so confusing”
“There are different studies everyday”
“I’m going to die anyway”
“I have no time”
“My living partner won’t eat this way”
“I’ll start tomorrow”
The thing is, I don’t believe that these are excuses as much as they are addiction enablers.
Most of us do it, because most of us are addicted to the most addictive substances on earth: salt, sugar and fat. Our brains are going to come up with as many reasons and road blocks as possible to make sure that you feed it what it wants. That little hit, that is what it is looking for.
And once you give it what it wants? It can take a while to pick yourself up again.
It’s why we’re so serious here about what we suggest in the way of food. Everyone on the Engine 2 team knows very well what everyone goes through, we’ve been there/are there. We know what it is like to get that one little thought that starts the justification process, and does not seem to go away. We know what it is like to justify that ONE thing, and then feel miserable about it. We know what it is like to seemingly get conflicting information and let that be the reason to justify consuming something that we just know isn’t the best choice.
It seems so difficult because we are surrounded by tons and tons of temptation. Not just temptation, we are surrounded by people/media telling us that it’s OK to consume it. When we finally get past our coffee addiction someone posts a study (not a well done one) that says coffee is good for us, of course we know better, but it starts this justification that is often hard to stop. As soon as we get 3 solid weeks under our belts, someone says “You’ve been doing SO well, you DESERVE to treat yourself!” and again, the justification pattern begins.
I don’t think any of us mean for this to happen. I don’t think we purposely make things harder than they should be. I think there is a lot going on, psychologically that puts road blocks in the way of us becoming healthy.
If things are too complicated (and by too complicated I mean that I think we actually sabotage ourselves in making ourselves believe things are complicated when they are in no way complicated) ? We have a good excuse to grab fast food or vegan junk food.
If we hear about a study on why wine is good? We (without researching the study) grab a glass of wine.
If we are going out to eat and a friend says “live a little”? We decide they are right, we aren’t living!
In the next few months, as we approach the holidays, I want you to join me in my goal. What is my goal? Thankfulness.
I want to be thankful for everything I DO have, everything I CAN have. I want to feel gratefully abundant when I walk into a store or go out to eat. After all, the very fact that I can WALK into a store, or that I am able to meet up with friends? I should be more than happy and thankful, just for that.
I’m reminded everyday that there are people in this world who would do anything for those 2 tremendous luxuries.
I don’t need more recipes, more gadgets, I don’t need more choices, I don’t need things to be simpler. What I want is to be grateful and thankful for all that I do have, and that there is an answer, a very, very simple answer that really, in the end is the most simple way to live.
Who is with me?
*C.R.A.P. (Calorie Rich and Processed) is a term Jeff Novick, MS, RD came up with.