“Just Eat Real Food.” Sounds simple enough, right?
This mantra proudly repeated by many a “real foodie” these days is intended to highlight what the real food movement is all about—real food is good food. Healthy food. The only food you need.
But, I think it also speaks to a problem I’ve encountered along the way in my years of following the real food thing. The problem, is that it’s quite difficult to “just” eat only the foods which fall under the category of “real” and “right” and “okay to eat” according to alternative real food nutrition advice.
So what happens then? What if you’re not “just” eating the approved real foods? What if you still eat that white flour spaghetti your husband really loves you to make? What if you don’t have time to cook bacon and eggs in the morning, so you eat cereal instead? What if your milk is—gasp—pasteurized?!
Well, then you’re certainly not “just eating real food.”
Is the “80/20 rule” the answer? Are you allowed to stray from the righteous real food path a certain percentage of time, so long as you dutifully follow it with the remainder of your diet comprised of only the purest, wholest, most nutrient-densiest foods you can muster? I think that’s seriously missing the point.
What if I told you…
…that doing the whole “real food” thing is really much more about educating ourselves, than it is about avoiding the wrong foods?
That it’s more about understanding the things we’ve been lied to about—that saturated fat isn’t unhealthy, and that vegetable oil isn’t a good thing to cook with?
That if you want to eat things which are not stamped with “real food” approval, or even if you don’t want to eat things that everyone is telling you you should, that that is completely, unequivocally okay?
In my eyes, real food just doesn’t have to be all that complicated. When you know the basic truths about it—the importance of eating foods from the sustainable, independent food system, instead of foods that come from corrupt mega-corporations; why whole real foods the way nature made them, like cholesterol-filled eggs, saturated fat-laden butter, and red meat from healthy animals, won’t hurt you; and how many so-called “experts” are actually giving all kinds of bad advice out there about this stuff (and why they are wrong). When you understand all of that, you’re already doing real food right.
I have a very strong belief that when you know these truths, you will make good choices, enough of the time. Enough to have a good diet, and to keep your body healthy. You really don’t need to give it a whole lot more thought than that.
When you understand the truth about excessive polyunsaturated fat, you’ll stop cooking in soy oil. When you know what goes into that nasty skim milk that you’ve been told you need to drink, you’ll switch to whole. When you see the differences between what goes into a burger at McDonald’s, and beef from a cow roaming around freely in the sun eating nothing but grass, you’ll skip the Big Mac (enough of the time).
It really is that simple.
It’s not a diet
Real food doesn’t need to have rules. It shouldn’t in any way resemble all the various diet fads that come and go, build hope and bring destruction, make promises and fail. Unfortunately, though, “just eating real food” is being promoted as the panacea of dietary advice—the ultimate answer to all those other philosophies that we know don’t work.
So because it’s so supposedly supremely optimal, people quickly wind up attributing all those diet-like ideals to it in practice—that if you do it right, you’ll be perfectly healthy. Period.
Believing that any one, specific diet is “perfect” for your health can be very damaging, if for no other reason than it’s setting yourself up for failure and stress—your mind is conditioned to believe that if you deviate from “perfection,” your health is at risk—and believe me, you will deviate! So where does that lead you? With a one-way ticket to “STRESSINGTHECRAPOUT Town, USA.”
Everyone knows that.
But it also is a very serious threat to your well-being. Your body’s natural methods of dealing with stress with certain hormones that ramp up your ability to handle them, is great for very immediate threats— like if you had to run away from a bear chasing you. But it’s not so great when it has to respond to constant, long-term stressors—like rushing around all day meeting your basic demands of life, plus the ridiculous amount of stress that comes with following any sort of a “diet.” That can cause serious damage.
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve come across on various blogs, message boards, in person, or other outlets who claim that eating a real food or WAPF-style diet “didn’t work” for them, and they were relieved to give it up as a result because they were sick of feeling like one wrong move was going to give them cancer, render them infertile, or inflict a horrible autoimmune disease.
They ate a slice of un-sprouted white flour bread, and lived to tell the tale.
And like with any restrictive diet, once abandoned, the ex-dieter generally starts feeling a lot better as a result. This isn’t surprising, since any perceived benefits of a “healthy” diet can very easily be far outweighed by the damaging stress caused by adhering to it—remove that stress, and you’ll usually be a lot better off.
The bottom line is that in order to do real food in a healthy way, it has to be more about educating ourselves, rather than being afraid of the wrong foods. Allowing yourself those things that you still genuinely have a desire to eat, but are now on your real food “naughty list,” is perfectly healthy. I mean, do you really, honestly, love and adore Oreo cookies? Then for the love of liver—eat a damn Oreo! You’re already well-aware that there’s all kinds of questionable ingredients, hydrogenated oils, and chemical preservatives in there. So you probably aren’t going to eat the whole box of them. It’s much better for your sanity to simply remove the “naughty” label, eat the cookie, and move on with your life. Really!
If any of this resonates with you, or if you feel like you could benefit from eating the real food way without all the crazy that seems to accompany the “real food” philosophies out there, I have some more things I’d like to share with you about all this.
I’ve actually written an entire book about it.
And it debuts tomorrow.
[Update:] It’s here!!! Right now you can save 67% off the list price for our big BLACK FRIDAY SALE. But hurry! Sale ends December 2nd! Click here to check it out.