There is a detrimental ingredient lurking in our food. Often we don't even realize it's there. It could be in the ice cream you ate last night or the pizza you ordered yesterday. It could be in the homemade fermented sourdough bread you have every morning for breakfast. And--believe it or not--this ingredient could even be hiding in your grass-fed burger, your pastured eggs or the fresh berries and raw cream you have for dessert.
Yes, this ingredient can be present in every single food you eat... or none at all. It's all up to you.
The number one ingredient you need to avoid?
I know. Not what you wanted to hear.
Sorry. I know you wanted me to say MSG. Or fructose. Or omega-6 fatty acids or gluten or hydrolyzed soy protein... or some other commonly demonized ingredient. But no. Although there are certainly foods out there that can damage our bodies and brains, the most toxic food can't hold a candle to the destruction that can be incurred when every bite of food is swallowed with a hefty side of guilt, anxiety, fear or obsessive thinking.
Stressing About Food: It's No Way to Live
Don't get me wrong: there's nothing wrong with trying to eat healthy and live healthy. But it's not hard to cross the line from living healthfully to agonizing over every bite you take.
- Does figuring out what to eat for lunch trigger anxiety?
- Do you try to make a healthy choice and then feel ashamed of it later because part of your meal didn't line up with some health guru's recommendations?
- Are you constantly wondering which guru is right?
What if all this anxiety and agony is causing more health problems than whatever food you may (or may not) be eating?
Don't believe me?
Don't underestimate how stress impacts your health!
And yes: anxiety, worry, fear, obsession, guilt and shame all fall under the category of stress. Stress triggers a cascade of endocrine response in the body. Essentially, too much stress floods your body with hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. An overload of these hormones can cause a myriad of health problems. Robert Sapolsky talks about this extensively in his book Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers. Here's a short list of health problems that can be caused by stress:
- Panic attacks
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- High blood sugar
- High insulin
- Lower back pain
- Poor memory
- High blood pressure
- Gut flora imbalance
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Suppressed immunity
- Accelerated aging
- Loss of lean tissue mass
And that's the short list. Basically, stress is not your friend, especially the chronic kind. And believe me, worrying about what you'll eat and then feeling guilty afterward definitely translates into stress.
After all, aren't all the problems listed above the kind you're trying to overcome by eating healthy food? So don't thwart your efforts by replacing junk foods with obsessive thought patterns and negative emotions like shame and guilt.
So what do you do? Sure, work towards eating food that gives you a sense of health and vitality. But don't let your eating choices rule your life.
Enjoy your food and enjoy your life without the bondage of anxiety and guilt!
Check out these posts about stress and health:
This post is part of Real Food Wednesday.