Processed Food Addiction - The Next Step

by John Shields

Okay, fellow Industrial Processed Food Addicts, it’s time to “turn it over.” And I’m not talking about the compost pile.

Last month in our mutual quest to loosen the grip that overly processed foods have on our lives, we took the first two steps in our recovery by admitting that we were powerless over this Frankenfood (It’s everywhere!), and we came to believe a power greater than our own selves could bring us back to a saner, healthier, more simple way of eating.

This past month I tried to be mindful about what I ate—and more importantly, vigilant about the food I bought. Pardon me for a moronic thought, but if I don’t even purchase one of these over-processed, fat-laden, high sodium, chemically-enhanced products, there is no way I’ll consume them—so simple!

But what is not always that simple is sticking by one’s goals. Maybe we’re running from work to home, and that box of Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese would be so easy. Or we have out-of-town guests coming and between work, the daily challenges of life, and trying to clean the house before their arrival, it would be so easy to load up a shopping cart with “complete” pancake mix, frozen waffles, pre-sliced luncheon “meat,” and one of those spongy “loaf” things that pass for bread. But again, just by not picking up the product and putting it in the cart, things do begin to change.

This is where the third step comes into play: Make a decision to turn our purchasing/consuming decisions over to the care of a Power greater (or that just is not) ourselves. In this step we are basically affirming that we are not in this alone. Trying to avoid the easy temptation of industrially processed foods all on our own just will not (most likely in the past, has not) work on our Will Power alone. We need the strength and support of a power that comes from others who are walking the same path to better food choices and better health. Sharing and talking among ourselves helps us see just how insane this world of processed food actually is. We need the thoughts, ideas and support of others to help put together an action plan to turn ourselves around.

Like breaking any addiction, I try to take it one meal, or one shopping trip at a time. Granted, all this takes a little planning and pantry restocking, but once we start, we can create an unbelievable array of wholesome food in very little time. Bring in some organic stone-milled wheat, leavening products (baking powder, baking soda, yeast), a little oil… It just takes some practice and encouragement from our friends.

Going to the store or market when I’m too hungry or tired is a dangerous thing. All my sensibilities go right out the window and I’ll have a bag of pseudo-cheese filled Combos in my hands before I realize what happened. Of course, as I’m ripping the Combo bag open, I will have rationalized why

this is not such a bad purchase and that the nutritionally stripped flour used in the little devils was at one time golden strands of wheat, and this really was not that poor a purchase decision. Sound familiar? Don’t shop hungry.

Shopping tired is just as bad. When I’m dog tired and walk through the produce section, the thought of —Goddess forbid—peeling an onion seems akin to rolling up the boulders building the pyramids! Before I know it, I’m right over to the middle aisle picking up a jar of that Zesty Ragu. (Have you ever questioned why sugar needs to be a prominent ingredient in spaghetti sauce?)

So when I find myself lost, confused, and overwhelmed at the grocery store, I take a time out and do a quick run-through of the first three steps to get back on track. Or better yet, I go shopping with someone who is like-minded, so we can help each other stay on track.

 Our ancestors have been doing just that for millenniums. Having trouble conjuring up a vision of  a “Power greater than yourself?” Try an ancestor. I sometimes use my grandmother and imagine going shopping with her. She only bought real food, seasonal vegetables, local meat, local seafood and dairy—and if she saw me reaching for Chittos as a starch choice, she’d hit me up the side of my head! I know it’s a guilt trip, but you don’t want to disappoint Grandma—or your great-Aunt Lucy. Whatever it takes

All right—we’ve admitted we’re not happy living and eating in an industrial processed food world and we know that we can change. We’ve turned it over to someone/something else to help show us the way.

We’re ready to spring into action and do the work that will bring about change. This month I’m going to keep a little journal of what I have bought—good or bad—and dishes that I have prepared. This will help me get ready for next month’s step when we really begin assembling, and hopefully using, the PFA (Processed Food Anonymous) tools for change.

Send me your thoughts, successes, failures and hopefully some suggestions on the path to real food.


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