Wednesday, April 13, 2011
The Problem With Diet Foods
One of the big contributing factors that motivated me to go into the study of nutrition was peering into other people's carts at the grocery store. I admit it... I can never help but watch in curiosity as the shopper in front of me loads their selections onto the checkout belt. And it's not the really obvious "junk food" that gets to me the most. I tend to think that people who load up their carts with things like ice cream, soda, pizza, and chips know that they aren't make the best choices, and either don't care or are not ready to change.
No, it's the ones who clearly do want to change, but are missing the mark. The ones who - knowingly or not - are putting their desire for weight loss ahead of their health. The ones who are filling their carts with fruits, vegetables... and "diet" products. Diet sodas. Diet frozen meals. Diet bars. Diet peanut butter. Diet orange juice. Those blasted 100 calorie snack packs.
These are the people who kind of break my heart, because while they are so earnestly trying to lose weight, they are consuming things that both harm their health and actually hinder their weight-loss efforts. Why? In the simplest terms of terms, because our bodies were designed to deal with, and be fueled by, food..... and these products are not food. Our bodies don't know what to do with them, so they store them, and make us sick in the process.
Ever stop to think about how a packaged product that would ordinarily have fat be fat free? Or how a product that would ordinarily have sugar be sugar free? Or how a product that would naturally have many calories suddenly have just a few?
They are processed - even more than normal. Ingredients are removed, and replaced with chemicals. More chemicals are added for shelf life. Or color. Or taste. Or simply to disguise that the fact that there really isn't any palpable food present. They are then wrapped and packaged and labeled in such a way that we're led to believe that they are a smart choice. Look! Only half the calories of the original version! Look, no sugar! No fat!
Losing weight permanently and/or returning to a state of good health means learning to eat good, whole foods. It means learning to pay attention to what it actually is that you're putting in your body. It means learning to recognize and be mindful of portion sizes. Eating these kinds of artificial, packaged foods not only doesn't get you closer to your goal, it takes you further from it. It damages your health, and it hampers your progress. It doesn't teach you how to eat, and it doesn't create good habits.
Let's get back to eating food. Let's know where our food comes from. Shop the outside aisles of the grocery store (or better yet, avoid the store all together and shop the local farmer's market!) Stay away from the pre-packaged, overly processed foods, especially the diet products.
And if you want a small treat, by all means have one! But make it yourself, under conditions you can control, and with ingredients you can pronounce.