I decided to stop eating processed food for a month, which is a great way to get really philosophical about what the definition of a process is. Does pulling a food from the ground, chopping it up, and cooking it count as a process? What about drying or rehydrating it? What about additives and chemicals? Are quote unquote natural ones more harmful than artificial ones? Some foods like coffee take extensive processing to get to their final form. You pick the beans and husk the shell and dry the beans and rehusk the shell and roast and brew… still, I’d argue that coffee is healthier than, say, juicing fresh fruit if you’re looking at your blood sugar level.
Some people say processed foods come in a box or a jar, and yet it’s possible to get unprocessed foods in a box or a jar, like the whole vegetables boxed up at Trader Joe’s. I’ve made my own pickles before which certainly come in a jar, and anyone who’s done their own canning would hardly think canned veggies are less nutritious; they’re just preserved, is all.
Instead of arguing about what a process is, I think it makes more sense to determine the reason you’re going on this weird diet, and make decisions accordingly. Let’s explore.
Reason #1: Weight loss
I almost don’t think it even matters which diet you go on for weight loss. Any kind of dietary restriction means you’ll likely be getting fewer calories, and boom. Pounds lost. It is a bit easier if you’re eating nutrient-dense food that makes you full than trying to subsist on nothing but a large popcorn at the movie theater a day, for example. And elevated blood sugar can stymie weight loss levels. Still, being super strict about trace amounts of additives with weight loss being the ultimate goal seems a little silly.
Reason #2: Learning to deal with your shit
If you’re prone to eating emotionally and give up those things you crave for any length of time, you’ll either be miserable or learn some new (and ideally healthier) strategies to help you change the way you feel. Or maybe you’ll do both. Still, giving up sugar or meat or grains or whatnot is likely to lead to the need for new coping mechanisms. Some people find they were eating to indulge, and look for other ways to indulge. Some people eat crap food when they’re feeling self-destructive, and you can even find healthier ways to deal with that. If you’re trying to eat clean to work on emotional eating, probably sticking to whichever rules you created and avoiding those foods you crave when emotionally triggered is probably more important than the minutiae of the rules themselves.
Reason #3: Purity
Some people think giving up certain foods will help them get rid of distractions and focus more on spiritual matters or whatnot. I’m not sure this is true for everyone, because I know a lot of people who are vegans but treat people like dirt, but whatever floats your boat. I don’t think I’m in a position to tell people what to eat to feel pure, so I’ll leave that to the seekers.
Reason #4: Pinning down food sensitivities
Cutting out a bunch of food and then slowly reintroducing it can sometimes help people with food sensitivities pinpoint them more specifically. I was just about to write that being allergic to preservatives is probably unlikely, but then I remembered that but I’m personally allergic to the preservatives in contact lens solution (you know, in my eyes) and have to use Unisol, so I guess anything is possible.
Reason #5: Health?
I put a big question mark next to that because some unprocessed foods are far from healthy. Like if you don’t consider juicing a process and are drinking apple juice and praising yourself for not eating sugar, you’re probably doing it wrong. I mean, avoiding empty calories can certainly be effective for health, but it’s also possible to seek out substitutes that aren’t really that much healthier. Something to watch out for. It’s also worth noting that different people respond to food in different ways depending on a wide range of issues…
So What Is A Process?
Um…I still don’t know, exactly, but hopefully this has given you some food for thought and a way to try to figure out what to eat based on what you’re trying to do. As for me? I decided to stick to meat, veggies, nuts and seeds, and a little fruit, but decided canned and frozen foods and herbal teas were a-okay. Also, I ate s’mores while camping because s’mores are delicious.