There is NO Shame in your Struggle with Food

We need to praise our progress instead of pointing to the lack of perfection.

I’ve been in a decade-long battle with food, but I don’t fit some of the typical traits of someone who struggles with food.

  • I’m not obese (I’ve lost 30 lbs since January, 2021, but I’m still 20-30 lbs overweight)
  • I’m not a binge eater.
  • I wasn’t overweight as a child.
Overweight, struggle with food

Although I continually work at reaching an ideal weight for my body, my food story is different from most people’s, and I often feel like I’m the only person like me. It’s not fun to feel alone, so I’m writing today’s post to let you know…

You’re not alone, regardless of your particular struggle.

The details of my story might be different than yours, but if you struggle with food, then we have something in common.

I’m 56 years old, and almost 12 years ago, I decided to become plant-based. After reading The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, and watching Forks Over Knives , I was convinced that eating a whole food, plant-based diet was the healthiest way to eat. 

The China Study by T. Colin Campbell
Forks over Knives

I’m not talking about processed vegan food, but real food: vegetables, fruit, grains, legumes and nuts and seeds, with little to no added oils, sugar or salt. You might believe we’re designed to eat meat, dairy and eggs, which is fine. This post is not about what the best diet is. 

It’s about how trying to stick to a diet that is healthy (by your own definition) can be a real struggle.

2010 wasn’t the first time I wanted to ditch animal products. When I was in my early twenties, I read Diet for a New America by John Robbins and attempted to go vegan. I turned to chips, and other junky food, telling myself it was ok to eat them because they were made from plants. Since living on junk food wasn’t a good plan, I went back to eating the standard American diet that included meat, dairy and eggs.

Since 2010, I’ve been trying to stick to a whole food, plant-based diet. Eating this way is filling, delicious, nutritious and gives me lots of energy, and it helps me stay at a healthier weight.

So, what’s the problem? First, let’s look at my struggle.

-My pattern is that I’ll eat a plant-based diet for weeks or months at a time. I enjoy it and feel great. Usually, I’m not interested in eating things like pizza or chicken wings.

-Then I’ll veer off track by eating something like cheese. Next, I might start eating eggs or seafood.

-This often turns into weeks or months of consuming other foods I don’t really want to be eating (processed foods, meat, dairy and eggs).

I tell myself I don’t want to eat those foods, and that I want to stick to the healthy stuff. It’s frustrating when I’m trying to commit to something, but I just can’t be consistent. I used to feel ashamed when I went off track for chunks of time. Sometimes, I’d feel really low for days. Now, I remind myself that it’s part of the journey and I don’t feel bad about myself. 

There were times when I wondered, Is there something wrong with me? Why can’t I do this?

There’s definitely nothing wrong with me, or with you. 

So, what’s going on? 

It’s the food.

Based on what I’ve learned over the years, as well as my experiences, here’s what I think is behind my struggle, and possibly yours.

Food Fight

Processed food and animal products have calories that are highly concentrated. This means we get a big dopamine (a feel-good brain chemical) hit in our brain when we eat them. The fat, sugar and/or salt levels in these foods are super satisfying and keep us coming back for more. A low calorie density food such as an apple will not give you the same dopamine hit as high calorie density foods like cheese or donuts.

healthy apple and unhealthy donut

Humans are designed to be drawn to foods that are highly concentrated. In The Pleasure Trap by Dr. Alan Goldhamer and Dr. Doug Lisle, I learned how our brains are designed to get as many calories as we can get. In hunter/gatherer times, we didn’t know where our next meal would come from, so we had to recognize the importance of eating those satisfying calories when they presented themselves. 

The Pleasure Trap

In our natural environment, a ripe mango was sweet and an avocado was creamy; both were rich in calories. We’d get a nice hit of dopamine, which taught us to eat more of the foods that gave us this boost. The dopamine shot in our brains helped to keep us alive by teaching us to choose foods that made us feel good. 

The problem is that in today’s modern world, we’re bombarded and surrounded by food products that are high in calories but not good for us. We’re still drawn to them, and crave them, and then we eat too much of them.

Today, grocery stores have aisles of “food” that are high in calories. Oreos are sweet and creamy, and our brain receives a dopamine hit when we eat one. This means when we can’t put a bag of chips down (high in fat and salt) or we eat too much pizza (high in fat, salt and sugar), we’re acting according to our brain’s design. 

pizza and chips, high in fat and salt

Pizza and chips are not natural foods. Sure, some may have more natural qualities than others, but they don’t grow on trees or sprout out of the ground. Humans weren’t designed to eat and digest these highly processed foods for energy. But, we’re hooked. Modern foods can be addictive for many people. 

Think about it. If you refuse to give up a certain food, or you say you can’t live without a certain food, then what’s going on with that food? You’re addicted to it.  Could you give up that food for 30 days or 6 months? Would you go through withdrawal and crave it?

Something to think about.

The addictive food out there may be different than alcohol or heroin, but in its own way, it’s got a hold on you. In Michael Moss’ book, Hooked, he references a definition for addiction that makes sense: “…a repetitive behavior that some people find difficult to quit.” If you keep going back to cookies, bread, potato chips, etc., then you might have a little addiction on your hands.

Hooked by Michael Moss

That’s me, and maybe that’s you. If I keep going back to cheese, then cheese is addictive for me. I’m not the only one, either. Cheese is often the hardest thing to give up when people go plant-based. If you’re interested in learning more about how cheese has such a strong hold on people, you can check out The Cheese Trap by Dr. Neal Barnard.

The Cheese Trap

Another aspect related to anyone’s struggle to eat healthier is our taste buds. Once our taste buds get a hold of fat, sugar and/or salt, they want to party. If you eat nachos with sour cream or even vegan chocolate cake, you’re giving your taste buds a turn on the fat, sugar and salt dance floor. They want to boogie all night long, and every day. 

If I eat unhealthy food for a couple of days, then my body simply wants more of it. I tell myself I should have a salad, but my taste buds are whispering to me, “No…we don’t want that. We want more of that fatty stuff you ate yesterday.”

I’ve found this to be true in reverse. When I eat healthy smoothies and salads, my taste buds love it and ask for more. They’re happy with fruit and vegetables. They don’t want the crappy stuff.

salad and smoothie

I can’t tell you why I veer off track when my taste buds are already happy with my healthy food choices. I think it’s a trick of the mind. After eating really well for a while, I think that I can just have a little of this or a little of that. Or I think I’ll just treat myself on the weekend. After those taste buds latch on to the fat/salt combination I love, though, it’s very difficult to tell them we have to stop eating that stuff and go back to spinach.

Food, as well as my evolutionary history, brain and taste buds, all have me gravitating to the unhealthy stuff. It’s not my fault I want to eat processed vegan cheese, or real cheese. They’re both high in fat and salt and both make me want to keep eating more. However, both will move me away from optimal health, and it is my struggle to try to avoid eating them or eating too much of them.

Just because there are powerful forces at play doesn’t mean the pressure is off, and that we have the perfect excuse to pig out. If I give in to the power of food, then I’m giving in to future health issues, which include being overweight. I want to be healthy and independent when I am older. The pressure is still there.

It’s my belief that the addictive nature of foods, with highly concentrated calories (via fat, sugar and salt), is the key factor that keeps us overweight/unhealthy and battling with food on a daily basis.

Of course, there are other factors that contribute to our eating patterns (our family’s diets, our past experiences, our stress and emotions, etc.), but ultimately, IT IS THE FOOD. You don’t sit down to watch a Netflix show with a bowl of green beans or celery. Instead, you’re chilling out with popcorn or Doritos (both high in fat and salt). When you come home at the end of a challenging day, you’re not reaching for carrots or kale to soothe your soul.  

eating popcorn

Aside from my battle of wavering between healthy food and unhealthy food, I have other situations that contribute to my struggle (although much less so than the addictive nature of food itself).

My inner critic beats myself up for not sticking to something I believe in. I ask myself, “What’s wrong with me?” “Why can’t I just stick to this way of eating, when I believe it’s the healthiest?” Even though I know there are issues with the food itself, I expect to be perfect somehow. The mental fight can be brutal, but over the years, I’ve learned to be kinder to myself. I have more self-compassion than I used to.

Part of my struggle appears in certain situations or listening to the opinions of others. For the most part, I don’t let them bother me, but occasionally, I get caught off guard and let their views affect me. There are three types of opinions or situations I run into when I’m eating in a certain way that can add to my continued battle with food.

Situations/Opinions that fuel my Struggle

The first are meat eaters who question me when I’m eating plant-based and tell me I’m not getting enough protein. Huge myth created by the meat industry. Some of them will go on and on and tell me other reasons why eating vegan is not healthy. I don’t bring up my way of eating at all; it’s their questions that start the conversation. I’ve learned to quickly change the subject. I’m not interested in defending my way of eating. I’m not out to convert anyone.

My struggle is also heightened from comments by people who judge me because one minute I seem to be plant-based, and the next minute, I’m not. They ask me why I’m changing how I eat all the time. I try to explain, but they just don’t get it. 

I don’t really know what the judges think, but when I don’t stick to plant-based eating, I feel like a fraud and assume others think of me as sort of a fraud. I feel like no one should listen to me or take me seriously. It’s my own thinking here that’s the problem, and not other people. It’s the situation that triggers my thoughts.

The last group are the people I should be able to count on the most: other whole food, plant-based eaters. Many people who are vegan or plant-based will harshly judge others who try to eat that way, but aren’t always consistent. People like me. I appreciate their passion, but I don’t understand why they can’t encourage me and say “good for you” for trying. 

Plant-based eaters and vegans with strong opinions could also remind me that what I’m trying to do, many people are not even willing to try. I’m not looking for a pat on the back, but support and encouragement would go a long way. Their opinions, which often center around their concern about animal cruelty in the agricultural industry, cloud their empathy for people who are making progress at reducing their meat intake etc. 

This leads me to the topic of labels. I’m tired of people putting others into categories based on labels, and then expecting them to act/be a certain way because of those labels. It leads to purist thinking.

If you’re vegan, then why are you eating honey? If you’re whole food, plant-based, then why are you eating that fake meat? If you’re plant-based, then why are you eating that vegan cheese that has casein (a milk protein) in it? If you’re eating healthy, then why are you eating ice cream? And so on. 

news flash people are not perfect

News Flash: People aren’t Perfect.

We need to praise our progress instead of pointing to the lack of perfection. For ourselves, and for the efforts of others.

I used to tell people I was plant-based, but then, I could see I wasn’t eating that way consistently, so I’d tell people I was 90% plant-based. Then I felt like I was a vegetarian because I kept going back to dairy. Forget it. No more labels. I don’t fit into a box with a label on it. 

So, who am I then?

I’m a person working towards consistently eating a mostly plant-based diet. That’s it. I will not give up on my goal of becoming as healthy as I can be. I will not give up on becoming the healthy, active person I want to be just because I’m struggling and not doing it perfectly. 

I will not let others or their expectations shame me. 

There is no shame in my struggle, or yours. Take pride in your efforts that move you toward overcoming your struggle with food. Praise your progress.

Be HEALTHY (Healthy Eating And Living Transforms and Heals You),

Alison Carrey

Week 6 of Hyper-nourishing with Dr. Brooke Goldner’s Healing Protocol

Each day, my body is healing and working to find its way to optimal health and an ideal weight.

I’ve been following a strict healing protocol for the last six weeks. My last update was on Day 4, so I’ve got a lot of updating to do.

It doesn’t feel difficult to stick to this protocol when you compare it to doing a water-only fast, which I’ve done before.

However, it still takes commitment and a deep belief in what this hyper-nourishing protocol is accomplishing, in order to be able to trust the process. Each day, I am eating only raw vegetables and fruit, with a focus on the vegetables.

Each day, my body is healing and working to find its way to optimal health and an ideal weight.

Check out the video to find out how I’ve lost weight and progressed.

If you’ve never heard of Dr. Brooke Golder, check her out.

Be HEALTHY (Healthy Eating And Living Transforms and Heals You),

Alison Carrey

Day 4 of my 4-week Hyper-nourishing Health Reset

Our lives get so busy that we often forget to connect how we feel with what we ate.
My energy levels are huge today, and I know it’s because of…

Today is day four of my 4-week health reset using Dr. Brooke Goldner’s hyper-nourishing protocol. If you missed the details about how I am resetting my health, check out my Day 1 video.

My energy levels are huge today, and I know it’s because of the nutrient-rich blender of smoothies I make in the morning and then drink through the day.

Our lives get so busy that we often forget to connect how we feel with what we ate. I can tell you that when I eat pizza, cheese, potato chips, fried chicken or ice cream, I don’t feel energized. I feel full, then tired, and sometimes even sick if I overeat (which would be often).

When I eat smoothies and salads with raw, dark leafy greens like kale and with raw vegetables and fruit, I feel light, clean and airy, like I could fly.

If you’d like to hear more, check out my Day 4 update on how things are going with my health reset.

If you’re looking for more energy and are tired of feeling tired, eat more raw veggies and greens to see what happens. Just this tiny step can make a world of difference.

If you really want to tackle your fatigue, check out Dr. Goldner’s site.

Be HEALTHY (Healthy Eating And Living Transforms and Heals You),

My 4-week Hyper-nourishing Health Reset

I deeply believe that changing from a less-than-stellar lifestyle to a healthy lifestyle takes practice until you get it right.
I won’t give up; I’ll keep trying.

After a couple of months of celebrations and indulging, I find myself needing to reset my taste buds….again. Time to get off the wine, processed food and high-fat/salt combinations I crave.

I deeply believe that changing from a less-than-stellar lifestyle to a healthy lifestyle takes practice until you get it right.

I know I’m not the only person who commits to eating healthy food and exercising, starts off with huge enthusiasm and confidence, and then falters and goes off track, eventually giving up.

Sound familiar?

If you’re like me, you try and you try, and you keep “failing”. You feel like you’ll never achieve your health or weight-loss goals.

I won’t give up. I’ll keep trying, and today is Day 1 of a health reset using Dr. Brooke Goldner’s hyper-nourishing protocol.

Check out my video where I describe the details.

I wish you success on your own health journey. Remember to not give up. You’re worth the challenges and obstacles you face along the way.

Be HEALTHY (Healthy Eating And Living Transforms and Heals You),

Move on, and Don’t Give Up When you Fall Off Track

This post is available in audio. I used Anchor, and a standard woman’s voice, instead of my own. I’m just trying it out.

I recorded the video below a week ago when I was out on one of my morning walks.

Like I’ve said before, a walk alone in the fresh air is like a personal retreat for me, and I often get motivated on my walks, or at the least, energized.

On this particular walk I wanted to provide an update about how my journey to health and an ideal weight is coming along.

I’ve made a real discovery about how what we feed our bodies makes our bodies want more of it, and THIS is why, I believe, it’s sooo easy to get way off track with our eating habits.

Although I’ve been off track for the last few weeks, I’m more resilient than I used to be, and I’m much less hard on myself. Now, I can recognize and focus on my accomplishments over the two months previous, instead of zoning in on my more recent “failures”.

If you’re someone who struggles with being consistent with eating healthier foods, or you feel like a failure when you get off track, this video is for you.

I hope my journey can give you a positive boost and help you on your own journey to health.

Be HEALTHY (Healthy Eating And Living Transforms and Heals You),

How I’m Escaping the Pleasure Trap (and losing weight!)

For a long time, I was trapped in a cycle of eating, overeating, dieting, losing weight, gaining the weight back, etc.

Sound familiar?

I thought there was something wrong with me, but as it turns out, I’m more than ok. There’s nothing wrong with me at all. 🙂

It’s the Pleasure Trap! (Learn about the book below).

Or more specifically, it’s the food produced by modern society that was keeping me in the pleasure trap (craving it and then going back for more).

Check out this video to learn how I’m losing weight and getting healthy by escaping this trap.

I learned all about the pleasure trap in the following book.

The Pleasure Trap: Mastering the Hidden Force that Undermines Health and Happiness, written by Dr. Alan Goldhamer and Dr. Doug Lisle, is a detailed and science-based book that will open your eyes to what’s going on in the food around us today. Learn how it’s not your fault that you’re constantly drawn to calorie-dense, unhealthy foods, and discover how you can retrain your body to enjoy nature’s healthy foods.

Check out the Audible version.

If you’re struggling with your weight, give this book a try. It really opened my eyes.

Be HEALTHY (Healthy Eating And Living Transforms and Heals You),

Two Key Lessons for Healthy Weight-loss

It’s been three weeks since I ended my 10-day water fast.

I’m happy to report that I’ve maintained my weight loss after my re-feeding period. 🙂

10 day water fast: lost 16 lbs

7 days of re-feeding (gaining weight in water, fiber, protein and glycogen in the muscles) led to me gaining almost 6 lbs.

That leaves me with a net loss of 10 lbs, which is where I am at today.

What?

That means I haven’t lost any weight since the end of my week of re-feeding (two weeks ago)!

Well, guess what; it’s NOT a failure.

Why? Two reasons:

  • I haven’t gained any of my fasting weight back in two weeks. That’s awesome! Are you celebrating with me?
  • I have MAINTAINED my weight loss for two weeks. Do you know how hard it is to maintain weight loss? Ok, two weeks is nothing to brag about, but that means I’ve been eating and moving my body for two weeks, and my weight stayed pretty much the same. This is a gift because, I’ve learned how to maintain the weight I am, and my next step is to tweak what I am doing, so I can continue to lose the weight I need to lose in order to have optimal health. This was the first key lesson I learned: plateaus can be a gift.

I discovered something else. There are three levels of adapting to a new eating program, and each one has given me information to help me.

  1. Master Level: This level is one that you have figure out, and you don’t seem to be struggling. For me, I have easily been able to eat whole plant foods without any added oil, sugar, salt or flour for three weeks. I have also not had any alcohol or processed food. I am not struggling with this way of eating. I am enjoying it, and I don’t have to think much about it now. Mastered! The only thing I have allowed myself is the occasional tamari, hot mustard or HP sauce. On one occasion I had a delicious plant-based “cheese” dip, but it had too much fat and sodium in it, so I stopped using it.
  2. Learning Level: At this stage, you are applying another strategy, but it is not yet mastered. For me, it is intermittent fasting. My goal is to eat in a 10-hour window and to fast for the other 14 hours. I have been able to do this most days, but not all. This means I am still learning how to do it and learning how it works for me; it is not yet a practice I have mastered.
  3. Try or Introductory Level: Here, you are just trying something to see if it will help. You’ve just begun. For a couple of days now, I added in walking on my treadmill or outside as well as pausing to think about my actual hunger level after I finish eating my dinner. Since I’ve just started these two ways to move toward health, I consider them ways I am trying out.

Once you’ve mastered a bahavior change, these three levels are always at play. As I move along in my journey, I will be able to add things to the mastered category, continue learning things I tried out as well as introducing new tricks.

Both lessons will help me to see my successes and to realize that long-term weight loss is a process that takes time.

I can be patient. My health is worth it.

Be HEALTHY (Healthy Eating And Living Transforms and Heals You),

Update: Two Weeks after my 10-Day Water Fast

After completing my 10-day water fast, I began what I think is the most important part of fasting: re-feeding: what I eat after the fast.

There are two phases of re-feeding:

  1. The foods consumed in the first week to ten days after the fast
  2. The way of eating that continues on a daily basis, for long-term health

I follow the re-feeding protocol used at True North Health Center (TN) in Santa Rosa, California. My confidence in fasting and re-feeding comes from my knowledge from two key books:

  1. Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eating and Fasting for Health
  2. The Pleasure Trap by Dr. Doug Lisle and Dr. Alan Goldhamer

I also have first-hand experience fasting at TN for an 18-day water fast early in 2020 (right when Covid-19 hit, so I had to speed up my re-feeding).

My Re-feeding Phases

Day 1: fresh juice (celery/watermelon; celery/apple, celery/carrot/apple and celery watermelon). Day 2: fruit (except citrus) and juicy vegetables like lettuce, cucumber, zucchini and tomatoes. Day 3: Add all raw vegetables and citrus fruits as well as cooked veggies. Day 4: Add starchy vegetables like potatoes, squash, carrots. Enjoy thin soups. Day 5: Add legumes and thicker soups. Day 6: Add whole grains. Day 6: Add nuts/seeds.

Long -term way of eating: I am eating whole, plant foods without any added oil, sugar or salt. Occasionally, I will use mustard or a condiment that has a bit of sugar or salt, but that’s it. No alcohol for me. It is toxic to the body, and for a person like me recovering from breast cancer and wanting to prevent it from spreading or returning, booze is out.

Learn more about my weight-loss and mindset shifts that are helping me move toward long-term changes in my lifestyle and ultimately, optimal health.

Be HEALTHY (Healthy Eating And Living Transforms and Heals You),

Welcome to my Journey to Health and an Ideal Weight

Like so many women, I’ve struggled with my weight and attempted to lose weight many times.

Guess what? I’ve been super successful! Losing weight over and over again. 🙂

The problem is…I keep gaining it back. 😦 Currently, I am about 40-50 lbs overweight.

Early in 2021, I found myself in a deep funk. One that lasted for weeks instead of just a few days. I was in a state of what I call an “almost depression”, combined with anxiety and overwhelm.

This month, I knew I needed a drastic shift to get my body and mind reset.

I wanted time to complete a water fast to:

  • reset my taste buds
  • get a head start on my weight loss, and ultimately,
  • to help me begin and maintain a healthier lifestyle that will lead to me feeling vibrant and comfortable in my own body

I know a water fast sounds crazy to most, but it is, in fact, the fastest way to heal your body. Since I had breast cancer in 2020, achieving a healthy weight and having strong health is more important to me than ever before.

Although I was hesitant and afraid at first, I’ve decided to share my journey with other women because I know it will help me, and it might help you.

At this point in my life, I realize I no longer need to be afraid of what others think. From now on, I choose to be free to be me.

Check out my video to learn more about my journey and to see where I am on Day 4 of my water fast.

Note: I am not a doctor, nor am I an expert on water fasting. You should not attempt a water fast without consulting your doctor. People with underlying conditions and/or who are on medications may not be suited to a water fast. The best way to water fast is to do a supervised water fast, under the care of an experienced physician (which I have done before). See True North Health Center to learn more about safe water fasting.

Be HEALTHY (Healthy Eating And Living Transforms and Heals You),

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