If you’re trying to eat healthfully, can you have junk? This is a question I get asked often. If yes, how much won’t derail a solid wellness plan? If no, does that mean- never? As in “are you really telling me that I can’t have ——(name your poison) ever again?” First off, the term “junk” is subjective. While there’s no denying that foods and beverages with zero nutritional value can easily be called junk, other foods and beverages are more controversial. Meat, for example, will be viewed as junk by a vegan, but lauded as healthy protein by their meat-eating friend. Wine and beer may be viewed as empty, potential disease-causing calories or seen by others as beverages touted as having health benefits. You see where I’m going here. So you understand why it’s not a question that I or anyone else can answer for you. I’m not telling you that you should eat junk. I’m not telling you that you should not eat junk. I realize the fact that I can’t tell you exactly what you need to do to get exactly what you want in the exact timeframe that you want to have it comes as a disappointment. But what I’m trying to do instead is plant a seed of recognition in you that will grow into the understanding that you are in charge of you. Grasping this is what makes you capable of bringing about lasting change in your life, and it requires listening to that still, small voice inside. What are you being told and shown? You have all your own answers. You may not be conscious of them yet, but trust me, they are there. Accessing them will require you to be honest with yourself about your intentions and goals. When we’re speaking about junk food and weight loss, the world likes to take a gray area and make it black or white because it’s less complicated for the “whole” (the majority) that way. They will simply tell you: “If you want to lose weight, stop eating junk food. Take in less calories than you burn. blahblahblah, and so on and so forth.”
Personally, I can’t remember a time in my life I was comfortable being part of the whole because I’ve always had too many questions- my first memory of that was at three years old while my mom was doing the ironing. She had to leave the room and told me “not to touch the iron because it was hot and would burn me.” It wasn’t that I didn’t believe her or wanted to get burned. But I had questions. How hot was it? Hot just to you, or would it feel hot to anybody? How badly would it burn if I just touched it quick? Naturally, I touched it and naturally, I got a little burn on my finger, but even at that age, I was still glad I had done it. I just couldn’t stand taking someone else’s word for what I wanted to know for myself that another would have no way of interpreting FOR me.
So… the blanket junk food statement: But do you have to stop eating junk food if you’re a person who finds joy in it? All of it? And could you still lose weight even if you continued to eat it? Just as the heat of the iron will be interpreted differently according to each person’s tolerance, so will the answer to the junk food (and every other!) question you’re asking. It depends on what you want. The answer for a client who has a history of disordered eating is going to be different than the answer for the client who has never had food issues. What level are you trying to get to? A person who’s training for a specific race, personal goal, or specific mission will have a different answer than the person who is simply trying to maintain a small clothing size. What answers are you looking for? A person trying to dig deeper as to unconscious issues regarding how food and drink affects various aspects of their emotional, as well as physical well-being is also a different story. This was the main incentive, as well as wanting to operate from a more empowered physical level, behind my giving up alcohol. And yes, if you were wondering, I still ask myself, “was that really necessary? To give it all the way up? ” But while I could find 20 people who would easily reassure me that they didn’t think I had a problem, I knew what that small voice within was telling me. It’s allowing yourself to be led by it that’s the challenge.
Your answers are individual to YOU. Finding them requires taking the time to see what works. This is generally not a painless process. And once again, that’s how you know you’re growing… This is why though I could give a set answer or assign a time frame, it has been laid on my heart that it is not my place to be the type of trainer who operates that way because I can’t get past my realization that I can’t tell you how hot the iron is for a reason! You must jump in and find out for yourself. How is your overall health? Can you have junk food and still lose weight? Find out- do the work. Eat what you want and see how your clothes fit. Not liking what you see? Cut it back or up the exercise. Seeing any changes? If yes, gauge your choices by this. Are you feeling satisfied with by the amount of fitness gains you’ve made? Does the junk food still bring you as much joy or are you finding joy in new ways that were formerly unknown to you? If so, then you’ve just given yourself incentive. Let it fuel and guide you. Educate yourself and reassess often. If you’re happy as a clam and feeling great eating junk food, then perhaps that’s your answer. Are you at peace with what you’re doing? Feeling healthy and energetic? Keep doing it. Not so much? Change it up. You are not in a race, you are on a journey. There is no one right answer and you’re never behind. You’re also never finished. Learning what’s best for you and consistently doing what’s best for you are two completely different things. As I alluded to in the last post nobody gets it right all the time. You don’t have to. You just have to show up consistently and do the work.
*For those who ARE looking for a weight loss smackdown, here it is