There is an old phrase “Denial is not only a river in Egypt.” Though it is a funny pun, there is an element of truth to it. We all are in a state of denial regarding some aspect of our personal life, ideology, religious beliefs, etc. We don’t want to face the hard truth sometimes about the tough things that are happening to us on any given day. Maybe we don’t want to look in the mirror that our significant other doesn’t love us any more, or that our parents are showing signs of dementia, or that our political leaders are corrupt. All of this may be applied to wellness. Today, I wanted to discuss some of the reasons why good people continue to eat toxic-laden foods even when they know it is bad for them.
This thought came to my mind recently because of my incredible students. Each and every year, we spend two months on clinical nutrition where we cover proper eating as well as detail the panoply of toxins and additives in our food. Each student later chooses a food item on which to do a presentation. They analyze the food item (e.g. Spicy Cheetos) and give a nutrition grade based on how nutritious it is and a toxin grade based on the amount of toxins in it. By the end of the section, every student in the class knows where are the proverbial “landmines” when it comes to clean eating.
But I noticed a tendency. Even though we exhaustively covered the material, the students would still eat junk food laden with toxins. I thought to myself naively “Why would they eat this food after we just talked about how horrible it is for you? How it is linked to higher rates of obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and early death!” So I did a little introspection and came up with 8 reasons why we continue to eat crappy toxic-laden foods.
They don’t believe you.
Simple as that. You can tell people all day about the dangers of a high-sugar diet, how MSGs destroy more neurons than cannabis, and how food dyes exacerbate hyperactivity disorders, but they just roll their eyes and laugh. The common response is “The government would not knowingly put toxins in the food and our homes.” I would then enumerate the multiple cases of the opposite, even going back to the most cogent case of how cigarette smoking was once deemed healthy. But these people just laugh and shirk it off.
I encourage them to research what I’m telling them. But in most cases they don’t…either because they don’t believe you since you allegedly found the info on some conspiracy website or for the 2nd reason upcoming. “Denial is not only a river in Egypt…”
We are all going to die some day.
This is the most common response I get from my high school students. I honestly don’t blame them. After a year or two of hearing about the numerous toxins in our life plus the deleterious side-effects of prescription medications, I can understand why they just feel hapless and tune out. I once had a student who made a bumper sticker for me. It read “_________ gives you cancer.” I loved that sticker! But I think it succinctly summarizes the view of many people who hear about this stuff. It is just too much for their mind to bear so they rationalize. It is easier for the mind to do that than face the possible reality we are brimming with toxicity from phones, food, air pollution, vaccines, chemtrails, home cleaners, et al.
True we will all die someday, but the logic is specious. Since we will all die someday, does that mean we should drive 100 m.p.h. on a steep mountainous dirt road? Of course not. We should be encouraged to live a judicious life doing our best to avoid all hazards…including toxic food.
It is too expensive.
Clean eating is too expensive. I covered a similar question in the article and podcast episode entitled 5 Reasons To Hire A Health Coach. The answer is similar. There is definitely some truth behind the idea that organic is more expensive. To get foods that aren’t shot up with hormones and antibiotics, sprayed with glyphosate, et al you would have to buy many of them organic.
But this isn’t always the case. While all meat and most dairy should be organic, the large majority of produce does not to be organic. Read the article or listen to the podcast covering the most-pesticide-laden produce (or as the Environmental Working Group has entitled them the “The Dirty Dozen.” Avocados, bananas, most citrus, melons, and others do NOT need to be organic. Read the various articles on this site or listen to NPE Radio to find out more info as to what actionable steps need to be taken to reduce exposure to household and food toxins.
Lastly, yes it is more expensive to buy organic food, but if it mitigates your chances of acquiring cancer or some other debilitating disease, in the long run you will be saving money. “Prevention is an ounce of cure.” Prescription drugs and later surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation will be infinitely more expensive than organic foods. Think long-term.
They think you are preachy.
Similar to when “born-again” Christians accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior and begin preaching the “Good News” to everyone how He has changed his/her life, many people get tired of someone talking about clean eating. They don’t want to hear about how their M&Ms have food dyes, preservatives, and corn sugar and how it might hurt their health.
In their mind, you have become a 24/7 wellness spokesperson..and maybe they are right. (It is important to balance your conversations with other topics.) This is especially true with family. Strangers might be more receptive to your information; family has too much baggage and knows you too well to listen to you. They will likely tune you out.
They think you are judging them.
This is part-and-parcel with the preachiness factor. It is only natural that if you are nit-picking all the food and household toxins to which we are exposed, you must have taken them out of your house. You “have seen the light” and now only eat organic and use natural cleaners. They think that you think you are better than them. They think you are turning your nose on them and looking down on them for eating the “common man’s” food.
The judging factor is likely the most common reason why people tune out clean eating. Now while some people in “the industry” might be judging those who eat Taco Bell as beneath them since they found the “true light” that is clean eating, I think a large majority of people simply want to spread the news. They want their friends to know that they have lost weight, cleared up “brain fog,” or overall just feel infinitely better since changing their diet and/or removing household toxins from their life. It is has changed their life…and they want you to experience the same thing. Similar to the “born-again” Christian metaphor earlier.
They are addicted.
As much as we want to avoid toxic foods, they taste too damn good. Why is that? As mentioned in several books and documentaries, most famous being Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Big Food puts so many flavor enhancers in the food to make us crave it more. Case in point: Monosodium Glutamate (MSGs). Our brains literally crave it!
Add to that the inordinate amount of food commercials with “Food Porn” close-ups of chewy, tasty food which stimulates our senses, as well as being inculcated from an early age by kid jingles and massive bombardment of ads, we are wired to eat it. It takes the self-restrain of Odysseus to stay away. It is an uphill battle…but a battle that can be won.
As mentioned in 9 Ways To Curb Binge Eating, we eat most of the time for reasons other than we are hungry. We eat when we are sad…we eat when we are lonely…we eat when we are bored. There is a certain segment of the population (including me) which turned to food at a young age as a coping mechanism. Eating is our medicine…and our demon.
Emotional eating is such a tractor beam. Connected to the addictive additives put in our foods, it is very difficult to have a healthy relationship with food. Case in point…the proliferation of eating disorders in America. We are food obsessed. Exacerbating that is that we are often stressed, sad, and fatigued. That leads to emotional eating.
It won’t catch up to us.
This is the mindset of most of my teenagers. “I’m young and immortal. As long as I don’t gain weight, I’m fine with it.” There is a certain amount of truth behind this belief. The body of an adolescent is much more resilient than that of a geriatric. Studies vindicate their beliefs. The body is an amazing thing!
They probably could absorb the toxic load, but everyone is different. You see countless cases of children who develop leukemia, an auto-immune or a digestive disorder, or another malady in their youth. Is this because of the toxins? Maybe…maybe not. Either way, it is more beneficial to their health if they avoid these foods. If anything they will have better cognition, workouts, and mood if they ate clean.
“Do as I say…not as I do.”
I don’t always eat clean. In fact I eat fast food. I eat bread. I eat sugary food. Does that make me a hypocrite? As mentioned in my article Personal Review Of How Well/Poorly I Have Removed Toxins From My Home, I don’t think it does. Knowledge is power. When given information that might radically change people’s lives, including your own children, I think it is our duty to share the knowledge. Whether that be on wellness, car repair, religion, politics, or any other topic.
We are human and many of us would related to what Jesus told St. Peter after asking Peter to stay awake while Jesus was praying at the Garden of Gethsemane, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Even though we don’t always practice what we preach, it doesn’t mean we are lesser people.
Some people are able to maintain a perfect diet. Some people can work out daily. Others can meditate for hours on end. I am happy that they can do that and I hope it leads to optimal living. But just because I can’t, it doesn’t make me a lesser person. It simply makes me a person.
I would love to hear from you. What are some other reasons we continue to eat toxic food when we know it is bad for us?
Listen and review NPE Radio to get great tips about clean eating!