Quitting Processed Food: Where to Begin

March 28, 2013

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A few of you have asked me what changes I made early on in my journey to quitting processed food.  In September 2012 I joined Weight Watchers (they have a nursing mom’s track).  I hit a plateau in losing my baby weight and didn’t know where to turn.  I was tired, a hungry nursing mom, and had no clue about proper portion sizes.  Some days I would eat a ton and others I would barely eat anything.  My metabolism was all over the place and I was completely addicted to sugar and processed food and realized that I had this addiction for the past seven years.

Just to delve into my addiction if anyone can relate, I would literally wake up in the morning thinking about food.  I would crave *Chick-fil-a sandwiches (they have almost 100 ingredients) and their lemonade that has loads of refined sugar.  I developed terrible habits during both of my pregnancies and craved either super salty or super sweet food.  I would indulge in the majority of my cravings, not really thinking about the effect these choices would have on my own body and my two year old son (at the time) who was with me every step of the way, watching me, and developing the same addiction as his mommy.

*Below pic is from September 2012…can’t believe I’m posting it.  This is the pic that helped me decide to change the food I was eating!
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Around the time I started weight watchers, I found Lisa’s blog, 100daysofrealfood.com.  I decided to do weight watchers while eating as much “real food” as possible.  I decided that if I was going to make a big change, I might as well dive in head first.  The changes I made early on were crucial to my success in weaning my palette from sugar and fake food.  One small change I made was incorporating more fruits and vegetables into my daily dietary intake.  I never craved fruits and vegetables so I knew I had to force myself to eat them.

I remember walking through Walmart and being so discouraged because I just didn’t know where to begin.  I went to the frozen section and bought a big bag of frozen fruit, Great Value brand.  It contained frozen grapes, peaches, mango, strawberries, and pineapple.  I made a small goal to put a bowl of frozen fruit on my kitchen island every morning to snack on throughout the day.  I chose frozen fruit because it tastes sweeter than fresh fruit :o).  I actually enjoyed this refreshing snack and noticed that Noah wanted to share with me every day.  After a few weeks of snacking on the fruit, I made it a goal to eat fruit with every meal of the day.  A bonus is that most fruits and vegetables are zero points if you are familiar with Weight Watchers!  Somewhere along the way I started loving fresh fruit, and even craving it.  Even right now as I’m writing this post, I’m craving fresh pineapple!

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What started out as a weight loss journey turned into an eye opening, in some cases jaw dropping journey of discovering the harm that chemicals, pesticides, food dyes, additives, etc…can do to our body over a long period of time.  Any mom has an overwhelming urge to protect her children.  I have been blown away by the things I didn’t know about our food supply.  I’ll continue to share bits and pieces of my journey each week, including the way I added more vegetables to my diet.  There is no mystery though.  I forced myself to eat fruits and vegetables.  Then I realized I love them and that for the first time in my life, I appreciate food that comes from the dirt of the earth.  It inspires me and makes sense in my spirit to eat this way.

*Three weeks ago at my brother-in-law’s wedding with my two favorite boys!
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My husband and I are still navigating what this means for our family. I can honestly say I do not feel like I’m missing out, I don’t view this as a “diet”, and I feel better than I’ve felt in my entire life.  A big reason I started this blog is to share our journey, share our struggles and our victories, and learn from each of you!  I also think that just knowing someone who is making these changes can inspire change because it doesn’t seem so far off.  Thanks for following along.  Feel free to share in the comments how you incorporate more fruit in your day!  And if you want to wean yourself from refined sugar, go buy yourself a big frozen bag of fruit!  Hopefully it helps you like it helped me!  And please don’t fret too much in the very beginning about only buying organic fruit.  At least for me, I just had to take things one step at a time.  Celebrate your small victories because every positive choice you make empowers you to make another one.

*I have a special place in my heart for Chick-fil-a because I grew up eating there.  I still go there, just not nearly as frequently as I used to.  I do not buy the Chick-fil-a chicken sandwich anymore, and when Noah is with me he doesn’t get the fried nuggets (although I know he will go with grandparents and get them and I’m fine with that, I just don’t want it to be a consistent part of his diet). Food babe investigated Chick-fil-a and here are her findings.  I hope in the future they can make some changes in their ingredients list.

  • Lauren

    You look beautiful! congrats in tour success with WW! I’ve never really thought about getting the frozen mix! I go thru phases eating my fruits and veggies. Then I get mad when fresh goes to waste if I didn’t eat it in time and I don’t buy much for a while. I have a fresh pineapple that in about to dive into today, but I’m definitely buying the mix today when I do my shopping!:)

    • I had the same problem with fresh!!! I still love my frozen fruit! My little Ruthie is munching on some frozen blueberries and peas right now <3!

  • Joanna

    You look fab! Ok…so what DO you order at Chick Fila? Or any other fast food/restaurant recommendations? (Besides Brewed, love!) We try not to eat out that much but this mama still works full time with a resident hubby that’s on call a lot. Need some easy fixes or “healthier option” recommendations!
    Thank you!! Lunch date soon? Would love to meet sweet Ruthie!

    • When I was doing weight watchers, especially at the beginning, I would get the chargrilled chicken sandwich and a fruit cup at chick fil’a, a chicken snack wrap at McDonald’s, a tall iced soy latte at starbucks (I don’t go to these places much anymore). I try to focus on lean meats and fruits and vegetables when we go out now! I will say that we used to eat out significantly more than we do now. My favorite restaurants now are Chipotle and Zoe’s Kitchen. I love a bowl at Chipotle with black beans, brown rice, lettuce, mild salsa, sour cream, guac, and cheese! At Zoe’s I get the hummus and salad plate with fruit OR if I’m feeling like something heartier I get the under 500 calorie chicken kabobs with fruit and salad (this is not on the menu but you can ask for it!!!). I hope this helps!!!

  • I love this! I went through a similar journey a few years ago with “quitting” processed foods via the Eat Clean Diet. Unfortunately, I’ve been way off the wagon since I came back to school. As I read this, I realize that I am constantly stressed out and feeling run down, sitting and studying for most of everyday and always grabbing food on the go (very processed, very fast food). This is a great reminder of why eating right is so important even when you feel like you have no time to worry about food…it makes you and your body feel better. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to reading more as I work towards weening myself off processed foods and feeling healthy again.

    • I’m so glad you are encouraged Lindsay!!! It is soooo hard in the beginning to switch back over. I miss you!!! Let me know how it goes and I’m so glad you will be following along!!!

  • shea

    Very inspirational, Lauren! I won’t try and say I can cut processed food out entirely but I will certainly look to healthier options and go fresh as often as possible! Love the blog!

  • Laura Moore

    Lauren, love that you are writing a blog about this. I am currently on the same journey (just recently started this year) when I became convicted about how I am directly responsible for what Maddie eats, plus in order to be the most equipped wife/mom God calls me to be, I need to feel my best which is significantly linked to what I eat! Though, goodness, I’m learning how challenging this is, so I look forward from learning from your words of wisdom! 🙂

    • I’m so glad you are on the same journey! I’ve found that the most challenging part is all of the food that my three year old is offered outside of our home and I’m sure it will just get harder as he gets older! I’m glad we are in this together and share with me when you find new and easy recipes!!!

  • Shannon Vandegriff

    You may already be familiar with the book ‘Sugar, Salt, Fat’ by Michael Moss, but I was reminded of it while reading your post. I’m going to hear him speak about the book next week. I am also a sugar addict – hopefully I can wean myself some day! Here’s a recent NY Times article about the book: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/18/books/salt-sugar-fat-by-michael-moss.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    • It’s so interesting you say that because I just saw him on the Jon Stewart show the other night:o)! Nelson recorded it for me. I definitely want to get the book!!! What struck me was that he said in the companies he investigated, the “scientists” who create these products (candy, soft drinks, chips, etc…) don’t even eat the products they create…makes you think!

  • Melinda Dumas

    Hi Lauren,

    As I was reading this post, it’s as if this food addiction could have been written about me and what I go through daily. I don’t think I have ever put into words what I feel about food, but you expressed it exactly how I feel.

    For many years and even now, I wake up in the morning thinking about food. I have bad habits and run to food to satisfy my wants in the moment. I know exactly how a #1 at chick-fil-a will taste and how it will make me full. I would say that I eat it at least 1-2 times a week. I justify it by saying that it’s better than McDonalds… but in reality, it’s not. It’s not just fast food, it’s food portions and choices at home too since I am a SAHM now. (I am not dogging on Chick-fil-a at all)

    I have grown up eating processed food and know the saltiness and the sweetness of everything and I am not afraid to eat it. That is the bad part. I want to change though, for myself and my new baby. I don’t think I have ever said what you said, “..and I feel better than I’ve felt in my entire life.” I would love to feel that way and say that one day.

    I do love fruit and vegetables, but I have take a healthy mindset when shopping and not think of the price, but the long term effect. It’s easy for me to buy chips for $2.99 and not 2 lbs of broccoli for the same price.

    I know this is so much I am expressing and I have many more of your posts to read, but I just wanted to get it out there and start to pray and think about food and its effect on me. I know it affects me and my energy levels, but why don’t I do anything about it? I really like in another post how you said “We eat to live rather than live to eat” – Right now and for a long time, I feel like I live to eat, when that is not what I am called to do for my life or my body.

    whew….I said it.

    Looking forward to your post. I will try to not make all my comments this long!

    p.s.- you look so great in your picture above! Way to go!

    • Hi Melinda, Thank you for sharing. I can honestly say I completely and totally understand where you are and how you feel. I have been there. For seven years. The good news is that in six months my life has been changed and yours can be too!!! There is so much hope!!! Just give yourself grace, especially at the beginning. Make small changes, like getting a chargrilled sandwich rather than fried chicken sandwich, or reducing your trip to “fill in the blank” drive through to once a week rather than two or three times. I didn’t even start exercising until four months into my journey. I had no desire until one day, my body just wanted to move so I started couch to 5K. Just take things one day at a time. Leave fruits and vegetables on your counter to snack on throughout the day, and really just try and eat at home as much as possible. These are some things that helped me in the beginning. I will do more posts in detail about what helped and what continues to help me, because just like any other addiction, it is always my shadow, every time I am at a shower or wedding or holiday gathering, I have to keep in mind that I can easily fall back into my sugar addiction. It also really helps me to know what is in my food because if I know that something has a carcinogen or dangerous additive in it it really helps me to avoid it not just for my sake but for my children who watch everything I do! Foodbabe.com has been really helpful for me to learn about dangerous additives in food. I’m so glad you are encouraged and that you are following along!!!