When it comes to revealing our relationship with food — and with our own bodies — the contents of our ice boxes pretty much say it all.
Show me your refrigerator and I’ll tell you who you are — or at least, who you think you are.
Take my friend Jane’s fridge. It used to be full of diet foods: low-fat this, sugar-free that, carb- and calorie-reduced, imitation everything.
You’d be hard-pressed to find an actual, unadulterated food product on Jane’s kitchen shelves. If it didn’t scream “diet,” she didn’t want anything to do with it.
At that time, what I could have told you about Jane was that she was convinced that she needed to lose weight and that she didn’t trust her body to help her make wise food choices. She didn’t trust food, period.
She seemed to believe that the power to change her body for the better lay somewhere “out there” — with multinational food-processing companies and diet-shake producers that presumably knew a whole lot more about her health and fitness than she ever would.
Today, I’m delighted to report, Jane’s fridge says something entirely different about her. And that’s because Jane’s perspective on food has done a serious one-eighty — and her body has come along for the ride.
About a year ago, Jane and I had a heart to heart. She’d been reading our magazine’s advice about eating more whole foods, but she was convinced that if she traded in her fake-o diet fare, she’d start gaining weight. So I started in on a little impromptu pep talk.
I said, “Look Janey, you don’t need all this diet stuff. It’s not going to help you lose weight. In fact, it’s working against you, and it’s preventing you from making good progress with your fitness program.”
I explained that all these diet and low-cal products were full of chemicals that were bad for her, and that just looking at all that stuff in her fridge and cupboards every day was sending her body the wrong signals — that she was a weak-willed person who didn’t deserve and couldn’t be trusted with real food. And that simply wasn’t so.
I explained to Jane that because diet foods rarely taste very good and they don’t satisfy our appetites the way their more wholesome counterparts do, we tend to eat more of them (and more of everything else) to compensate.
When we eat this stuff, our bodies and brains never get the message that they’re being nourished — because they really aren’t — and so we keep craving more and more food.
Meanwhile, our metabolisms are being slowed down by the toxins and pro-inflammatory factors embedded in processed-food ingredients; our energy levels are suffering so we don’t feel like exercising; and our brains are getting confused by the fake flavors and sweeteners that just make us want more.
(If you want more details about this dynamic, you can learn more from these two articles: “Poor Substitutes” and “The Whole Thing.”)
But it gets worse. Because even if we exercise like crazy (indeed, Jane had just embarked on a serious training regimen), we may not see much in the way of fitness gains. Our bodies aren’t getting the nutrients they need to build lean tissue and to recover from strenuous workouts we’re throwing their way.
Plus, the puffiness and bloating that result from eating foods our bodies don’t agree with us can make us feel disinclined to move at all, much less hit the gym.
As a result of all this, the workouts we do manage to eek out feel harder than they should, and the fitness payoffs don’t come as quickly or easily as they might. Eventually we decide that exercise “just doesn’t work for us,” and we give up.
At first, Jane didn’t seem entirely convinced by my little tirade, but I’d struck enough of a chord that she was willing to give the whole-foods thing a try.
Little by little, the density of diet foods in Jane’s fridge diminished.
In their place, delicious-looking vegetables, fruits, proteins, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and even some full-fat condiments gained ground. She accumulated some herbs and spices, collected some recipes and began to cook.
And what do you know: Jane started dropping weight. Her skin took on a translucent, rosy glow. Her eyes took on a sparkle. She started kicking some serious butt in her workouts, and her body composition took a turn for the leaner and firmer. To me, she seemed happier, too.
Today, when I look in Jane’s fridge, I see the edible and very appetizing evidence of a healthy person who really cares about herself — someone who enjoys good food, who knows how to cook, who trusts her body and is committed to feeding it well.
Our refrigerators should all be so lucky.
So what does your fridge say about you? And what would you like it to be saying?
If you’re interested in moving your eating in healthier, more nourishing directions, start by saying no to gimmicky fake-food products, especially the calorie-obsessed ones that promise to help you burn fat while you chew.
Focus instead on saying yes to whole foods. Learn why they are such a boon to your body and brain — and about why they are your best bet for achieving and sustaining a healthy, feel-good weight (the articles above are a great place to start).
Pick up a couple of simple, healthy cookbooks, or pull some decent recipes off the Web.
Then, clear your fridge of diet gunk and low-vitality junk, and fill it up with the wholesome good stuff that you and your amazingly intelligent body deserve.
Henceforth, every time you open that door, you’ll see the tell tale signs of a person committed to nourishing his or her body — not just with good nutrition, but with respect, confidence and care.
Pilar Gerasimo is editor in chief of Experience Life magazine (www.experiencelife.com) and the founder of RevolutionaryAct.com. She also blogs regularly for the Huffington Post.