Dietary change can seem like an impossible intervention to sustain. High-calorie junk foods are prominently displayed everywhere from supermarkets to gas stations to checkout lines in hardware stores. In fact, so much has gone into this marketing and product placement that it’s impressive anyone can say no.
But, as we describe in detail in Brain Wash, it’s imperative that we break out of the negative spiral of poor decision-making, and food happens to be one the most important ways we can do this.
In addition to the strategies we outline in the book, here are three ways to help get your diet on track—and to keep yourself from falling victim to the ultra-processed foodstuffs that surround us.
- Become more mindful of your eating habits. We rarely stop to think about all the factors involved in our food choices. As we describe in Brain Wash, a variety of influences in our environment significantly influence our eventual choices about what to eat. However, by becoming mindful of even a few of the things that contribute to our eventual choice of food, we gain considerable control over what we’re putting in our mouths. Start asking yourself why you’re eating junk food over nutritious calories. Was it in response to a stressful day at work or not getting enough sleep last night? The more you can understand the reasons for your choices in meals, the better. There are two ways in which this approach will benefit you. First, you’ll be able to create space and awareness between your impulsive food desires and actually eating the foods (giving you the chance to use your prefrontal cortex to your advantage). Second, you’ll gain more insight on the steps that lead to your poor dietary decisions, hopefully giving you multiple ideas on where to make changes upstream from the actual decision.
- Start thinking defensively. It’s not a stretch to say that a large part of the food we eat today is poison. While modern-day concoctions induce short-lived feelings of pleasure, they’re very likely cutting years off your life when eaten too often. Considering that much of our “food” is actually toxic to the body, you’re able to reframe your choices in foods. Think about the fact that you incur damage to your organ systems (including your brain) every time you eat an unhealthy meal. Alternatively, healthy food can be seen as consuming medicine for the body. Reframing foods as either medicine or poison can help you to maneuver your diet towards something you’ll be proud of.
- It’s OK to say “No.” We appreciate that cultural norms and social grace are deeply tied into the way we eat. It can be seen as disrespectful to refuse a food item given to you by someone else. And yet, it’s imperative that we do not lose control over what goes into our bodies. With this in mind, you should feel empowered to say “no” when presented with foods you know are bad for you. If this offends your friends, family or coworkers, gently let them know that you’re trying to eat better for the health of your body and your brain. Anyone arguing against this does not have your best interests at heart.