Today’s recipe is courtesy Joe Fullam: Egg Muffins from Paleo Breakfasts. They look tasty!
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Today we’re going to talk a little bit about the brain-side of eating clean. I could say the psychology of eating clean, but that implies I know something about psychology, and I don’t. I do know, however, that post-modern eating involves much more than the simple evolutionary urge to fuel our bodies. Eating is social and emotional. It provides distraction and entertainment. We eat initially because we feel hunger, but we continue to eat (or choose non-fuel foods) for a whole host of non-fueling reasons.
We’ve been given a range of methods for reigning in these non-fueling reasons we eat: Count calories. Divide macro nutrients into blocks and ration. Eat these pre-packaged, overly-processed frozen foods. Don’t eat after 6pm. Don’t eat anything white-colored. Etc. Ad nauseum.
Such methods don’t really get at the real problem, though. They provide external discipline that temporarily fixes a symptom. The symptom (our inability to make productive fueling choices) bespeaks larger problems: eating for enjoyment, eating to be social, eating for convenience. Eating for satisfaction.
The real method for reigning in non-fuel eating is to change your mind about what satisfies you. I’ll try not to get too zen here, but what I mean is to be acutely aware of what you’re fueling your body with, and to pay attention to how your body responds. Think about eating a lovely, warm, fresh glazed doughnut from Maple Donuts… Now think about eating a bowl of steamed broccoli, maybe with a little bit of garlic powder and olive oil. (If neither of those choices appeal to your palate, substitute with an analogous treat and healthy vegetable you prefer.) Those two food encounters will provide satisfaction: the first provides a kind of immediate satisfaction: the taste and texture of the doughnut. The second provides a different kind of satisfaction: broccoli is delicious in its own right; its taste and texture are hearty. Additionally, though, you get the satisfaction of HAVING FUELED YOUR BODY. Everything from your cells’ mitochondria to your lower intestine will thank you for the broccoli.
So: why did you eat the doughnut? It tastes good. Feels good in your mouth (temporarily, until you swallow it, which means you have to continuously take additional bites to maintain that good feeling). You may have eaten the doughnut because you were at a breakfast committee meeting, and they put out coffee and doughnuts, and everyone else was eating them and you didn’t want to be ostracized. Or it wasn’t a doughnut, it was someone’s birthday and you didn’t want to hurt their feelings by not taking a piece of their cake. Or you didn’t want to seem like the stick in the mud when you were watching the football game with friends — you didn’t want to be the only one not drinking.
Those are all brain-reasons for eating. They’re not fuel reasons. None of those brain reasons is going to increase your deadlift, decrease your 400M sprint, improve your Fran time.
Aside from fueling your body, eating clean can actually HEAL your body. Dr. Terry Wahls suffered from fairly advanced Multiple Sclerosis, and she devised for herself a “hunter-gatherer” diet to include 3 cups (!!) a day of greens, 3 cups (!!) a day of sulphur-rich vegetables (cruciferous veggies like cabbage and broccoli), 3 cups a day of berries, and proteins. Her story is quite striking, and I would say that she’s quite satisfied with her results: she went from having to recline in a zero-gravity wheel chair to being able to stand and walk. Her experience is a testament to nutrition being the foundation for fitness.