Fear of Food

Read time: 2 minutes

I just returned from a short weekend getaway and rediscovered the full, uninhibited joy of experiencing a far-away town, not so much because it was a new place (we’ve been there many times in the past) but more because I liberated my food choices to all those I wanted to taste and not be restricted to just those dictated by some “diet.”

This reminds me of the terrible restriction I used to endure on vacation while eating some specific diet that’s based less on free-will and free-living and more on conspicuous intellect and rightuous arrogance.

You know those diets: low-carb this, high-protein that, unheated fats only, no saturated fats, fibrous-carbs only after 3pm, or a series of trademarked “lifestyle diets” like those of the Atkins, Zone, Pritikin, or (gasp) Paleo.

No, I’m not here to say those diets suck, but I will say that they make your life suck. I’m also not here to say that you should eat Twinkies and cupcakes, but I will say that once in a while a home-made pastry made by Roberta from Rome may not add years to your life but it certainly won’t take any away — and arguably it adds life to your years.

You already know that I promote smarter food choices to include mostly whole, real food that’s minimally processed. In this post, though, I’m making it clear (if previous posts have not) that I also love food far from whole and deemed by food militants as “not real.”

I don’t promote the concept of healthy food or unhealthy food. I promote a healthy relationship with food, because the healthy relationship itself is what keeps us healthy. It keeps our eating habit healthy.

The moment we categorize food as good or bad, real or fake, is the moment we relinquish our own power and settle for eating choices based on fear. How on earth have we become so fearful of food?

Far better is that we have some idea of the caloric value (and potential) of the food we choose to enjoy. This way, we’ll have power over how much of it we let enter our mouth, because in the end it is the dose that determines the poison.

The act of putting skim milk into our coffee when what we love is real cream becomes self-defeating, not because of the caloric difference (which, from a day’s worth, is nearly insignificant) but because we put the power into the food item itself.

Instead, the power ought to be ours — the power to chose to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat, no matter the form of food.

There’s no power in avoidance of food. Food should not have the power to dictate our choices.

There’s power in eating what we want, when we want, and with whomever we want. There’s also power in saying enough. And there’s ultimate power in not eating when we don’t need to.

Intermittent fasting. Take back our power to eat when we chose to.

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28 Responses to Fear of Food

  1. Johnny says:

    I think this is a great point. This past year, I read the Primal Blueprint, and I have adhered to the eating plan almost 100%. The great thing about it was that I began eating whole eggs, yolk and all, again. I have been eating bacon, full fat meats, skin from the chicken, whole milk and cream, and all the other great fatty foods that I had been avoiding all these years because they were “bad” for me. However, at the same time, I eliminated a lot of the foods I really enjoy, like beer, cookies, brownies, cakes, etc. So now, on a rare occasion, I will indulge in those treats. I miss them, and like Johnny says, it won’t kill me to enjoy them from time to time. In fact, I appreciate them even more when I do decide to partake.

  2. Stephon says:

    Wow.. again you are dead on Johnny, this is my favorite Blog. Whenever waiting for a new post from you, I always go throught the archives to read through some of your past posts, which brought me to ask you a question. Personally I feel though I am lean I still am a bit too bulky for my( “new” )taste, thanks to the Lean Saloon, found that out trying on a few items at abercrombie last weekend?. In a post written on June 22, you wrote that you were doing mostly bodyweight exercises/ metabolic workouts and stated that it was a contribution to you losing “unnecessary” muscle mass. I just wanted to know what type of bodyweight workouts they were, and were they mostly metabolic? I have thought about dropping external resistance to aid with this without losing my abs,lol and a friend just introduced me to a book” Never Gymless”, by Ross Enamait which is based on bodyweight strength conditioning, said he wouldn’t use it, just wanted your trusted opinion and input on this. Please keep up the great posts ,I love it.

    Stephon

  3. Al says:

    To me it is like smoking. Anybody can smoke one pack of cigarettes a week and they will never experience lung cancer or any form of cancer for that matter. One pack a week will not kill you. One or two a day then well…..

    • Weston says:

      “Anybody can smoke one pack of cigarettes a week and they will never experience lung cancer or any form of cancer…”

      Wow Al. Did I miss some subtle tone of sarcasm, or are you privy to some research in support of that proposition?

      • Al says:

        Just trying to make the point that eating anything other than paleo stuff once in a while won’t hurt you.

  4. Jake says:

    I hear you but fear works for me. I cannot do moderation, I can only do elimination. On occasion I will try forbidden paleo foods but I don’t even like them anymore when I do.

  5. Rick says:

    This is exactly where I’m at now. I try to keep the focus on whole real foods like you say, but at the end of the day it’s all about calories. I have been reading and listening to John Barbans stuff a lot lately. His transformation is very impressive and he is eating muffins and pastries everyday. I don’t indulge e everyday, but definitely more often than I used to. I am maintaining my leaness really well. Great post!

  6. ChristA says:

    Love it! Great post.

  7. Rachel says:

    Interesting point, but I’m trying to figure out what you mean without taking it the wrong way. I think that the proper diet can do wonderful things to a person’s health. I hear many people say “I could never live without ___. I’d rather live a more pleasant 60 years than a boring 90 years.” But… I think they’re wrong. At the very least, that’s wrong for me. I don’t want to spend my last 10 years with a chronic disease, I want to spend those last 30 years doing fun things like skydiving and hiking. If banning cookies from my diet does it, then that’s what I want.

    The power to say no is important. Sometimes I don’t have that power, or don’t even want to, like when my sister makes Boston cream pie or buys some fresh anpan from the bakery. I then go about my day. Are you, too, saying that a conscious decision made with full knowledge of the consequences (good and bad) should be the way we approach food? I got a little bit of the impression that you think we should just throw all sorts of food rules to the wind and just eat what we want to eat. But that ignores the addicting facet of certain foods. Like a previous poster said, you could smoke a few cigarettes on occasion and probably not face lung cancer. But tobacco is a substance that’s easily abused – it’s addictive, especially if introduced during the brains most developmental years (like the massive amounts of processed sugar and wheat Americans often feed their kids). It might be a ‘healthy relationship with tobacco’ to just smoke every now and then, but that shouldn’t mean that it’s not a ‘healthy relationship’ to just shun tobacco altogether. Most people don’t feel a need to smoke if they’re not introduced to it, and you don’t miss out on much by removing it from your list of options, so, with that example in mind, I’d argue that following a restrictive diet (with allowances for foods that are truly an experience) is NOT a sign of an unhealthy relationship with food – though it can be implicated.

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Rachel,

      Here, respectfully, is my reply in 3 points:

      1. I think you misinterpreted the post
      2. Al’s cigarette analogy is a bad one
      3. I’m not sure how you got the impression that we should “throw all sorts of food rules to wind.” Which leads us back to point #1.

      I encourage you to read the post again, if you have the time.

      Best,
      Johnny

      • Kevin says:

        I gotta admit, it kinda read to me like Rachel thought it did. I’m thinking along the same lines as her about about addiction & avoiding being perfectly fine if you choose to do so.

        I know you don’t mean to just throw all the “rules” into the wind, but it did come across as if you were saying it doesn’t matter what you eat, just don’t eat too much.

        After reading the blog for a long time, I got a good idea of what you really mean, but to me this post read a little differently at first.

      • Johnny says:

        Hi Kevin,

        You and Rachel brought up some points that deserve a separate post. Give me a little time and I’ll be happy to share with you (and Rachel) my thoughts.

        Best,
        Johnny

    • Stephen says:

      Rachel,
      banning cookies from your diet won’t do anything to make the last 30 years of your life fun and eating cookies won’t do anything to make your last 30 years of your life crippled with a chronic diseases.

      Eating cookies as part of a varied and normocaloric diet doesn’t cause chronic diseases, in any way or form. The truth is that people who are 100% strict about the restriction of their chosen diet and always choose “clean foods” aren’t a bit healthier than people who eat more freely, using their instinctive with their mind turned on. In fact they are often less healthier adding insult to injury: an obsessive relationship with food, a bland diet full of deprivation and not the slightest hint of a better healthy or a better and longer life.

  8. Trevor Kelly says:

    Thats what’s i am doing right now eating when i want. Some days i have breakfast some days i dont. IF is the way to go i have no qualms about that.

  9. batty says:

    just try and pry my periodic cheesecake indulgence from my cold, dead hands. 😉

  10. EXACTLY! I’m so happy you posted this.

    I just jumped on the “primal blueprint” bandwagon, but I don’t intend on cutting out everything for the rest of my life. If I’m out with a friend and want a slice of pizza, I’m just going to go have a slice of pizza!

    I eat what I feel is healthiest for my body, and then indulge when I want to “add life to my years”, as you put it. So long as you’re not stuffing your body with crap all the time you should be just fine.

  11. Leo says:

    I think I may be able to clear things up just a bit.

    What Johnny is saying is perfectly valid, real and by the comments of a few others, the way some of us experience our relationship with food.

    I would also suggest (confidently) is that Johnny NOW has a very healthy relationship with food and food culture.

    MANY OF US DO NOT. Not yet at least.

    Until we develop a healthy relationship with food then “indulging” in moderation or only occasionally may be impossible (or seemingly so). Until we each break out own addictive relationships with food, eating with some rules may be a necessity for the time being.

    Personally, the past year has been revelational. With the discovery of IF, many of my most unhealthy relationships with food have begun to fade away.
    Last week I had just 1 piece of cake. Just one. That is HUGE for me! My nature is all or nothing and this was a big moment for me. I went to the bowling alley and had none of the shit food that i really didint want but was all around me. Success.

    I still use some “rules” but they are looser now. Progress.

    Hope this helped a bit.

    Leo

    • Johnny says:

      Good reply, Leo. What some of us call “food rules,” I prefer to call “food guidance.” But it’s the same in the end, and the secret is in knowing if the “rule” or “guidance” has any validity. I don’t think it has much to do with whether people are well-read or ignorant, but whether they have a healthy, broad perspective with how the “rule” or “guidance” fit into their life, or how they even affect their health.

      Best,
      Johnny

  12. Matt says:

    Great Post Johnny and great point I really think IF helps us understand that we are very rarely hungry because our bodies are depleted of food and very often hungry because of cultural or environmental cues.

    IF has helped me become more aware of my own personal cues. I’ve still got a long way to go but I’ve started the journey.

    One question. Is there more/less benefit from
    Doing daily 16-18 hr fasts or a weekly 24 hr fast (more ESE style) I’m unsure which to follow.

    Thanks for all the inspiration.

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Matt,

      If you’re trying to lose weight/fat, either works really well. Chose the one that works best into your lifestyle.

      Keep at it!

      Best,
      Johnny

  13. Audley says:

    I’m a huge believer in the 90% rule, eat well 90% of the time, the other 10% is whatever you like. Since dumping my snacks and more time between meals, I feel that I can “get away” with eating the other foods I am not “supposed” to eat.
    Eating at night? I do eat a lot in the evening, it is a meal, snacks and sometimes wine spread over the course of a couple of hours. It is great social time for my family, we usually eat pretty well over the course of the day, there is no guilt.

  14. Jordan says:

    Hi Johnny,

    I read your blog since quite long time now and understand the big picture of your ideas on food, eating… Just wanted to have a precision on the subject of that article: how much/how many times in general do you indulge in eating “cheat food” (not whole/real food…) without it damages your weight and/or health? Thanks to your experience, what would be the “sweet spot” between indulging and losing/not gaining fat?
    Also, I think when a person is lean like you are, the body react better to carbs, junk food (in moderation of course) because of better insulin sensitivity (etc.). So, do you think the meaning of “moderation” will vary between an already lean person that maintaining his leaness and a person who need to lean down and lose fat? If so, what would you recommend to a person who still have some fat to lose?

    I really understand that you don’t think with rules, numbers…but I think for me and others (like stated in a previous post) it can help until we develop a more stress-free relationship with food.

    Thanks in advance Johnny,

    Jordan

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Jordan,

      I don’t “indulge” as much as I “enjoy.” The two terms send different connotations. I can’t quantify how much of this food I enjoy because I don’t keep track and the amount changes randomly. The best gauge is in 1) how I feel, 2) the mirror, and 3) just being cognizant about eating this stuff.

      Regarding how certain foods affect weight loss., wheat products may interfere with leptin signaling if they are *over-consumed*, which they generally are in North America. But the biggest contributor to the resistance to weight loss is the excess body fat itself. Excess body fat can drive insulin resistance as well as disrupt leptin signaling, making it difficult to lose weight, regardless of food composition.

      Generally, in very simple concept: excess calories —> excess body fat, excess body fat —> energy dysregulation (insulin and leptin), which —> excess body fat. You can see the vicious cycle.

      The key is in finding a way to lose some of the excess body fat, and that’s through eating less of everything — including wheat, junk food, sweets, and even so-called “healthy food.” Some people find that an ancestral diet like the Paleo Diet makes eating less easier (for many reasons), while others just use common sense and not eat so much.

      I work with two people who lost each over 50 pounds and have maintained the loss for over 3 years. They have no idea what “Paleo” is. They just developed healthier eating habits, ultimately based on EATING LESS and moving more.

      To summarize:

      – Eat mostly whole, real food closest to its natural state
      – Eat less through time

  15. Jordan says:

    Thanks Johnny for the insights and taking the time to answer!

    I have another question if you don’t mind that isn’t directly about dieting and food but I don’t see other place to post it…
    I have a gynecomastia, like an important number of other teens, but the thing is that I have it since at least 3 years and waiting until it goes away like an endocrinologists I saw told me, seems to doesn’t do anything. I’m 18 today and this condition really affect my mental and of course my shape, look… I can be as lean as I want but this keeps to deteriorate my body and for instance I’m shameful to take off my shirt, in short I don’t as confident in my body as I could/would want.
    Since I read a lot on how to fix this without having a surgery, the « best » answers that I’ve got come from the bodybuilding world and steroid users (it seems that it’s common umong those users).
    On one of those forums, a member called Kraftydog who seems to know a lot on this condition (he posted a lot on it…) recommend a protocol that he calls chemical regression therapy, you can see it here: http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=113704311
    What’s your thoughts Johnny? What would you do if you were in this situation? Is it dangerous to use a protocol like that? Is surgery my only option?

    PS: I know that this is another topic but I don’t want to bother you any longer… I read your other blog today (leancouture; but it seems that you don’t post anymore on it) and in an article called Mucle with Minimum Investment you stated: « In future posts I will write more about the exercise that I use to build just the right amount of muscle in just the right places, for that sleek movie-star, fashion model physique. It involves manipulating the hormonal responses first, and then targeting areas you want to increase muscularity. » It will be great if you can get into more details, maybe writing an article on it since you didn’t write on exercise since quite time now.

    Thanks again Johnny for taking the time to reply and your great blog, it really helps,

    Jordan

  16. Pingback: What to do after indulging... | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page

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