Keystone habit #4: Unprocess your diet

So far we've talked about when, how often, and how much you should eat.

With this in mind it's time to break down what should be on your plate.

At Noom we pray at the Church of Moderation, not Deprivation.

While no foods are off limits, a slice of cheesecake or a creamy pasta dish at your favorite restaurant should be the exception, not the rule.

The majority of your diet should be made of nutritious, whole foods that make your belly full (hello, low calorie-density and the science of satiety) and your body happy (hello, energy and regular trips to the bathroom).

But in the 21st century, processed foods have taken over our diet.

Big time.

The British Medical Journal showed that almost 60% of calories (1205 calories) in the average Standard American Diet (SAD, pun-intended) come from processed foods.


And this SAD trend is seen across the globe.

What's even sadder is that processing strips food of what your body needs (fiber, vitamins) and injects it with what your body is prone to crave (salt, sugar).

Keystone habit #4: Unprocess your diet

Unprocessing your diet can help give your body the fuel it needs to thrive.

More importantly, unprocessing is a key(stone) step in retraining your brain.

You heard that right: Slowly reducing your intake of calorically-dense, processed foods will retrain your palate and rewire your brain to be turned off by sinful treats and turned on by more nutritious eats.

1. Processed foods make you hungrier.

This problem is two-fold:

Problem 1: They make you crash

Processed foods are stripped of fiber and high in refined sugar. This means they're quickly broken down, causing a huge spike in your blood sugar.

The quicker the spike, the quicker the crash. When you crash, you need food stat.

Ever feel hangry less than an hour after noshing on a donut? Exhibit A.

Problem 2: They skew your cues

Processed foods are highly palatable (read: delicious). When food tastes good, it's a lot easier to tune out your fullness cues. Ever feel full after a just a few bites but still polished off that piece of cake anyways? It was just.too.good.

Chances are you haven't felt sick after overindulging in cucumbers. Your body told you it was satisfied and you listened.

2. Processed foods are rewarding.

Processed foods make you hungrier… for more processed foods.

Eating (or even seeing) foods that are high in salt, sugar, and fat (read: processed foods) activate the region of the brain associated with rewards, pleasure, cravings, and more.

Rewards reinforce behaviors (they're a form of positive reinforcement, remember?). When repeated over time, behaviors become habits.

This means eating processed food will increase the likelihood that you'll eat more processed food -- a vicious (albeit tasty) cycle.

3. Processed foods are addictive.

Okay, so food addiction isn't an official diagnosis just yet -- at least not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (a.k.a. the DSM, a.k.a. the psychology bible).  But it sure is a buzzword nowadays.

But why?

There's growing evidence that food (particularly processed food) produces addictive-like patterns and behaviors like:

  • Unsuccessful attempts to 'quit' (that soda habit you just can't seem to shake).
  • Increased tolerance over time (you need more than one scoop of ice cream to feel satisfied).
  • Symptoms of withdrawal (when you forgo popcorn at the theater, you might feel antsy).
  • A preoccupation with getting these foods (you'd do a lot of things for that Klondike bar).

Step 1 in the un-processing process is self-awareness -- that #PsychTrick where you analyze your thoughts, feelings, motivations, desires, you name it.

To start, identify 3 problematic processed foods in your diet. These might be foods that:

  • You "just can't shake".
  • Know no moderation.
  • Leave you wanting more.
  • Increase your appetite.
  • Make you feel a little too happy.
  • Or make you feel downright crappy -- physically, mentally, emotionally.

Once you have your 3, it’s time to share them with your group! How are you managing these problematic foods while Nooming? (Substitution? Moderation? Total avoidance?) This will be the starting point to share tips and tricks to start the (un)process.