You might be watching this video because of an email that teased you about what's the real root cause of our inability to stick to a healthy whole food plant-based diet? I gave you a whole list of things from marketing to the hyper availability of hyper palatable crap, to our inner doubts, to doubts about the science, to our stressful lives.
And I said that now every single one of those issues exists in the lives of people who are successful. So that can't be it.
So what is the root cause of falling off of a diet, any diet? And the answer is, we can't stick to the diet when we have to use food to change our state. When we have to use food for something other than nutrition. And when I say “have to,” I mean, we don't have a choice.
We all use food for things other than nutrition. We eat socially. We eat when we're bored.
But the issue is, do we have a choice?
Are we flexible enough to be able to recognize it and make good choices anyway? So maybe a homemade nut ball or Lara Bar instead of a Snickers bar.
And do we have the flexibility to choose other ways of getting what we want and what we need other than food?
If you can't tolerate a state, a way of feeling could be a thought. It could be an emotion. It could be a sensation in the body. In fact, every sensation is also a thought and an emotion, and every thought is also a sensation, an emotion that's really all the same thing. But whichever one we notice will seem to be the main thing.
Whenever we have one of those and we can't get rid of it and we don't know how to get rid of it and we feel like we have to get rid of it.
Food is the easiest, cheapest, most socially acceptable, most convenient way to do it.
And sure, people do it with drugs. They do it with alcohol, they do it with work. They do it with porn. They do it with sex. They do it with Internet scrolling.
There's lots of ways in which we can turn up the volume on something other than that longing, that yearning, and if we have learned to do it through food, we are going to fall down when any of those situations that I mentioned occur: when we have stress in our lives, when we're in the presence of cheap food, when people around us are eating cheap food, when we have the thought I'm abandoning my culture: “If I don’t eat this dish, how can I be a good Italian/Greek/Jewish/Black person if I reject the food of my heritage and my culture and my legacy?”
All of that ultimately funnels down to the question, “Do I need to change my state with food?”
Now, you might be thinking, well, I'm going to say what we need to do is lots and lots of therapy. I have to solve my relationship with my mother before I can say no to chocolate bars. But I’m not.
Instead, the answer is the first step is to deal with the food and here's why.
Whatever that longing is, whatever the unpleasant constellation of sensation, thought, emotion in our body is, I bet you're not really aware of it because you've been using food to cover it up and you've been using food so reliably and so quickly, you don't allow the feedback from your body to say, “Here's where the pain is. Here's where the suffering is. Here's what the sensation is. Here's what it's like to have this need unmet.”
And remember, the need is not hunger, the need is not nutrition, the need is something that food can never solve. And as long as we're using food, we will never be aware enough of the real issue, the real root cause, the longing, the suffering to deal with it appropriately.
And as long as we're using food, frankly, we're not even that motivated to deal with it, because food always makes us feel better in the moment. It's like that old song, “Arkansas Traveler,” the plot of which is that you come across an old guy sitting on his porch and it's raining and the roof is leaking. And the traveler says, “How come you don't fix your roof?” He answers, “Well, when it's raining, I can't go up in the roof. And when it's sunny, there's no need; the roof doesn’t leak.
“In the same way, we never get around to fixing the roof of our own life, of our own being, as long as we have food available to help us make it through.
The answer is to deal with the food, but not to view it as the root cause of the struggle. It's to use the food: to withhold it, to practice withholding it and to start to get familiar with what happens when we create space between the desire to binge on something and the action of bingeing.
To create space between the impulse and the fulfillment of the impulse. And that's hard work.
And that requires courage.
It requires persistence, and it requires something more than just being pissed off with your life. It can start there – being pissed off is sometimes a great place to start – but it's unsustainable.
It has to shift into solving for the yearning – and solving is not a great word because we are not problems to be solved. We are living, experiencing beings.
And when we take on a way of eating that is conscious, that is healthy, we are opening the door to all kinds of other healing, all kinds of other coming into wholeness, all kinds of other attaining integrity, finding purpose and living our values.
The food is a gateway; either a gateway drug to either a miserable, addictive life, or a portal to a life of introspection, presence and growth.