“Failing” at #Unprocessed

Fed Up With LunchSarah Wu is also known as “Mrs. Q,” the (formerly) anonymous teacher who ate school lunch for a year and blogged about it at Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project. Sarah’s book about the experience, Fed Up With Lunch, contains a “Guide to Quiet Revolution,” which parents, teachers, kids and teenagers, as well as community members can use as a road map to make health and wellness a priority in neighborhood schools. You’ll also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Failing at #Unprocessed

I failed at October Unprocessed this month. Yep, I didn’t make it. Let’s face it: it’s actually hard for most Americans to do this for 30 days. I’m sure that a few people are thinking “No way, it’s easy for me! I already eat whole foods all the time. I’m #unprocessed 365 days a year.”

Think back to a time before you made that change or had that epiphany. Your life and your food used to be different. Because unless you were born into a family with a vibrant food culture, you probably ate many foods in the SAD category (Standard American Diet). Even my Chinese-American husband who grew up devouring delicious and healthy homemade Chinese food made by both parents at virtually all meals, still drank soda, gobbled down Twinkies, and ate at McDonald’s.

When I claim failure at eating unprocessed, I’m not saying that I was speeding through drive-thrus all month long. No, I’m gluten-free (for about twenty months now), which means that most of the time I have to eat food prepared by myself at home. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t buy the occasional gluten-free “junk” food: chips, chocolate-covered pretzels, and packaged cookies. Minor detail: I’m eight months pregnant.

October Unprocessed is a thought exercise, but my brain just thinks of it as a restriction. “You can’t eat this” is enough to make me want to buy it, more and more. Call me weak or call me lazy, but that’s just how my mind works.

Eating unprocessed is the exact opposite of what I did in 2010: I ate school lunch every day for a year to raise awareness about school lunch. Instead of telling myself not to eat a certain kind of food, I just opened the flood gates and ate “processed” for one meal a day for a year. The mind game is pretty intense when you’ve committed to eating something every day. At first I embraced it and enjoyed the food. But after three months, I was fatigued. Then something weird happened. I went back to enjoying the food. I called it some bizarre variant of “Stockholm Syndrome” as it relates to food – if you can’t beat ‘em, you might as well join ‘em. Then as the school lunch project came to a close, I started hating the food again. By the end, it was 163 school lunches total that I consumed. I will never eat another chicken nugget.

So, I’ve learned something this October. That is that I cannot restrict myself completely or my will implodes. In fact, if you had trouble like I did, I would suggest making sure you don’t deprive yourself of the occasional processed food. Read the label. Buy it. Eat it. How do you feel? Love it or hate it, It might take 163 times for you to get sick of something, but one day you will not want to eat it again.

Eating #unprocessed or #processed, it’s your relationship with food. Own it.

Photo © 2009 Corie Howell, used under Creative Commons license.

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
November 3, 2012 5:29 am

I think the point of many “challenges” is the journey of self awareness, & discovery. It opens our eyes to how and what we are doing with our diets/health/fitness. Sometimes we find out we are doing quite well, sometimes it helps us realize we have some work to do. Sometimes it just shows us new and different ways of doing things. I don’t think you can ever “fail” at a challenge because in the end you learned something new about yourself, & will take that forward to make new decisions & choices for yourself.

Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship
November 2, 2012 6:47 pm

This is totally me:
” “You can’t eat this” is enough to make me want to buy it, more and more.”

What is with our brains working that way? It’s a dangerous thing! Halloween candy, also dangerous. 😉

Can’t wait to see your new little one!
🙂 Katie

November 1, 2012 10:40 am

I have been trying since about August… however, saying that I was going to do it this month led to some kind of messed up mind game with myself. I recently went to New Orleans and while we ate at a lot of Farm to Table places…. God knows where the ingredients came from. Not to mention the processed alcohol we drank. I then came home and instead of jumping back into it did the giant diet failure of all which was to say… well Halloween is in two days and we promised the kids they could have McDonald’s (we have told them they are only open on Halloween and possibly the Chicago airport around Christmas)…. and I have a party on Saturday, and…. and… and. Then I got sick…. now my goal is to just eat at home and get back on the wagon by Monday. I do not… Read more »

November 1, 2012 10:41 am
Reply to  Eileen

I meant the ingredients at the other places we ate… not the Farm restaurants.

November 1, 2012 10:16 am

Glad I’m not the only one who didn’t do so well. I think the important thing is that I TRIED!

Sherry Caraway
Sherry Caraway
November 1, 2012 10:15 am

I’m just glad to know I’m not the only one that messed up. Not that I’m glad anyone messed up just that sometimes when one doesn’t achieve something they feel so alone.

Julie Moore
November 1, 2012 7:09 am

Great post and I agree 100%! Going unprocessed “cold turkey” is very hard and most don’t succeed. Our bodies are addicted whether we like to admit it or not, so sometimes baby steps is the best way. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

November 1, 2012 2:34 am

I used the “cheat meals” twice, and that made it a bit easier, especially when going out for dinner or when you can’t stop thinking about ice cream – otherwise you go crazy! Today, I didn’t feel like going back to normal; I will just keep going (mind you, there might be more like 2 cheat meals a week…). My diet has improved a lot, even though it wasn’t too bad before, and I am just more aware of all the hidden sugars in “healthy foods”. I made allowances for my kids, as I don’t want to exclude them from anything, but they snack a lot more healthily now, and got involved in making wholemeal pasta etc. AND ate it 😉 It is a journey for sure, but I’m trying not to be too hard on myself.

October 31, 2012 9:52 pm

It is so hard to eat unprocessed if everyone around you thinks you are just wacko… bringing your own dinner to the restaurant is tough. And I definitely didn’t make it all month without processed food. So I am really thankful for this encouraging post!

October 31, 2012 7:28 pm

Thanks. Overall, I think “I” did very well, although I did eat a bag of Doritos one night, my only failure of the month. My family, on the other hand, snuck out left and right for processed cravings. It makes me feel better to know that their decisions don’t make me a failure. I can only do my best and hope that we are healthier because of it. At least it is a step in the right direction. Good health to all the pledges! Just wanting to be healthier is a step for us all!

October 31, 2012 7:28 pm

I disagree with you ALL!!!!!!!! I don’t see any of you as failures! Remember this is not a geometry class with pass or fail…it is more an art class where you just learn about creativity and yourself! I think all of us learned important things about food and about ourselves and likes and dislikes. To me that is GOLDEN!

Jana W
Jana W
November 3, 2012 12:27 pm
Reply to  Tanya

I guess I looked at this as a time to improve rather than total restriction.

We ate many more whole grains,fruits,veggies, and homemade foods. Much less process food was purchased and consumed this last month.

Dietary and lifestlye changes take alot of time. This was a great awareness building exercise. I look forward to maintaining and building on the progress we made this month.