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Toxins in Food

When you’re overeating, you’re often caught up in rebellion, emotional avoidance, denial, or all-or-nothing thinking, so how often do you consider what food is doing to your body? Never mind how many calories it has—or hasn’t. Calorie-free or not, the point is whether a food is a healthy or unhealthy option because of how its ingredients will affect you in the long run. Focusing on the nasty things that toxins can do to your health is one way to help you make better choices.

For example, I was recently at dinner with a friend who was eating chicken salad nestled in a crispy taco shell. Near the end of the meal, she started to break off pieces of the shell, set them aside, but continue to nibble at them. At one point, she covered the entire shell with her napkin, but soon she was back nibbling at them again. Finally, she pushed away her plate saying, “I really shouldn’t be eating this. It’s fattening,” and called for the waitress to take away what was left of the taco.

As my friend vacillated between polishing off the taco and leaving it, while she was focused on calories, all I could think of was the damage the shell’s transfats might do to her heart. That’s the problem with diets and caloric restriction: it’s about quantity (ie, calories, fat grams, etc.), not quality (ie, nutrients or toxins). Even if that shell hadn’t contained a single calorie, it would be dangerous because of the transfats it contained.

How often do you consider what toxins in food will do to you? How often do you think: what I’m eating has too much salt which could raise my blood pressure or how artificial sweetener, charred meat or fish containing PCBs may cause cancer? If you these thoughts don’t cross your mind, is it because you’re unaware of the risks or from a desire to avoid noticing them in order to give yourself license to eat? Remember, because you blind yourself to danger, doesn’t mean it’s not there and won’t hurt you.

You may have trouble cutting down on your eating or stopping overeating foods that are nutritious, but there’s not one of you who can’t decide to make more nutritious choices (even with sweets and simple carbohydrates). Even if you never lose a pound, at least your body will have a better shot at remaining healthy and living longer. Next time you’re about to eat, stop—that means don’t eat!—and focus on the ingredients in your food. Get out the package and read about what you’re eating. Check out the fats and salt and sugar content. Think about how ingredients will affect your health and what they’re doing to your body. You are what you eat.