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I am NOT a Junk-Food Negotiator AND You CAN Break Your Destructive Habits

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Let’s talk about how I work with clients who want to “negotiate” about junk food.

First, let me say: I don’t really negotiate, I educate.  The things that you put in your body are your choice.  That said, if a client wants to knowingly consume foods (or drinks) that are demineralizing their bones, congesting their blood vessels or damaging their brain, although saddened, I believe they have the personal sovereignty to make that choice.  A mentor of mine used to refer to this as slow suicide which is an accurate description.  It is indeed a banquet in the grave, promising satisfaction but leaving you feeling worse … just like drugs! 

Usually in these cases there is often either an actual food/drink addiction or there is some emotional battle going on specifically about their self-worth (both common and I have had the honor to help countless people with these issues).  Often the two issues play together.

Here are some thoughts (in no specific order) about how I personally handle this with my clients:

  • Ultimately, it depends on the client.  If I have someone with minor issues who is looking to just get healthier (a person with acne or some gas/bloating, etc.), I ask them to decrease specific things. (Depending on their specific vices, it might be meat, dairy, fast food, caffeine, peanut butter, etc.).  I tell them that “decrease means decrease” … I want them to tune in to their personality a bit and know what works best for them.  With some clients, if I tell them to “decrease dairy,” they just stop dairy completely and never go back.  For others, if they did that, they would end up relapsing in a dairy binge and find themselves knee deep in cheese and ice cream! (Ha ha … but not really.)  For the latter, that person would need to decrease slowly over time.  Example: If they were having 5 servings of dairy each day, they should go down to 4 servings per day this week, 3 per day next week, etc. (and of course I help them come up with substitutes).
  • For a client who comes to me with, for example, stage 4 cancer, it’s a totally different story.  I’m not going to be part of them playing with fire.  They must eliminate carcinogenic substances right away and be “all in” or I don’t normally continue working with them for long.  I am really clear about this with clients who are otherwise going to die!  This sounds harsh but I feel that I can’t continue to “dance” around the issue if they are in that serious of condition.  They need to hear the truth and to withhold it is not loving.  I genuinely love my clients!  If they don’t want to change (which is sadly common), then I’m not a good fit for them.  To be fully transparent, it hurts too much to help them self-destruct and it violates my calling as a holistic doctor.
  • Another thing that I do with almost everyone is: Add before you subtract. 
    I focus on all the delicious foods that I want them to add to their diet.  Adding is psychologically more fun than eliminating.  The idea is to get people adding lots of good foods so there’s less room for junk and you can, by default, crowd out some of the junk (making it easier for them to do the “decreasing” without feeling deprived).  So for example, to someone who is always eating 2 donuts from the breakroom at work every day at 10am, I might say, “before you eat anything else, you need to get in 32 ounces of water AND a 32 ounce smoothie”… Again, depends on the person but in this case, they might skip the donuts due to being so full … or if they do eat them, they might be less likely to eat 2 of them… You get the idea.
  • Another aspect of “adding” in terms of the principle of calorie density is letting clients know that in effort to feel full without gaining weight or eating carcinogenic junk food, they can have unlimited amounts of low caloric vegetables. (These are high nutrition but lower calorie foods so they can eat big quantities with no problem).  I’m never going to worry too much about a client eating too many cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, etc.  This can be especially helpful for people who just want to be able to eat a lot or who are used to eating big portions.  I would never encourage people to overeat, but binging on cucumbers or broccoli is far less damaging than what most people would otherwise overeat on.
  • I also have to take into account the person’s overall will/maturity/drive to change/etc.  For some, even adults, there is a bit of a rebellious attitude that can be going on.  Whatever you tell them not to have, they want.  In these cases, you have to be a bit more careful.  Maybe just pick one or 2 things to have them back off on.  However, I do also make it a point to be super clear and honest.  That might sound different for each person but perhaps something like, “You can NOT heal your leaky gut condition while continuing to eat fast food each day.  If you don’t make this change, you will continue on a downward spiral.  I don’t want to see that.  The good news is that it’s not too late … but you do have to get a hold of this issue if you want to have optimal health (or heal XYZ).  I will help you, walk with you and guide you through this, but I can’t do it for you.”   Again, this sounds very different with different people depending on both their actual condition as well as their willingness to make changes.
  • It’s also important to me to educate clients about how a specific bad habit/junk food that they are having is directly affecting their condition.  For example, if someone comes to me with cancer and they are eating a lot of processed foods, I will talk to them about the dangers of processed foods and how it is loaded with cancer causing chemicals1 or whatever the case might be.
  • I lead by example!  I can give clients real life ideas about how to win in this battle because I have been there and understand how to get to the other side of these challenges.
  • I always have to remember that although I want to help everyone, I can only help people who want to change.  That is really key for me to be a good steward of my time and my practice.  The world needs help and I have to use my time as efficiently as possible to help as many as I am able.

There are lots of other tricks and tactics, but this hopefully lays out a few ideas of my way of thinking and how I work. 

I love giving practical tools to my clients and students about how they can increase hope when it comes to making positive changes.  If you need help, please reach out to my clinic for support that is specific to your needs!  It’s time to get healthy now!

Resource list:

1. Fiolet T, Srour B, Sellem L, et al. Consumption of ultra-processed foods and cancer risk: Results from NutriNet-Santé prospective cohort. BMJ. 2018. doi:10.1136/bmj.k322

Nothing said or implied in this post is intended to treat, cure, diagnose or prevent any disease.  It does not take the place of a health care practitioner.  It is for educational purposes only.

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