We’re lucky over here at Mark’s Daily Apple. We’ve got a solid group of individuals committed to improving their health by educating themselves on the oh-so-harmful effects of the Standard American Diet.1 But if you step outside this tiny corner of the Internet, there’s a whole world out there singing the praises of freshly baked bread smothered in butter substitute, hot-from-the-oven oatmeal raisin cookies, and bowls of “heart-healthy” cereal swimming in non-fat milk.
Not coincidentally, a lot of those same people are struggling with achy joints, brain fog, and extra weight, completely oblivious that a diagnosis of diabetes or high-blood pressure may soon be on the horizon.
This could, in fact, be where you are right this very second. Maybe you’ve been on the fence about cleaning up your diet. Or you’re finally fed up with being fat and foggy and have decided that you really do deserve to feel better. Or maybe you’ve been watching someone in your family deal with a chronic health issue. No matter what’s prompting your change, I’m glad you’re here, because the more people we can get to understand how food affects our bodies, the bigger impact we’ll have.
So, What’s Wrong with Grains?
If you’ve been around here for more than a minute, you know that grains are often problematic in the body. Not only do they elicit an insulin response and add to more fat storage (as do all excess carbohydrates), they contain lectins, a naturally found toxin that impacts the permeability of the gut wall. Which, of course can lead to everything from food allergies to auto-immune disorders. 2 But I digress.
You probably don’t need another lesson in why grains or industrialized oils or sugar is toxic to your body. What you might need though — if you’re struggling with the same types of things as my own clients — is how to successfully ditch them from your diet when it feels like everyone and their sister are Instagramming their overly art directed avocado toast 24/7.
It’s easier to avoid grains if you’re ready for snack attacks. Pick up a box of Collagen Fuel Bars to satisfy your chocolate, peanut butter, and even salty cravings.
Why Are They So Hard to Avoid?
Grains are intricately woven into nearly every aspect of our society. And unless you were brought up on an ancestral kind of diet, your preferences for starchy foods were likely dictated from an early age. Studies show that most infants prefer sweet tastes over bitter and sour ones, which may reflect a biological instinct to choose foods that are more in the calorically dense carbohydrate camp. 3
The good news is that your likes and dislikes, even those influenced by innate preferences, can be modified. So, at least biologically, you’re not stuck with your sweet tooth.
But if it’s not physical cravings causing it, what’s at play here?
Research in social science shows that eating the same food as other people makes you feel more connected to them. It also makes you appear more trustworthy and cooperative. As a matter of fact, researchers from the University of Chicago, ran a series of experiments testing the effects of eating together and what happens when people ate the same food. 4
In one experiment, participants played the role of either a manager or union representative and had to come up with an hourly wage that was agreeable to both sides. At different times during the negotiations, the pairs were given the same kind of food to snack on. At other times, they were each given different foods. Researchers found that an agreement was made significantly more quickly when the participants ate the same things. They also discovered that they were more likely to trust the information each other was conveying when the same foods were eaten.
Simply Put, We Crave Connection
For most people, food is a shared experience that often imprints joyful, lasting memories. Think about holiday celebrations, birthday parties, weddings, a pre-Covid work BBQ.
Food is just one of the ways we connect to each other. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, eating the same foods as others creates a positive feeling of belonging. In contrast, when we choose to eat differently, even if those foods have been proven to drastically improve our health, our happiness, and the way our clothes fit, we can feel isolated.
That need to connect is so wired in our DNA then when social bonds are threatened, it can impact our confidence and self-esteem.5 That’s why, in most situations, we do whatever we can to prove that we’re worthy of belonging — even when it goes against our beliefs.
How to Go Against the Grain (Pun Intended)
I’ll tell you that 9 times out of 10, my clients who are new to the whole “you don’t eat bread?!” conversation will, at least temporarily, revert back to their old eating habits just to fit in. Or more, accurately, not to be left out or judged. That’s about the time I break out these strategies for going against the grain in a world where everyone seems to be bread-obsessed.
1. Be Comfortable with Your Why. I realize I sound like a broken record here, but understanding your deep-down reason for doing whatever it is you’re doing is a game changer when it comes to weathering the ups and downs of your health journey.
2. Check Your People-Pleasing Beliefs. Don’t be fooled here. People-pleasing isn’t about being amiable and easy-going. It’s about acting a certain way in the hopes that others will like and accept you, which in turn helps quantify your self-worth.
3. Get Clear on Your Boundaries. Without boundaries, it’s easy to get caught up in what’s important to otherpeople. Take time to figure out what’s okay with you and what’s not okay. If you really want to live a life you’re proud of, it’s crucial to know (and uphold) your boundaries.
4. Appreciate the Differences. What fun would it be if we were all the same? A bunch of robots walking around eating the same exact foods, doing the same jobs, it would be mind-numbing. Try embracing the differences in the people around you (instead of judging them) and see what happens.
5. Find Healthier Ways to Connect. Just because you’re not scarfing down plates of pasta together, doesn’t mean you can’t feel a connection to others. Carving out one-on-one time and (when it’s socially appropriate again) hugging also release the bonding hormone, oxytocin.
6. Know Who Has Your Back. Being part of a community, like the one here at Mark’s Daily Apple, creates a sense of belonging. It also gives you the confidence to know that your goals are not only obtainable, they’re supported by literally hundreds of thousands of other health enthusiasts.
6 Strategies for Ditching Grains for Good
Any kind of change can be challenging. But being surrounded by friends and family members who are up in arms because you’re not a fan of the food pyramid, makes it even harder. Kudos to you for following your truth — and remember to use these strategies next time you’re confronted by someone asking why you’re not eating bread.
Be comfortable with your why
Check your people-pleasing beliefs
Get clear on your boundaries
Appreciate the differences
Find healthier ways to connect
Know who has your back
Now it’s your turn! I’d love to hear what’s worked for you. Tell me about it in the comments below.
Erin Power is an NBHWC board-certified health coach and the Coaching and Curriculum Director for Primal Health Coach Institute. She’s also the co-host of Health Coach Radio, the podcast by health coaches, for health coaches. Erin lives outside of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on a hobby farm in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.