Quinoa lentil soup with broccoli and golden beets.
Water-sautéed greens with lemon and sunflower seeds on the side—the holy grail of nutrition.
But then comes decadence in its full form—rich, chocolatey cake topped with whipped cream for dessert. And no, it’s not raw, or vegan, or gluten free.
Wait, how can I be corrupting my pure dinner with such indulgence? That’s the question most detox fanatics and diet gurus are probably asking.
To me, the real question is whether this chocolate wonder is actually bad.
I weigh the quality of my food choices often. I weigh them when I’m settled on the couch with a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream after dinner, or eating popcorn smothered in butter in front of a movie at 9 p.m., or munching on a box of cookies in place of a meal.
It’s not that I have an unhealthy diet—I usually cook my own food, I eat organic, vegetarian, and do my best to follow Ayurvedic protocol. I typically avoid processed sugar and forgo fast-food altogether.
And yet, junk food sneaks itself into my hands (well, my mouth) many times a week—more than I would care to admit.
I get cravings for everything from chocolate hazelnut wafers to cheese and caramel popcorn. I let myself eat them quite often. Sometimes I guilt trip myself all the way through. And other times, I feel horrible afterward.
But almost every time—it is so worth it. Junk food has comforted me, nourished me, soothed me, and inspired me to improve my health more times than I can count.
Junk food can be good for the soul.
Here are six ways to make the most of what junk food has to offer:
Everything in moderation.
The reason we wouldn’t want to eat cheeseburgers and ice cream every day is the same reason we don’t want to ban all unhealthy food from our lives for the rest of eternity.
The key is finding a proper balance.
Never allowing ourselves to satisfy our cravings is a form of repression and causes a lot of stress, which leads to issues much heavier and deeper than those caused by the occasional slice of cherry pie.
Common consequences are binge eating, self-resentment, and numerous other eating disorders.
Even the term “healthy food” is relative. In Ayurveda, no substance is considered “good” or “bad,” but rather, everything can have a benefit depending on when we eat it and how much of it we eat.
While high fat foods may be harmful to one’s constitution, they may actually be necessary for another.
Make it organic.
There is an organic version of almost everything out there. Organic chocolate, organic chips, organic frozen pizza. If we’re going to treat ourselves, let’s make it as nutritious as possible.
Organic foods hold significantly higher standards for the quality of their ingredients, making them notably healthier while being just as satisfying as their artificial alternative—if not more.
Make it yourself.
There’s a recipe for everything. No, really. Look up “homemade nachos,” or “homemade vegan marshmallows,” and hundreds of recipes pop up begging you to make them.
Homemade food is so much more rewarding than store-bought items. Plus, when we make it ourselves, we have complete control over the ingredients and the energy we put into it.
Gratitude for our food.
Taking a moment to give gratitude for the food we are about to eat is a complete game changer. This expression of love changes the energy of the food and makes it more beneficial.
Conversely, thinking about how horrible the food we’re about to eat is, makes it exponentially more harmful. Thinking negative thoughts about ourselves and our food inundates it with bad energy that then affects our body and mind.
Enjoy the food, no matter what it is.
When we find ourselves on the couch with a tub of ice cream, might as well enjoy it. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time and energy, and makes the experience that much more negative.
Seriously. That’s all there is to it. Enjoy—and enjoy without guilt.
We’re all guilty of feeling guilty, especially after eating something we’re “not supposed to.” But when we have guilty thoughts, we perpetuate negative energy.
Instead, try saying this: “I am so grateful that I was able to eat this delicious food. It tasted so good, and I am so lucky to be able to enjoy it.”
Take it step-by-step.
If we’re trying to make a drastic change to our eating habits, we must remember that it won’t happen overnight.
When someone starts a weight training regimen, they don’t hop on the bench with 250 pounds. Well, maybe if they’re already really strong. But I wouldn’t.
When we change our diet, we’re training our mind and body to start eating the way we would like to. And it never works unless we do. This is precisely why people who go on an extreme diet so often bounce back to a worse state than they were in previously. It’s just not sustainable.
Start improving your diet by implementing small changes, a little bit at a time. For example, if we’re trying to become vegetarian, first eliminate pork, then red meat, then poultry, and finally fish.
As Swami Sivananda said, “Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day.”
Our relationship with food is usually complicated. Food can be like a loving mother or a cheating boyfriend.
The best thing we can do is choose it with love, make it with love, and eat it with love.