In today’s society, it is viewed as normal to skip breakfast at home, run out the door in the morning, pick up a latte and bagel on the way to work, snack on chips and a soda at your desk, hit the drive-through for lunch, stop at the store for milk on the way home, and pick up a pizza for dinner.

By the time you get home after your busy day you are exhausted and stressed from your day (not to mention the commute), and all you want to do is eat and relax. There is always more to be done though, and you may not even have time to relax before you are on the go again, running errands, working on projects, fitting in family time, and getting ready for the next day.

This is considered a normal life, at least in America. It is considered “normal” to eat processed foods, convenience foods, fast foods, sugar, sugar, and more sugar, and why not? We see this food everywhere, in television commercials, on billboards, eaten by famous, popular actors in blockbuster movies and television sitcoms, on large, eye-grabbing store signs, and most importantly, being eaten by our friends, family, and co-workers.

If we choose to not eat processed food, filled with various man-made chemicals, preservatives, sugar, flour, and fat, we are looked at as odd, or a “health-nut”. We stand out amongst the crowd, people assume we must be “dieting”, otherwise why would we be eating whole foods that we cooked for ourselves at home?

When we decide that we are going to go against the grain and cut out the addictive ingredients of sugar, refined flour, and fat, and instead buy whole foods from the supermarket, cook for ourselves, and carry our food and water around with us in a small cooler pack, we are often standing alone. We are the only one in the company meeting who isn’t partaking of the chips, fast food, and soda that was provided for us to eat while we watch the PowerPoint presentation. We are the only one who is drinking water like it’s going out of style. We go to lunch with the group but instead of ordering processed food filled with sugar and preservatives, we order water or an iced tea (and eat our whole food when we get back to our desk).

To live like this requires a strong conviction. It’s not easy to hold back and stand on our own instead of being one with the crowd. It is so much easier to blend in and socialize over the pizza and soda, to join in on the company barbecue, and it is always easier to go with the flow at family gatherings so as not to make any waves. If you decline the traditional holiday or birthday fare, what is wrong with you? It’s just not possible to say no in a family gathering, is it?

It’s not easy to take the healthy route when society is against us and we are surrounded by processed food. When we go to the grocery store, the smells of the bakery and deli waft through the air and assault us as soon as we enter. We are reminded of home, safety, holidays or picnics (depending upon the time of year), and good times. We remember how good that food tastes and how much “fun” it is to eat it.

We have to muster all of our strength to focus on the fruit and vegetable section, skirt the bakery section on our way to the aisle that has the plain rice noodles, and then avoid the frozen food aisle that has all of those wonderful sweets that we used to eat. The restaurants that do offer whole foods on their menu are greatly outnumbered, and it depends on where you live whether as to or not you even have that option. Yes, it’s not “normal” in today’s society to eat healthy, but it is normal to eat fast food, if you believe what you see on television.

The courage that you need in the beginning to declare your freedom from the processed and fast food industries is mainly about having courage and confidence in yourself. When it comes down to it, everyone else is more concerned with himself or herself than they are with what you are doing. The more comfortable you are with how you eat, the less it matters.

I have a small, soft-sided cooler pack that I take with me everywhere. I fill it with the food that I cook for myself (sans sugar, flour, fat, and salt) along with an ice pack. I also carry my water with me. I carry enough food for the day or however long I will be gone, and I don’t think about it much anymore. I began eating like this in January, 2004. I initially did so to lose weight (43.5 pounds) and I kept it off for over a year.

It’s another story that I had relapses after that time, however even then, I never completely abandoned the whole foods. Now I am back to eating the same way, and it simply becomes a way of life. I am actually more interested in the health benefits, extra energy, and freedom from food addiction and cravings that I gain from eliminating sugar and flour, however I also have the goal to lose weight (which I am).

In the end, there are too many benefits that are derived from cutting out the processed foods that keep me from being willing to fit in (well, I can’t say that I’ve ever been much of a crowd follower 😉 ). When you choose to commit to taking control of your health, and decide that you are going to get off the processed food, you can summon that courage within you and stand strong in your conviction.

In my mind, it would be the ultimate victory if all of us were to stop buying the junk that the food industry is pushing, and let the demand for it simply dry up.