I Shouldn’t Be Eating This, But…

What a terrible way to live–not being able to eat the foods you love without your conscience ruining the fun. The sheer misery of living like this is the simple reason why diets don’t work. We start them with every intention of sticking to them, and as we begin to get results we allow just a few “shouldn’t” foods to work their way into the diet, maybe as a reward. They taste good, we eat more of them, and we start feeling guilty. We realize how much feeling guilty about eating sucks, and we eventually quit the diet in favor of our “shouldn’t” foods.

I’m here to tell you there’s a better way.

Let’s think about what “I shouldn’t be eating this” means. When you say you shouldn’t eat chocolate ice cream, what you mean is that you think it will be bad for your body. Your brain knows that it’s not a nourishing food. But some part of you wants it; let’s call that part of you your heart. And I strongly believe that your heart should have a say in what you eat.

[Drinking coffee photo]Why? Because life isn’t a contest to build the best body, or even to live the longest. When two people are lying on their deathbeds, who’s happier? The guy who lived to be 100 by eating the perfect diet his entire life, or the one who ate moderately well but allowed himself lots of delicious exceptions and died at age 80? You think I’m going to say Guy #2, but I’m not. The answer is it depends. It depends on which of them lived the life he wanted to, of which diet is a small part.

If Guy #1 willed his way through life always wishing he could eat certain foods that he couldn’t, cursing his diet when he was trying to have a good time with friends, then I’ll bet he had a pretty darn miserable century. If, on the other hand, he was an elite athlete or an animal rights activist and vegan, and every bite of healthy food affirmed his life’s purpose, then his extreme diet was a necessary part of his life’s mission. He probably felt pretty good as he kicked the old bucket. You can fill in the same type of story for Guy #2. But to be fair, realize that eating what you want doesn’t have to mean living less. I’m a firm believer that the happier you are, the longer you’ll live.

My point is that what matters in the end is how happy we were. And when you talk about what you “should” eat, you’re usually just talking about your body. In reality, you “should” eat what makes you happy, and your values determine that.  When what you’re eating is in line with your values, then whatever you’re eating starts to taste pretty good. I’ve experienced this shift firsthand. It’s easy for me to eat well now, because I don’t want to eat that cake. Desserts don’t taste that good to me anymore.

What I don’t want is for you to run off and eat whatever you want because the NMA said it’s ok (referring to oneself in the third person can be fun when one has a stupid nickname to use). Here’s why that would be bad: you’d be really happy during the 10-minute eat-fests, but feel terrible during all the time in between.

You need to first get clear on what’s important to you, then decide what diet will best support whatever that is. But you need to be careful. The reason America is fat is that we make this decision for the short term. We’re used to eating fake food, and because change is uncomfortable before it starts to feel good, we stick with the fake food. My plea is that you not be afraid to change. If you’re used to eating fake food, I can tell you that real food won’t taste as good right away. But if your mind is open and you stick with it for a few weeks, you’ll notice that your taste buds go from enemy to ally in the battle between brain and heart over what you should eat.

What is YOUR heart telling you to eat that your brain is telling you not to?  I’m interested to hear.  I’ll go first–coffee.  And I apologize for the creepy photo.



Dig this post?
Spread the word!

Keep in touch:

The 7 Foods Worth Eating Every Single Day

wooden signpost near a pathOur 7-Day Kickstart Plan is unique in that it focuses on the highest quality whole foods (including the 7 foods worth eating every day), to make sure you get everything you need on a plant-based diet.

The Kickstart Plan includes:
  • A 7-day meal plan, built around the foods worth eating every single day
  • 14 of our favorite recipes that pack in the nutrition, taste great, and are easy to make
  • Focused on simplicity and speed, to minimize stress and time commitment
It's the best way we know of to get started with a whole-food, plant-based diet, for just 7 bucks. Learn more here!


  1. The photo is semi-creepy Mr. NMA, but I do agree with you. Eating should make you happy. Your body is built the way it is so that you can enjoy food. Guilty eating can cause way more problems than it solves.

    • I forgot to add my “Heart” food: Probably PA dutch style Chicken pot pie. (No it is not an actual pie)

  2. You should read The Easy Way to Stop Smoking by Allen Carr. This battle of heart and mind, along with the guilt are very much a part of smoking addiction. It’s only miserable to quit smoking when you want to smoke. It’s easy to quit once you honestly want to. The trick is getting your heart to agree with the head, ie you teach yourself to be joyful to be free, not miserable that you are deprived. I know that coffee and food aren’t cigarettes, but addictions take on similar patterns and I think he has other subjects published as well.

    Anyway, I had to read it a couple of times but I have been smoke-free since July last year. YIPPEE!

    • FABULOUS!!! By the way, if anyone wants to not eat meat, but is having a hard time with controlling the taste desire, they should listen to Tony Robbins’ short talk about healthy eating (part of the 4th day of his seminar). I had not particularly wanted to be a vegetarian and had definitely not planned to be. But he spoke about the uric acid in the cow’s blood right before slaughter and how we think of that taste as the “good” taste of meat. I had spent enough time on a farm as a young girl to easily recall the urea smell in a cow’s urine. He passionately associated the cow’s urine with the taste of beef. That smell and the taste in the beef do have a very similar quality! Something clicked in my brain, and I have had absolutely NO desire for the taste of beef since then. Apparently, kosher food is prepared differently, and the blood is drained from the animal and the taste that we associate as “good” is almost non-existent. The unseasoned kosher beef is supposed to have a much blander taste. That, coupled with his videos of fecal chicken soup, pretty much killed the desire for meat for me. So I guess I could call myself “The Accidental Vegetarian”. Anyway, now that I’ve been eating this way for almost two months, I can’t imagine going back to a meat diet. It seems so barbaric. I am having a problem, however, consuming enough protein and have been researching the best way to satisfy that.

  3. Great post (as usual).
    One of my favorite food quotes is from Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential:“”Do these horrifying assertions frighten you? Should you stop eating out? Wipe yourself down with antiseptic towelettes every time you pass a restaurant? No way. Like I said before, your body is not a temple, its an amusement park. Sure, it’s a ‘play you pay’ sort of an adventure, but you knew that already, every time you ordered a taco or a dirty-water hot dog. If you’re willing to risk some slight lower GI distress for one of those Italian sweet sausages at the street fair, or for a slice of pizza you just know has been sitting on the board for an hour or two, why not take a chance on the good stuff?”

    I’m eating much much better than I was a year ago, but one has to give herself some flexibility. My “heart” food? Red meat.

  4. Erin Frazier says:

    My food is fresh baked cookies:)

  5. Oh gosh, I know all about this subject. I love food as an art, food for pleasure, food as a community-growing experience…my dad is a chef after all! But though now I try to focus on treating my body right and eating what makes my body happy, I am never afraid to stray every once in awhile. I love bread baskets with real Italian olive oil and balsamic vinegar. And of course, I love pasta made from semolina, though brown rice pasta and quinoa pasta are pretty good. I also really love potato chips…

    Rhoni’s last blog post..Bliss

    • The food your heart wants to you eat are the same ones that most people’s brains want them to eat. You’re lucky! Speaking of semolina pasta, I’m going to have to try making that. Most eggless pasta is made from semolina; I just used whole wheat flour to make mine. Thanks for commenting!

  6. Colleen says:

    I think my “heart” food is cheese…the sharper the better:)

  7. You make a truly valid point here (and it’s one I’ve been struggling with for a good couple of years).

    No one wants to be miserable while they’re on a diet – we all want to be happy with what we eat. It’s finding that middle ground of healthy vs. fun that always proves difficult. If every dieter out there could find a good modicum of healthy-yet-fun food, I think we’d all be happier in the long run.

    I’ve implemented a give-and-take system in my daily diet. I eat what I like, in smaller quantities than I used to eat, and I make up for it with substitutions. Mashed cauliflower has supplanted mashed potatoes, tofu in stir fry has taken over for chicken, significantly smaller (but better) cuts of meat have replaced large steaks.

    I still have trouble giving up chocolate, though…I daresay that’s one of my vices. At least I only buy supermegadark chocolate, rather than Hershey’s milk!

    • I really like your idea of eating smaller, better cuts of meat. I saw Michael Pollan talk last night and he talked so much about how much better grass-fed beef is, for health, the environment, and economically. It leads to better soil, healthier cows, and a return to the natural interaction with the cows digesting the grass (we can’t do this) and all the good it has to offer, then us eating the cows to get those nutrients.

      I’m not sure if I’ll ever eat meat again, but if I ever do introduce it back into my diet (in small amounts), this is how I’ll do it.

      Yum, chocolate 🙂

  8. I started my diet as vegan, then realised that I cant give up miik and Indian yogurt!! and now I am a happy and healthy veggie.. which is not bad I think.

Leave a Comment