The Secret Your “Fake” Foods Aren’t Telling You

pancakes with spinach

I could totally slow-carb this...

What do these different foods bring to mind?

  • “paleo” pancakes
  • eggplant lasagna
  • low-carb cheesecake
  • spaghetti squash with a delicious meat sauce
  • “faux” mashed potatoes

I’ll take a guess:

  • hot, delicious buttermilk pancakes with dripping with butter and maple syrup
  • pasta lasagna with layers and layers of noodles, meat, and cheese with a hot crust of cheese on top
  • a large slice of New York style cheesecake, or maybe one of the delicious flavors from Cheesecake Factory
  • a huge pile of spaghetti and meatballs loaded with parmesan
  • real, buttery, delicious-melt-in-your-mouth mashed potatoes

Did I get close on at least a couple of them?

Our fake forms of eating things we love but can’t might be making it harder to change our lifestyle!

We all do it

When we first change our nutritional lifestyles, it’s normal to miss the foods we are trying to eliminate. It’s not about deprive ourselves because it makes us fat. When you change your lifestyle, it’s because you know it affects your health beyond your gut.

So we find ways to deal with missing certain kinds of food. I was beyond excited when I found out that cauliflower can almost completely trick my palate, whether I’m looking for rice or mashed potatoes. Spaghetti squash goes hardly noticed when you pile a delicious meat-and-tomato sauce on top of it.

You can even tell yourself that a low-carb cheesecake is a great substitute for my most favorite dessert in the entire world (it just ain’t the same!).

It’s normal; I’ll even say it’s acceptable. But having struggled with food choices all year – even after deciding to change my lifestyle – I’m going to suggest that it should only be temporary.

Why are we so strongly connected to food?

If you’re not a foodie or you’re one of those people who never had problems being thin, you might not understand this: we can be emotionally connected to food.

Maybe you grew up in an Italian family and things like pasta and delicious bread were just part of daily life. It reminds you of the good times you had as a kid at Nonna’s house.

Maybe your mom made the best mashed potatoes ever, and they were your favorite food growing up. You can eat a five-pound bag yourself.

Sunday mornings might have been the best when your dad got up early to make his “world-famous” pancakes.

Or maybe we just need to admit the truth: food is flipping delicious when it’s loaded with butter, cheese, or sugar (and heaping spoonfuls of love).

We try to find replacements for these foods because we don’t want to let go of the emotions attached to them. We think we won’t be able to live without ice cream or waffles or a creamy bowl of chicken alfredo.

The problem is you never stop wanting it

This can be especially true when you have cheat days. You may have the willpower to make it all week and only eat that stuff on Saturday. I wonder how many of us can’t.

The other problem I’ve noticed personally is that when I think about substitutions, I think about food more often then necessary. When I made paleo pancakes, it was because I wanted real pancakes. The craving never left and made it easier to trip up during the week.

Your “replacement” foods might be directly related to your inability to remain faithful to the lifestyle change you’re looking for. So how can you fix that and still be able to enjoy the food you’re learning to love?

Think different

Steve Jobs taught us the secret.

The replacement foods are good to start with, but they only remind you of what you shouldn’t have.

The good news: it’s all in your mind.

If you start replacing the foods in your mind, it will be easier to let go of the stuff you don’t need. Then you can start building new habits and connections.

  • Imagine if a pile of steamed, well-seasoned broccoli could bring to mind the same flood of joy that a pasta dinner currently brings you.
  • Imagine if when you think of your idea Sunday morning breakfast, it involves egg white burritos filled with veggies and sausage.
  • Imagine if when you thought of your favorite dessert you thought of a handful of nuts and dried cranberries or a delicious banana/cinnamon coconut milk smoothie.

Think about food differently, and eventually you’ll think about food differently.

Do what helps you the most, then be sure to mature

Especially if you’re starting out, it’ll help you a lot to find food you can use to replace with. It will help keep you sane when you really want a slice of pizza to figure out how to make a crust out of beans. So go for it and have fun.

When you mature in your diet, start to think differently. Don’t imagine a steak with a side of potatoes and decide you’ll use cauliflower instead. Imagine the steak with a side of pureed cauliflower.

Imagine your lasagna as layers of eggplant, summer squash, ground beef, sausage, mushrooms, and just a dusting of Parmesan on top.

Don’t just replace the foods on your plate.

Replace them in your mind. You’ll see faster results in no time.

How do you use substitutions to help you reach your fitness goals? Is it hard to stay firm in your commitment with certain ones?

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  1. You made some important points here.

  2. You are somehow asking people to let go of their old food loves and find new ones! Haha, this is almost like a relationship break up! You have a point though…

    • Maria, that’s almost exactly what I’m saying. 🙂 The irony is that I have recipes that seem to do exactly opposite of what I’m talking about. 🙂

      The truth is I struggled for a while with how I thought about food. I’ll always love food – its tastes, textures, and even emotions. But I really am trying to change those relationships into healthier ones. So I honestly don’t have a problem using spaghetti squash and mashed cauliflower, but if they are keeping a person from relearning what a food relationship should really be, then that person might need to avoid them for a while until they can get their mind straight.


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