JERF, which stands for Just Eat Real Food, is the best nutritional advice I have ever seen. And in only four words. This terrific phrase was coined by Sean Croxton, of the Underground Wellness Show. I try to live up to it, and the results have been amazing in every way. If you just eat real food, you will avoid many toxins, and get the nutrition your body so desperately needs. But to get these benefits, it is important that you just eat real food, and nothing else, to the best of your reasonable ability.
Yet there are those who are claiming it is okay to eat any junk food you want, as long as you do it no more than twenty percent of the time. While that would be so convenient and make things so much easier, it is just not true. While eating real food eighty percent of the time is much better than eating junk food most of the time, shooting for eighty percent is just not good enough, in my opinion. If you want to enjoy the full range of benefits that comes from a real food diet, it is important to do your best to just eat real food. If you are eating twenty percent junk, you are still eating a significant amount of junk, which will affect your body, and maintain your addictions to various factory ingredients, like processed sugar. After all, junk is junk, and should be avoided to the extent possible.
We did an experiment last week, dropping off the real food wagon and allowing ourselves to eat the junk food we wanted for one major meal. It was a mistake, as is described below.
But the bottom line is this—if you want the full benefit of real food—JERF. Just Eat Real Food.
The Real 80/20 Rule
The 80/20 concept in terms of diet was created by Mark Sisson, one of the most influential people in the Primal/Paleo movement. It was created to help people make the significant diet and lifestyle changes advocated by his program, the Primal Blueprint, without feeling bad if they could not do it all of the time. The concept was that if you do eighty percent of the program, you will receive substantial benefits. Yet some people have taken the 80/20 rule to mean that you only have to eat real food eighty percent of the time, and it is fine to eat any junk you want for the other twenty percent of the time.
Not only is real food a distinct concept from The Primal Blueprint, the eighty/twenty rule was never meant to be a license to eat junk twenty percent of the time. Mark Sisson himself made that very clear. Here is a link to an article by him that explains what he meant: 80/20 Revisited
If you read the article, you will see that he advocates trying for 100 percent compliance with the program, but not kicking yourself if you can only reach eighty percent. That is not a license to eat factory junk twenty percent of the time.
My Experiment in Eating Some Junk
My wife and I have been just eating real food, to the best of our reasonable ability to do so, for many years. We tried for 100 percent real food, but did not feel guilty for the times when we did not make this goal because of circumstances. Our path is to do the best we reasonably can to just eat real food, but not to feel bad about the occasions when this does not happen. We have seen enormous improvements in our health, energy, productivity, happiness, attitude, general joy of life, and ability to deal with whatever happens. If the medical profession and drug industry was depending on people like us, they would go broke, because we have no need for them.
Yet I do miss, from time to time, some of the factory foods I was addicted to. And the truth is that avoiding toxins and eating only real food is not easy. It can be awkward socially, in restaurants, at parties, at family dinners, where toxic factory food is often served. It is so much easier just to go along with the crowd and eat as they do. After reading some of the advocacy for the version of the eighty/twenty rule that allows you to eat any junk you want in the twenty percent portion, we decided to investigate. After all, the idea that we could maintain all the benefits of real food and eat any junk we wanted twenty percent of the time was tempting. So, last Friday night, we dropped off the real food wagon and ordered a pizza from a large chain that we used to frequent before we switched to real food. We got our old favorite toppings, though I could not bring myself to order a topping that contained feedlot beef.
After I took the first bite of pizza, I was astonished at how I immediately wanted to eat more and more and more of it. The taste was mediocre, yet I wanted to keep eating and eating it, to wolf it down as fast as I could cram it into my mouth. Normally I prefer to eat slowly, thoroughly chewing my food before swallowing it. I was astonished by how strong the desire to wolf it down and eat more was. As we continued to eat the pizza, I became aware of an overwhelming thirst, something that never happens when I eat real food. When I discussed this with my wife, she also had the desire to eat more and more of the pizza, and she also got very thirsty.
While I have no scientific proof of this, I am convinced there was something added to the pizza to make me want more of it, and something in it that made us very thirsty, perhaps so we would order factory soft drinks.
We finished the pizza, and still felt hungry and unsatisfied. Yet we wanted more and more of the pizza, an urge we resisted. I also felt bloated and uncomfortable, a feeling I never have when I just eat real food. There were other uncomfortable digestive consequences, as my body tried to get rid of the chemicals and toxins in the pizza. I also had some headaches, something that I normally never get. And I was low energy and tired. After two days of just eating real food, I was fine. Since then, we have tried to eat one hundred percent real food, and we have been fine, without any of those unpleasant symptoms. It is clear that the “you can eat twenty percent junk” rule did not work for us.
My Eating Rule—JERF, But Don’t Stress
I try to eat real food one hundred percent of the time, yet I am fine with the fact that I will not always meet that goal. I will carefully make sure that every item of food that enters our home is real food, and nothing else. I will cook and serve nothing but real food. Once you get in the habit of doing this, it becomes a routine, and being healthy and functioning better is well worth the time, trouble, and additional expense.
The problem comes at social gatherings and restaurants, where most of the food is never real. I will often eat a large snack of real food at home, rich in animal fats, before I go out. This helps protect my body from the toxins I may ingest, and satisfies my hunger before I am exposed to factory food. When offered desserts and food items that I should not eat, I politely decline them without trying to preach the merits of real food. If it seems like an explanation is needed, I calmly and quietly explain that I am on a strict diet for my health, which is absolutely true. Most people will accept that explanation. I will eat whatever seems the closest to real food, from what is available, and I will not eat very much of it. In a restaurant, I will carefully choose food that is as free of toxins and as close to real food as I can find, and I am not shy about asking the waiter for details. I also try to eat only at restaurants that have something that is good to eat, even though I avoid most of their menu.
Now prior to eating the pizza, we had done our usual best to just eat real food for the rest of the week and the rest of our meals, so the pizza was far less than twenty percent of our diet. But it was far too much. The benefits of just eating real food are so great that we will not throw them away to indulge in junk, or to fit in with the crowd. And we do not feel deprived because we enjoy our real food so much. There is such a huge variety of foods we can eat, and they are so much better and so much more satisfying. And we do follow a rule set down by Sally Fallon Morell, the founder and president of the Weston A. Price Foundation—never eat carbs without plenty of good animal fat.
But the main rule I follow is simple, profound, and it works—JERF. Just Eat Real Food.
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