General Health

Letting go. A post about running

I’m taking a departure today to write about running. Should be back to plant based ranting and government/agribusiness misdeeds next week.

As some of you know, I’m in Mesa, Arizona today for the Phoenix Marathon and Half-marathon. And I was sitting in my hotel room this morning at 4:15 pondering the nature of letting go and just how difficult that can be. But for a more full understanding, I’m going to have to take you back to last October.

On October 18 I ran the Des Moines (Iowa) Half-marathon with Kathy Lindstrom. Neither of us was expecting much besides a finish. Kathy was still recovering from a terrible hamstring injury incurred during a Ragnar and I had had my training interrupted by the vagaries of life (work. Selling the house, moving, etc.). But we both made it to Des Moines that day and queued up at the start line.  As it turns out, I did pretty well, coming in at 2:04:57 (my PR for a half is (1:54:59). Despite the erratic training, I got it together and ran a decent course. Buoyed by this, I set out to find my next run with the expectation that I might be able to best my PR. (In my heart of hearts I know I have a 1:45 in me!) and behold, I found it in the form of the Phoenix Marathon. February 27 in Phoenix, away from the cold of the Twin Cities and, best of all, a long, slow, gentle downhill course. Perfect!

So I dusted off my Runner’s Connect sub-2 hour half-marathon training plan, my calendar, and set to work. I mapped out all of the runs right up to race day with all of the optimism that any distance runner has months away from the start line and in the comfort of their computer chair. Registration for the race completed, hotel and flight booked, I was ready to start training. And, for the first 6 weeks or so things went very well. The weather was turning toward winter, but I was still running outside most of the time. I had done a few treadmill runs when it was dark, raining, or snowing and they had left me with a vague ache in the left foot near the 4th MTP joint (where the toe joins to the foot bones), but it was not something that would keep me from getting my miles in. Then, on Christmas Eve day I did an 11 mile run on an indoor track (Eagan YMCA) and almost immediately after I quit running I had a very sharp, severe pain in that left foot. I knew that it was either some serious inflammation of the joint capsule (cleverly called capsulitis) or a stress fracture. Either way, I was shut down on running until it at least didn’t hurt to walk. I didn’t know that it would be almost 5 weeks.

Determined not to give up on the half-marathon, I decided to use the elliptical trainer and stationary cycles plus treadmill walking to keep my cardio conditioning up. I spent a good bit of time on the elliptical in particular, going up to 2 hours to mimic long runs. But it wasn’t until January 19 that I tentatively stepped on the treadmill and did first mile. Miraculously, no pain. I did 2 miles 2 days later, 5k two days after that and on January 24 a 10k. I was back, and just 5 weeks before the run.

I was able to log well over 100 miles between January 19 and today, with the longest run a 12 miler on the 15th. With the way that weekends get busy and since I have free time, I’ve found a lot of pleasure in long running on Monday around mid-day. I knew that I wasn’t going to PR in Phoenix. No one takes 5 weeks out of the middle of a training schedule and PRs, but I hoped to make a decent show of it and secretly hoped I’d best Des Moines. I set out on Monday, the 22nd, just 5 days ahead of the race, on my last longer run with a nice taper planned for the week.

The weather was nice, about 38 degrees (F) and there was no snow or ice on the sidewalks. My 9 miles went very well, averaging about 9:35 per mile. When I reached 9 I stopped, about 2 blocks from home. On my second step after stopping I knew something was very wrong. I had this sudden, terrible tightness in my right hip and butt and pain shooting down my right leg when I tried to extend my foot. I hobbled home and grabbed the ibuprofen, took a shower to try to loosen up, but to no avail.

I contacted my massage therapist and she worked me in for 30 minutes on Tuesday afternoon. No serious inflammation, she reported, but a lot of muscle tightness. I was stretching twice a day and feeling like it was going to release at any time, but the thought of Kathy’s rehab from her hamstring tear was lurking in the back of my mind. On Wednesday I couldn’t  take the inactivity, so I went out for a nice long leisurely walk. To my surprise and pleasure, the tightness almost completely disappeared and I was feeling very good about Saturday.

Thursday morning I got up to the worst tightness yet and a return of the sciatica. Rest, ibuprofen, gentle stretching, none of it made any difference. I began to understand and try to come to grips with the idea that I might not run on Saturday. Suffice to say, I was not happy. After struggling to make a comeback from  foot pain, this just seemed needlessly cruel.

And then it was travel day. Getting down to Phoenix, getting the race packet and getting around all involved  a fair bit of walking. And the hip wasn’t terrible. It was stiff and sore, but no sciatica at all! I began to hope again and made plans to run in the morning, knowing that I’d have to make a hard call in the morning.

Which brings me back to 4:15 this morning, sitting in a hotel room in Mesa trying to let go of the dream of running this race. I knew the moment the alarm went off that I wasn’t running. The stiffness was back with a vengeance. No sciatica, thankfully, but I got up went through my stretches feeling just how tight that hip was. Just two more days, I thought. In two more days I’ll be good to go. It’s not a major muscle tear, it’s just a spasm, like I thought on Monday when it first hit. In two days it will be gone and I could do this 13 miles without a care. But. There’s always that but. But it’s not gone now. Can I do the 13? Yes, I think I can. If I do the 13, will I set it off? Yes, I think I will. If I set it off, will I run again anytime soon? Will I be able to walk to the plane tomorrow? Will I be able to get around at all over the next week? These were all good questions and the sort of thing that haunts you at 4:15 in Mesa. If I was 25 I would have gone outa d run, I’m sure of it. But in not 25, I’m 53 and healing is not so quick and automatic as it used to be. And, I’d like to think, I’m a bit wiser. If I feel better on Monday, I’ll head out and do 13.1. If not, perhaps on Tuesday, or whenever this pain goes away. But until then, well, I let it go and went back to bed and slept well, knowing I’d made the right, but difficult, decision.


The U.S.D.A. – Government by the people, for the corporation…

Those who have spent a modicum of time looking at my blog posts, Facebook or Twitter posts should have a pretty good idea on where I stand with regards to diet. I am, after all, “The Plant Based Eater”, so it shouldn’t be much of a mystery. But this post is not about diet, per se, but about how science and politics mix (hint: like oil and water). Case in point, today, is the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020 (Eighth Edition). I saw a great comment on another blog stating that the writer didn’t need the government to tell him what to eat and that we are the only species that listens to others about what to eat. True, as far as it goes. But I suspect we’re also the only species that is willing to systematically profit from the exploitation of own species, so that argument seems a little thin.

So, back to the Dietary Guidelines. Approximately every 5 years the United States Department of Agriculture publishes an updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans. According to the message from Ms. Burwell (Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) and Mr. Vilsack (Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture) the Guidelines

“is an essential resource for health professionals and policymakers as they design and implement food and nutrition programs that feed the American people, such as USDA’s National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, which feed more than 30 million children each school day. The Dietary Guidelines also provides information that helps Americans make healthy choices for themselves and their families.”

As you might imagine, it is quite a process that starts with the convention of nutrition scientists as the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. These nutrition scientists then get together and prepare a consensus statement, which is submitted to the above mentioned Secretaries of HHS and USDA as the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. This is a 571 page document complete with references, tables, charts, and, most of all, the best recommendations that our trusted advisers could agree upon. The report is then received by HHS and USDA and, almost a year later, the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is released.

As you might imagine, the Scientific Report and the final Guidelines are not exactly the same. So much so that one group, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) along with a number of individual physicians is suing the USDA and HHS for what they believe to be recommendations that are unhealthy. If you want to know more about that, there is a press release from PCRM. But I want to look at the environmental piece that the good people making the Scientific Report took the time to include.

The Part D. Chapter 5: Food Sustainability and Safety section chapter summary states:

The major findings regarding sustainable diets were that a diet higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal- based foods is more health promoting (as discussed in Part B. Chapter 2: 2015 DGAC Themes and Recommendations: Integrating the Evidence) and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet. This pattern of eating can be achieved through a variety of 1686  dietary patterns, including the “Healthy U.S.-style Pattern,” the “Healthy Mediterranean-style Pattern,” and the “Healthy Vegetarian Pattern” (see Part D. Chapter 1: Food and Nutrient Intakes, and Health: Current Status and Trends for a description of these patterns). All of these dietary patterns are aligned with lower predicted environmental impacts and provide food options that can be adopted by the U.S. population. Current evidence shows that the average U.S. diet has a potentially larger environmental impact in terms of increased GHG emissions, land 
use, water use, and energy use, compared to the above dietary patterns. This is because the current U.S. population intake of animal-based foods is higher and the plant-based foods are lower, than proposed in these three dietary patterns. Of note is that no food groups need to be eliminated completely to improve food sustainability outcomes.

Of course we all know that a plant-based diet is more health promoting, but here they went on to say that the average U.S. diet has a potentially larger environmental impact, which is a pretty lame statement without a lot of teeth, but they said it. And I promise you that if you search the published Dietary Guidelines, you will not find a single mention of sustainability or environmental impact of food choices and diet. So what happened between the Scientific Report and the final Guidelines? Politics.

It also turns out, this happened. In December 2015, about a month before the Guidelines were released, Chatham House (The Royal Institute of International Affairs), largely considered to be one of the two most influential “think tanks” in the world, released their report Changing Climate, Changing Diets: Pathways to Lower Meat Consumption in which they clearly state the key findings:

  • Our appetite for meat is a major driver of climate change.
  • Reducing global meat consumption will be critical to keeping global warming below the ‘danger level’ of two degrees Celsius.
  • Public awareness of the issue is low, and meat remains off the policy agenda.
  • Governments must lead in shifting attitudes and behaviours.

I can only imagine that the U.S.D.A. writers either don’t read or chose to ignore this landmark report, which gathered international attention and one would have to assume it’s the latter. Because the U.S.D.A. is not an agency with a mission to foster, educate, and protect the taxpaying public of the United States, it is an agency with a mission to promote all things agriculture in the United States. And the three major products of U.S. agriculture, according the USDA are grain, red meat, and milk. And according the Chatham House, the biggest driver of climate change is cattle.

So what’s the answer? Clearly the U.S.D.A. needs to get out of the business of advising Americans what to eat. This represents a clear “agency” problem in that the U.S.D.A. is not acting as an agent for the people, but as an agent for agribusiness. I’d like to think that the HHS could take this on, perhaps as part of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) but the Food and Nutrition Board of the IOM has not proven themselves to be any more reliable than the U.S.D.A. At this point, I don’t have an easy solution, but if our government doesn’t begin to take climate change more seriously, we’re all going to be in trouble.


The Environmental Impact of Meat

My nutritional coursework today required me to make a one minute video about the environmental impact of meat. I found that I couldn’t do it in a minute, but I could in two! Here’s the results:

I’d love to hear your thoughts.



The Fallacy of Fat: Dairy Exposed

say-no-to-milkAs we saw in the last post, food labeling can be tricky business. There are all sorts of loop holes and shenanigans that lure the unsuspecting consumer (us!) into believing they are getting something nutritious when, in fact, they are not. So today I thought we’d take a look at milk. As many of you know, I am not a fan. In fact, I would support complete dairy boycott as I firmly believe that milk and it’s byproducts are some of the very worst foods we can consume. The most prominent proteins in milk are casein (82%) and when (18%). By the standards set forth to test for chemical carcinogens (chemicals that can cause cancer) casein is considered one the most potent ever identified. But I’m not even going in to that (or the implications for diabetes, heart disease, or the gross inhumanity of cattle) I’m just here to talk about the fat.

In the United States we have wide access to 4 kinds of milk, which are probably familiar to everyone. There is “whole” milk, 2% milk, 1% milk and skim milk (putatively “fat free”). The Washington Post ran an article on October 3, 2014 that states:

Whole milk isn’t made wholly of fat, or largely of fat, or even substantially of fat. In fact, it doesn’t contain much fat all.

Whole milk is actually only about 3.5 percent fat.

Well, that’s not so bad, right?


What does that actually mean, 3.5% fat? 3.5% of what? Therein lies the magic (illusion?). Whole milk is 3.5% fat BY WEIGHT. And what makes up most of the weight of milk? Anyone? Yes, it’s water! And water has how many calories? None! Can you see where this is going?

As readers will already have heard, an “ideal” diet is 10% of calories from fat, 5–10% of calories from protein, and 80–85% of calories from complex, unrefined carbohydrates (whole foods and that does NOT include Doritos, Snickers, etc.). And this is how pretty much everyone thinks about food, macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrate), and calories; as a percentage of total calories. No one thinks about fat, protein, or carbohydrate as a percentage of the weight, unless they’re into marketing and trying to fool you. And they do it because it works.

Let’s look at whole milk again with a more rational lens:

Serving Size                             1 cup (8 ounces)

Calories                                    148

Total fat                                   8 grams

Saturated fat (the bad kind)   4.6 grams

Total Calories from fat            72 (8 grams x 9 calories/gram)

% of calories from fat             49%

Yes, it’s sadly true, almost half of the calories from a glass of milk are from fat. Here’s a table of how the different milks compare. Notice that when you take out most of the fat, almost half the calories disappear.

MilkBut even “fat free” skim milk still has 2% of it’s calories from fat, obviously much improved from it’s 1%, 2%, and whole milk siblings, but it is not free of fat. And don’t forget, there’s still that casein to contend with!

But, don’t worry, there’s always a dissenting opinion. You could certainly turn to Karen Giles-Smith, a registered dietitian and health and wellness coach. Her article tells you that milk fat is good for your body. By the way, Ms. Giles-Smith was previously employed by the Dairy Council of Michigan for nutrition communications and she does quote Greg Miller, president of the Dairy Research Institute and executive vice president of the National Dairy Council. I’m sure there was no bias in this work.



A moment to discuss “low fat” or “fat free” oil

pam-cookingspray-oliveoilYes, I want to spend a couple of minutes on our friend PAM purely olive oil. According to the label, this product’s first (and really only) ingredient is olive oil. But due to some sort of magical process by our friends at ConAgra Foods, this olive oil as been depleted of it’s fat. Isn’t that amazing!

pam top frontRight there on the label, just below the cap it says “FOR FAT-FREE COOKING”. If you still aren’t convinced, there’s this nifty label on the bottom of the front:

pam frontThis one tells us that it has no calories and no saturated fat as well as no sodium or sugars. But then again, we don’t really expect a lot of sodium or sugars from an oil and saturated fat, as you know (if you’ve been reading the blog) is basically animal fat or, more rarely, coconut oil.

So how did ConAgra pull off this little magic trick? I’m hoping that a couple of you already know the answer, but the real answer is that they didn’t. Magic is what it always has been; an illusion. Let’s look at the back label (sorry it’s a little blurry).

Pam labelAgain we see, no fat, no calories from fat and total fat = 0g. But! But this is “per serving”. And what is a serving of PAM purely olive oil? Well, as you can see, it’s a 0.25 second spray. A quarter of a second spray. Really? Have you ever seen anyone do a 0.25 second spray except where there’s that one little spot you missed when you doused the pan? Why would they list anything so ridiculous as a 0.25 second spray? The answer — and here’s the illusion (er, magic) — is that the FDA has an exemption that allows manufacturers to “round down” if the serving size is less than 0.5 g. And our amazing 0.25 second spray yields a serving of 0.25 g, thus ConAgra can, within the limits of the rules, round down all of their values to 0.

Let’s do a little quick math on that label. There are 473 “servings” of 0.25 grams, which means there is 118.25 grams of olive oil in a full can. A tablespoon (15 mL) of olive oil has 14 grams of fat and since there isn’t really anything but fat in olive oil, we can assume that there are about 8.4 tablespoons of olive oil in full can (118.25/14). Kind of makes the can seem expensive, doesn’t it? More to the point, 118.25 grams of fat is 1,064.25 calories, all from fat, for a full can.

Or, in more typical use, a 3 second spray is 3 (seconds) x 4 (spray/second) x 0.25 grams/spray) = 3 grams of fat or 27 calories (9 calories per gram for fat). Really, not bad for applying oil to a pan to prevent sticking and better, I’ll grant, that rubbing it up with butter or shortening, but it’s not zero and it never will be, no matter how hard they to fool us.


Coming out…vegan

I’ll admit that I’ve been pondering this post for quite some time and have been strangely reluctant to post it, but I think it’s time. I have described myself as a plant-based eater for almost 3 years now and have consumed almost no animal products during that time, except for the notable week in Iceland, where plants are scarce and sheep are plentiful and my gut took a real beating. But I digress. Over the last 3 years I have described the plant-based lifestyle as “vegan without the moral outrage”. And I really did try to embrace the philosophy that I changed my diet for my own health and well-being but that I had a totally laissez faire attitude to how you live your life. But now I have to admit that I’ve changed my mind and I’m picking up my plant-based flag and planting it firmly in the vegan camp.

Why? Well, there are three reasons and don’t worry, I’ll elaborate.

  1. Your decision to continue to eat animals, drink their milk and eat eggs effects me. More specifically, you are costing me money.
  2. Your decision to continue to eat animals, drink their milk and eat eggs effects the planet I live on in very profound ways.
  3. I am an essentially non-violent human and the industries that bring you meats, milk and eggs are inherently violent and inhumane.

I very cognitively worded the first two points to make it clear that everyone makes a decision each day about what food to put in their mouth. Sometimes the decision making process is dominated by external expediencies like money, time, convenience, etc. But that does not change the essential truth that nothing goes into your mouth without your choice, conscious or not. This point is eloquently stated by Dr. Melanie Joy:

Carnism is the invisible belief system, or ideology, that conditions people to eat certain animals. Carnism is essentially the opposite of veganism, as “carn” means “flesh” or “of the flesh” and “ism” refers to a belief system.

Because carnism is invisible, people rarely realize that eating animals is a choice, rather than a given. In meat-eating cultures around the world, people typically don’t think about why they eat certain animals but not others, or why they eat any animals at all. But when eating animals is not a necessity, which is the case for many people in the world today, then it is a choice – and choices always stem from beliefs.

As long as we remain unaware of how carnism impacts us, we will be unable to make our food choices freely – because without awareness, there is no free choice.

So how does your carnism cost me money? Well, as you may be aware, there is a bit of healthcare crisis in the United States and in many industrialized nations. While our own problems in the US are not as simple as the food we eat (no doubt we have figured out a way to pay the most for the least amount of care, but that’s a topic for another day), our health care problems are most definitely exacerbated by our diet. Virtually all of the “diseases of affluence” such as vascular disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer are caused by the foods we eat. I’ll not be goaded into the argument that diet prevents unnecessary death, because, as we know, all men must die eventually. While it would be impossible to crunch the numbers, I know, as do most of you, that if I could wave a magic wand and make the animals for food industries disappear overnight, the health of this nation would improve within a month. In the meantime, carnists eat their animals, they get sick and my insurance rates go up as our health care now consumes over 17% of our gross domestic product.

How does your choice of food effect my planet? Unless you are a dedicated and gullible devotee of Fox news (or, as it happens, a friend of my father), you know that there is a phenomenon called climate change occurring. Briefly stated, human “activities” are causing an accumulation of “green house gasses” in the atmosphere (mainly carbon dioxide, but also methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone), which causes more heat to be retained within the atmosphere, which is slowly warming the planet. Think of the greenhouse gasses as a blanket. Sometimes your blanket is too thin and threadbare, and you get cold (ice age). Sometimes it’s too thick and you get all hot and sweaty (now) and sometimes it’s just right (pretty much most of the time). Well, right now our blanket is thick and getting thicker. We all know that our cars (particularly here in the US) spew out tons of carbon dioxide, but it turns out that food production from cows, sheep, pigs, chickens and turkeys has a larger effect on the atmosphere each year than all of the transportation activities combined. As demand for pasture land increases, forests — those mighty scrubbers of carbon dioxide — are burned to make room for more flatulent and belching animals. We are going in the wrong direction on this and every time you eat a hamburger, a steak, a chicken or a pork chop you’ve directly contributed to the problem.

The food industry is inherently violent and inhumane. I am at a loss to understand how someone can describe them self  as an “animal lover” and have such fondness for a dog, a cat or a horse, and yet think nothing of the violence and cruelty that was inflicted to bring you your burger, brat, plate of wings, glass of milk or omelet. And, as noted above, just because you choose to not consider this doesn’t mean that you are not choosing. It just means that you chose ignorance. To quote Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol the Ghost of Christmas Present:

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him
in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but
the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lieof such enormous magnitude.

‘Spirit. are they yours.’ Scrooge could say no more.

‘They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon
them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers.
This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both,and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy,for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless thewriting be erased. Deny it.’ cried the Spirit, stretching outits hand towards the city. ‘Slander those who tell it ye.Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse.And abide the end.’

So that’s it. I’m a vegan. Don’t worry, I won’t point and laugh when you eat meat, dairy or eggs. But I may, from time to time, encourage you to probe your own beliefs a bit deeper than you have, because I don’t think any of us really want to perpetuate a system that takes our money, makes us sick, poisons our planet and tortures animals. At least, I hope that’s true.vegan-certified-big


The Pleasure Trap

As many of you know, I’m taking the certificate course on Plant Based Nutrition from Cornell. I know, like I need to be back in school, right? But, as always, education brings learning and insights. Today’s lecture was by Doug Lisle, PhD and his work with the pleasure trap. I thought it was worth staring some of the insights. If you’re interested, Doug has a book by the same name here and there is a TED talk here that covers much of the same material.

Fortunately, this is not difficult stuff and won’t take too long to cover. More importantly, it’s relevant to anyone who wants to make a change in their eating habits. According to Dr. Lisle, we have 3 primary motivators:

  • pursuit of pleasure (eating, sex, etc.)
  • avoidance of pain
  • conservation of energy

Because, for most of early human existence, we lived in conditions of relative famine (not feasting!) we are hardwired to view consumption of calorie dense foods as pleasurable. Pleasure stimulates dopamine receptors in the brain and makes you want to keep doing it again and again to get the same stimulation. This is very similar to cocaine use and, like with drugs, people will obviously do it well past the point where it’s not a problem and becomes quite harmful.

Obviously we want to avoid pain, but as it relates to food, we just want to avoid starvation.

Conservation of energy is interesting and, at least from what I presented today, the most worthy of deeper understanding and work. His example was the shark that will eat the fish that is 20 feet away rather than the one that is 40 feet away. In humans, this basically means convenience.

He then had a nice summation of relative calorie densities:

  • Salad (raw vegetables)                         100 calories/pound
  • Vegetables (corn, carrots, broccoli)    200 calories/pound
  • Fruits                                                    300 calories/pound
  • Starches (rice, potatoes, beans)          500 calories/pound
  • Nuts & seeds                                        2,000-2,500 calories/pound
  • Chocolate (sugar + fat)                        2,500 calories/pound
  • Potato Chips/Fries (oil vehicles)         2,500 calories/pound
  • Cheese (dairy fat + salt)                       1,700 calories/pound
  • Ice Cream (concentrated fat & sugar) 3,000 calories/pound

Obviously those items at the bottom of the list tend to stimulate pleasure centers and, in light of that, it’s not surprising that the SAD (standard American diet) is illustrated below:


Unfortunately, Dr. Lisle doesn’t have a lot of good news about how to escape this pleasure trap. His best recommendations are we need to find a way to soldier through the 6 weeks it takes for us to reset out pleasure sensors.

But, speaking from my own personal experience, I think there is a lot that can be done to break the trap by using the conservation of energy motivator to work for us rather than against us. For those who have had the misfortune of hearing my many diatribes, I think the greatest enemy of health eating is the 99¢ “Value Menu” at McDonald’s, Burger King, etc. There is no value there. It’s a lot of calories devoid of nutrition and full of things that are just plain bad for you (animal proteins (cancer promoting), saturated fats (everything else promoting), refined carbohydrates and sugar) and, although these nutritionally bereft items are cheap, they offer no value at all. Worst of all, they are convenient and offer unprecedented energy conservation; you don’t even have to get out of your car!

So a great strategy is to make your healthy choices as convenient as possible. Cook ahead and keep healthy food on hand. Put the less healthy food farther away or freeze it so you have to thaw it out to use it. Whatever it takes. Personally, I cook a ton of food and keep it available for immediate use. Then I eat 5 or 6 times a day so I don’t get hungry. This may not work for you, but with a little thought I think you can figure out a strategy that would work for you to help you break out of the pleasure trap of unhealthy eating.