Remember Slim Fast? Slim fast was actually a “health” fad in the early 90s. I have to put health in quotation marks because we now know that there was nothing healthy about drinking two meals a day and eating only one – especially when the “meal” turned out to be a chemical cocktail.
In 1990, I, like many others, turned to Slim Fast for weight loss help. During the spring semester of my freshman year of college, Slim Fast seemed like a good way to combat the newly gained “freshman fifteen”. Determined to buy Slim Fast, I walked two miles to the nearest grocery store because I didn’t have a car. The store turned out to be Bread & Circus, a large, natural foods grocery store (later bought by Whole Foods Market). I immediately knew that something was wrong.
I was completely stunned at what they sold, and had never seen a grocery store its size completely devoted to natural foods. I thought it was heavenly, but I felt like I didn’t really belong there. Especially after I asked one of the workers to point me to the Slim Fast, and was quickly told (as if I should have known) that they didn’t sell it. I soon left and bought my Slim Fast at a nearby Walgreens and walked all the way home.
I still remember the chalky chocolate flavor and my commitment to drinking it twice a day for two weeks. It worked, of course. I was barely eating. After my self-prescribed trial, I had lost some weight, but had no idea what to eat without it. I certainly wasn’t any healthier or any more educated about healthy food choices. It felt like a farce, but I still had the image of Bread & Circus in my mind. I always liked the idea of “health food”. It felt real and attainable and uncomplicated. As an 18 year old college student, I couldn’t afford to buy food at a store like Bread & Circus (I actually went back and tried. The $20 price at check out for the $ per ounce salad left me in tears), but I knew I could get healthy salads from the school cafeteria and that’s where I turned.
I started shunning the “5 cheese vegetarian lasagna” and eating salads loaded with beans and veggies. With added exercise, and a new focus on healthful eating, I felt great again. Wandering into that grocery store changed me. It opened my eyes to the possibility of eating healthy now that I was living on my own. The awe I felt at the beauty and wholesomeness of the food was a sensory experience that has stayed with me. The answer was right there. I knew before I heard the worker say “No” that he was really saying “Yes”. “Yes” to the clean, whole, nutrient dense food that was surrounding me, and “no” to processed chemical fake “food”. That was the answer to my real question. Is health as simple as eating real food? Yes, it is.
Surprisingly, Slim Fast is still on the market.
Here are the ingredients (this is straight from the company’s website – all caps makes it harder for the consumer to read (not a coincidence):
INGREDIENTS: FAT FREE MILK, WATER, SUGAR, GUM ARABIC, CANOLA OIL, MILK PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, CELLULOSE GEL, MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, POTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL, MALTODEXTRIN, SOY LECITHIN, CELLULOSE GUM, CARRAGEENAN, SODIUM BICARBONATE, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, SUCRALOSE AND ACESULFAME POTASSIUM (NONNUTRITIVE SWEETENERS), SODIUM CITRATE, NATURAL FLAVOR (COCONUT), YELLOW 5, CITRIC ACID. VITAMINS AND MINERALS: MAGNESIUM PHOSPHATE, CALCIUM PHOSPHATE, SODIUM ASCORBATE, VITAMIN E ACETATE, ZINC GLUCONATE, FERRIC ORTHOPHOSPHATE, NIACINAMIDE, CALCIUM PANTOTHENATE, MANGANESE SULFATE, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE, RIBOFLAVIN, THIAMIN MONONITRATE, FOLIC ACID, CHROMIUM CHLORIDE, BIOTIN, SODIUM MOLYBDATE, POTASSIUM IODIDE, PHYTONADIONE (VITAMIN K1), SODIUM SELENITE, CYANOCOBALAMIN (VITAMIN B12), CHOLECALCIFEROL (VITAMIN D3). SWEETENED WITH NUTRITIVE SWEETENERS AND NONNUTRITIVE SWEETENERS. CONTAINS MILK, SOY AND COCONUT.
Slim Fast is full of chemicals that try to replace a real meal. This flavor contains sugar as the third ingredient (the second, if water even counts as an ingredient) and two artificial sweeteners. It also contains partially hydrogenated oil, thickeners such as gum arabic, cellulose gum, and carrageenan, artificial flavors, and artificial dye. Is this really replacing a meal? Who sits down to dinner and eats sugar mixed with chemicals? If this is what you’re having for dinner, how will you know what foods nourish you and heal you? How will you learn about new foods to love? You won’t. Instead, you’ll be drinking your “dinner”.
There’s nothing wrong with a liquid meal, but make it full of real food ingredients. A smoothie with fruits and vegetables, nut butters, coconut or almond milk – that’s a real meal replacement. Soups can also count as a liquid meal, but one full of nutrients that provide your body with the nourishment it needs to thrive. Freshly made juices are also wonderful for a snack or quick meal. Juice won’t satisfy you for very long because it’s missing fat and fiber, but if it’s made from real food , it will give your body a nutritious boost.
Please don’t mix chocolate or vanilla flavored powder into water or cow’s milk and call it a meal or a detox. Read the ingredients. If it’s a list of chemicals and synthetic vitamins and minerals, skip it. Make your own liquid meal (smoothie, juice, or soup) or buy a premade soup or smoothie from a health food store or restaurant you trust. Don’t let your day or your detox look like a bad Slim Fast commercial – two liquid drinks and one meal a day. Sure, you’ll lose weight, but will you keep it off? Will you feel your best and most vital?
Cleansing is not a detour, but a new road. You’ll start paving the way with the first day you commit to a detox program. Once you choose the program and commit to it, you’re more than half way to better health. Beginning is the hardest part, but if you pick the right program, then ending is even harder. You don’t want to start a program that doesn’t allow you to continue on the new road. What’s the point of undergoing a detox program if you’re forced to go right back to your old ways of eating? Picking the right program is very important. You deserve it to be the start of a journey that will fill your life with optimum health and wellness. Choose a plan that allows you to eat real food. It’s that simple.