Meal-Replacement Shakes are like Aspirin for a headache…

We live in a world of instant gratification. Seth Godin put it best: “Shipping an idea went from taking a month by boat to a few days by plane to overnight by Federal Express to a few minutes by fax to a moment by email to instantaneous by Twitter. Now what? Will it arrive yesterday?”  So when we have a headache, we expect that we can pop a pill and be done with that headache (at least until the pill wears off).

In the rush of instant gratification, we are losing sight of the effects of our actions. We are thinking shorter and shorter term and many of us no longer understand the concept of investment for a future gain – even if by “future” we mean 1 day away.

If that Aspirin didn’t kick in within 30 minutes you would probably say it didn’t work, much like if your Dominoes pizza wasn’t delivered in 30 minutes it would be free. We are being trained to think short term so that we don’t see the costs in the long term.

The point that we are missing is not about whether the Aspirin worked or not, it is about the fact that the Aspirin was only ever designed to get rid of a symptom.  You may successfully get rid of the symptom (short term) but you probably haven’t solved the underlying reason why you go the symptom in the first place and why you will get another one in the future (long term) or possibly something worse.

What would motivate you to take a meal-replacement shake? For some people it is to lose weight. For others, it is because they couldn’t be bothered cooking and possibly begrudge the fact that they even have to eat – what an inconvenience.  My heart genuinely goes out to you which is why I wanted to write this, I see it all too often.

Both are very big topics which deserve proper attention separately, but both are also symptoms of a greater underlying cause. For the sake of this blog, I will try to bring the two together for the people who experience at least a slight combination of both reasons for resorting to meal-replacement shakes.

Before I get to my specific point on this topic, lets just quickly get a few of the reasons why meal-replacement shakes are not a great idea, in terms of your health, out of the way first:

1.     They’re highly processed;

2.     They contain ingredients that are ‘foreign’ to the body and usually are made in a lab;

3.     They have a very limited range of nutrition, as compared to something in whole food form such as an apple for example;

4.     Just because they have counted the calories in the drink, doesn’t mean it is right for your body (and not all calories are created equal);

5.     Just because the ‘best scientists and dietitians in the world’ approve of the product, doesn’t mean it will work for YOUR body and what you’re going through right now;

6.     They are often high in sugar, fake sugars, dairy, isolated proteins, flavours, and other nasties;

7.     They don’t require chewing, so your digestion suffers;

8.     They can’t bring you as high of quality of fibre so your regularity often suffers;

9.     They fill you up on liquid so you often drink less and become dehydrated, potentially chronically;

10.  They’re not fixing the underlying problem!!!

I realise that I may have opened up other cans of worms above, but if you could just for the sake of this one topic, allow me to expand on point #10 – they aren’t solving your problem.

If you’re overweight, or if you couldn’t be bothered cooking healthy food for yourself the problem is probably because you’ve never been taught how to prepare healthy food in a way that is enjoyable and doable, and as a result of that, you have probably not had the greatest relationships with food for a very long time.

If you see cooking as a chore, you are just lacking skills and the personal experience with how amazing healthy food can make you feel. I get it. If you have never experienced that wonderful vibrant feeling of waking up in the morning bright, feeling amazing and well, and ready to enjoy the day with enthusiasm for what’s to come then you have no idea what you’re missing out on – so it’s hard to want it because you may not even believe it is possible for you.

Well it is. If not complete vibrant ‘perfect’ health then at least a whole magnitude better than you currently feel.

Can you imagine your car still running perfectly well in 5 years time if you consistently gave it the cheapest fuel and every now and then stretched it a bit further with some water in the tank?  I’m guessing not.

Why then do we expect our bodies to sort themselves out for better health on a cheap and nasty meal-replacement drink (that some manufacturer is making a fortune on)? I don’t care what you paid for the drink, it will NEVER compare to nourishing your body with wholefoods.

It’s like yelling at a person who doesn’t speak English, for not understanding what you’re saying to them in English – useless! Our body speaks the language of real food, eaten in the state as close as possible to how nature designed it.  It doesn’t speak the language of highly processed chemicals whether they are marketed to you as “nature identical” or not.

I’m sorry, but science isn’t that smart. Science doesn’t have a clue, and fully admits it, about how all the magic happening within a tomato can be good for your eyes. They think it’s the lycopene yet when they give straight lycopene to someone, it doesn’t have the same effect as just feeding them the tomato. It also doesn’t taste half as good or provide any delicious reward.

Our society gathers around food for a reason. It is meant to be enjoyed and it is meant to truly nourish our bodies, minds, and spirits.  Can you imagine everyone coming over for a dinner party and having shakes from a can together?

We are all onions in some shape or form, with many layers to our problems.  Reaching for regular meal-replacement drinks screams to me that at the very root of the problem lies a lack of skill and knowledge in the kitchen – and this is fully ‘fixable’.

The body holds no grudges and is very quick to reward you when it finally feels understood. We just have to learn how to listen and care just enough to take action for a positive shift in your daily habits.

I would love to be able to give you the “magic bullet” right now and say, here! Just do this – but then I would lying to you and I would be doing exactly what the food manufacturers have tried to do to you.  It may not be a “quick” fix (learning new skills) but ANY step in this direction will begin to improve things that you never even knew could improve and it will never be an investment you wish you hadn’t made.

In the meantime, if you’re loving those shakes, start by making your own meal-replacement shakes at home – we call them smoothies.  You can pack whole ton of nutrition into them without much effort at all, you just need to have real food on hand and a blender… and I think you (by proxy) have just inspired me to show you how easy it is on a future Cook With Me Live video… watch this space (and if you’re not already signed up to receive the recipe each week for free, go here:

Until then, please at least read the ingredient list on the shakes you use and start researching the ingredients. If they come from a lab or have an MSDS sheet, you probably want to spare your body the effort.  Please love your body, at least enough to respect it by putting only real food into it.  If you can’t do that, then feel my love for you, hopefully through this writing, so you can bring your gifts to this world from a happy, healthy space.