I Gave Up Processed Food for a Month, Here’s what Happened

Annoyed with my lack of energy and irregular eating habits, thanks to the pandemic-induced turmoil in my daily routine, I decided to give up eating processed junk food for a month. 

So, what happened during that month? What was my diet like? 

For 30 days, I cut down on anything that could potentially derail my commitment to clean eating. Slowly phasing out corn, sugar, grains, preservatives and even alcohol meant that other alternatives like protein bars and vegan meat substitutes had to go as well. Here are the lessons from this exercise:

  • Your favorite ‘healthy’ foods can be unhealthy too. 
  • All of this didn’t become easier when I discovered that most of my favorite ‘healthy’ foods weren’t beneficial and contained elements like soybean oil, cane sugar and artificial sweeteners. Moreover, whenever I was out on brunches with friends, I had to make sure that I only ordered vegetables cooked using natural ingredients.

  • Most packaged food items contribute a lot of plastic waste.
  • Another thing I discovered during this 30-day ‘clean-eating’ challenge was that my house was producing a fair bit of packaging waste all this while.

    Noodle packets, protein bar wrappers and diet coke cans were some of the waste materials that kept piling up. Above everything, I realized the importance of choosing sustainable options that put Nature first. 

  • Removing processed food from your diet can be a roller-coaster ride.
  • Although I read numerous reports about how removing sugar and processed foods from one's diet could help them feel lighter, it wasn't until I tried it myself that I completely understood the effect this can have on your body. 

    While I felt amazing for the first few days, the subsequent weeks were harder, with regular headaches and severe hunger pangs. There were days when I felt like breezing through a 5k marathon, which was soon followed by episodes when even getting out of bed was challenging. 

  • You’ll learn to cook your own meals.
  • Soybean and sugarcane are probably responsible for nearly 40% of the deforestation around us. Finding a gluten-free alternative to meat was like dealing with the devil, where almost all the products I tried had some form of soy protein. The brighter side of this month-long process was that I finally learned to make my own wheat-less, soy-free meals along with practicing moderation in my diet. Quick tip: Mix some coconut oil with apple cider vinegar and soy milk, pour it into butter molds and refrigerate the mixture to prepare your own vegan butter at home. 

  • Your hair becomes healthier.
  • Many men and women tend to deal with hair health-related issues owing to an unregulated diet and a lifestyle heavily dependent on processed food. Considering that processed food items often lack nutrients like Omega-3 fatty acids, switching to a ‘clean’ diet helped me maintain my hair health. 

    It is safe to say that the healthy fats in nut-based products promote shiny hair.    

  • You lose weight. 
  • It is a widely known fact that processed sugar and packaged foods are among the most significant contributors to heart-related ailments alongside obesity. No wonder then that eliminating artificial sweeteners can help reduce your waistline. Every time you grab a snack, it is an opportunity to nourish your body and provide it with the necessary fuel for proper functioning. 

    Processed food severely lacks nutritional value and can often lead to overeating. Opting for meals rich in whole food ingredients can be a much better alternative. 

  • The skin improves drastically.
  • While a consultation with your dermatologist can surely help eliminate any skin-related issues, replacing packaged food items with healthier options can be of equal, if not greater help. 

    Over the past few years, numerous studies have shown that processed dairy and food items cause skin problems, which I also experienced during those 30 days. 


  • A support group will keep you going.
  • I cannot deny my family and friends' role in helping me get through the month. They were doing everything they could to help me stick to the promise I had made to myself. Setting up a text support group to exchange posts, GIFs and inspirational stories of people benefiting from smarter food choices was our way to keep pushing each other to achieve our goals.  All in all, there was some comfort in knowing that someone cared as much about it as I did. 

    Final thoughts 

    The month-long challenge helped me identify some of my crummy food habits, which made me irritable and contributed to a host of other health problems. While the changes I made were small - waking up early, making my meals and keeping a check on what I shopped for - these made a whole lot of difference in my life. 

    I can’t promise to never eat canned food again, but I’ve largely accepted that this is the best way to move forward, not just for my own health but also for the environment.