Whole foods sounds like a health food company. It even looks like a health food company. That nice green logo, the promise of health and well-being presented masterfully through their signage and ambiance. But is Whole Foods really a health food store? Or is it a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

Let’s pull back the veil and discover what’s really happening behind the multi-billion dollar health industry.

Why do health food stores exist at all?

One reason is because health food stores are meant to provide ‘healthy foods’ that make us healthier.

Sounds pretty obvious, doesn’t it? But is that really what most health food stores actually do?

When I go into companies, I am always interested in what is really going on here?

Thousands of years ago in China, Huang Po said: Never allow yourself to mistake outward appearances for reality.

I don’t assume that appearances are real.

To see beyond the veil we must take a few steps back and observe with curiosity what is really happening. What are people buying? What is being said vs what is being done? How do we feel? What is the long-term impact of this situation? Who are the people attracted to it and why?

After some interesting observations, here’s what I think is really going on inside of Whole Foods (and many other health food stores).

Health food stores are not actually health food stores

Most people would agree that the healthiest foods are organic vegetables and other minimally processed natural products that actually deliver health-giving nutrients to our bodies.

Eating ‘healthy’ is fairly simple and can be summed up in these 4 steps:

1. Get your hands on these nutrient dense, organic, natural, easy to digest and assimilate vegetables
2. Prepare your meals with love and eat with gratitude
3. Avoid highly processed food with complex combinations that are hard to digest
4. Avoid food made without love or food eaten too quickly or without gratitude

And YES, there are many of details here that we could spend all day discussing, but this is the essence of healthy eating.

Now let’s look at what’s actually going on in Whole Foods and other health food stores.

How much of the store is dedicated to organically grown raw vegetables? Not very much, and many of the vegetables are pesticide rich.

So what is the rest of the shore filled with?

Hmm

1. Highly processed organic junk food
2. Wine and beer (some of it organic – so it must be good for you 😉
3. Meat (even if this is made with love it certainly wasn’t killed with love)
4. Health & Cosmetic Products (often toxic and connected to promoting disease)
5. Pills & Supplements (Making up for the lack of nutrition in the rest of the food)

So herein lies our first and foremost problem: Most health food stores do not in fact offer health foods. Go figure.

So what would be a better name?

I think it would be more accurate to call them Organic Junk Food, Liquor and Butcher Stops with a small selection of fresh fruits and veggies.

Go and walk around your closest health food store and see for yourself what is going on.

Most people are buying the IDEA of health, not real health

The dream Ideal is far more powerful than the actual reality.

Considering the fact that health food stores are not in fact distributers of healthy food, why are so many people going to them? Why is it a multibillion dollar business?

To answer these questions we need to look into the psychology of the people who are spending billions of dollars at the stores. Why are they there? Why do you go? Why do I go?

We are consistent with our inner self image

I believe that most people going to health food stores, like Whole Foods are going there to feel better about themselves by buying into the facade of health instead of actual health.

Here’s how this bizarre self-deception works: We’re all told by the media, doctors and others that we need to eat better and look after our heath. So sooner or later we decide, I should be healthier, I should eat better. So what do we do to look after ourselves? Each one of us has our own story.

Some people start to eat organic, others start to eat more fruits and veggies, some go all raw, some start the Atkins diet or any number of other diets.  And once we start eating differently we develop a self image about being a healthy person. A self image is an identity we hold about ourselves inside our mind. And whatever our self image is, we will act in accordance with it. For example, if you think of yourself as a vegan, you won’t eat any animal products. If you think of yourself as a wine connoisseur, you’ll find yourself easily buying wine.

Once we have these self images in our minds, we are literally compelled to act accordingly. That’s why once you think of yourself as someone who eats healthy and doesn’t eat GMOs or high fructose corn syrup, you’ll find it hard to even enter into a ‘normal’ supermarket or drink a coke or eat a Hershey’s candy bar.. You can’t eat it because your self image won’t let you.

So where are you going to buy foods? A healthy person goes to a ‘health food store’.

So off we go to the health food store to get our health food. We wander through the isles filled with ‘health foods’ and fill our carts with organic junk food, alcohol, meat, pre-made foods, and various supplements to give us the nutrients we should be getting from our organic veggies (that we missed).

Then we go to the register and unpack our healthy goodies and pay a whole pay check for the privilege.

And off we go packing our organic junk into the car smiling away at how healthy we are and why it’s worth getting organic. We feel warm and fuzzy about the idea that we’re actually looking after our health when in fact, we’ve just bought a bunch of junk food.

We’ve been duped. We’re insane. But what can we do? Once we internalize the idea that organic junk is good for us, why would we bother eating truly healthy foods? As a culture, we’re investing literally billions into this industry, but are we healthier?

I don’t blame Whole Foods. They are genius marketers and business people. They know this is what’s happening. They are giving us what we want and making a fortune from it. I take my hat off to them for their entrepreneurial spirit and ability to make things happen. But behind the friendly green logo lies a darker side. And that darker side is within us.

Next time it may be different

The next time you go shopping have another look at what your motives are. Have a look at what’s really going on there and what’s really being sold. Look beyond the friendly signage and blaring music and most of all, have a look at your own body, your own mind and your own health and ask yourself – what do I really need to eat to feel vital, inspired and full of life?

Answer this question, then buy those things. And you’ll have broken the multi-billion dollar trance.

Have fun.

Enjoy your shopping!