It’s not all about self-control and that the non-nutritious stuff is sometimes cheaper but in my experience I always spend more on the processed and fast foods than I do on whole, regular foods like chicken breasts, veggies, fruits, and whole carbs (like brown rice). The most expensive part of my grocery bill is spices but I don’t buy them all the time.
Problem for me is that if I eat the processed gunk it just makes me want more and more of it, so I buy more. There’s so many addictive ingredients in that stuff (main ones being refined sugar and white flour) that they set the public up for buying more of it. I spend 3 to 5 times more on food when I’m eating processed (including eating out) than I do when I’m eating clean, but that’s my experience.
I also am very busy like you and most other people, but I really can’t enable anyone by saying that you’re too busy to eat healthy and exercise, and there are creative ways to spend less on food (I shop at Costco a lot). If we buy into the thought that “there’s not enough time or money” then where does that leave us? Without a solution, and if you don’t allow any excuses, you can lead a healthy lifestyle.
One other tip – grow your own veggies. I’m growing tomatoes and peppers in pots and others in the ground – pot growing is really cool because you can do it if you’re in an apartment – just another tip to save some $$ on those clean eats.
There are many people who are uneducated when it comes to nutrition and it doesn’t mean that it’s only people in poorer neighborhoods – over the past 30 – 40 years the way we eat has changed more than it has in the past 1000’s of years of history. Processed, dead food is everywhere and it’s easier but it’s also very unhealthy, filled with high amounts of salt, sugar, unhealthy fats, and very little nutrition.
Leading a healthy lifestyle is a matter of many different aspects going beyond the simple “self-control” including educating yourself on just what’s in processed food, learning how to eat healthy, whole foods, learning if you’re an emotional eater (the example you described of going home and eating ice cream as a reward is emotional eating, not discipline), learning if you’re addicted to ingredients such as refined sugar, white flour (and more), and learning more about yourself – where your head and your spirit is at when it comes to changing your lifestyle.
Yes, there are neighborhoods that don’t necessarily have access to better food choices as easily as others, however I again would never limit anyone no matter who they are or where they live by saying that that’s just how it is and it could never get better. This would get into an entirely different topic of the power of the mind and your thoughts, however you have definitely illustrated how weight loss is not just about self-control.
It sounds like you’re doing a great job with changing your lifestyle to make exercise a priority – I bet you’re setting a great example for others in your life whether they tell you this or not. Keep it up!