I have a slightly different take from talking to those recovering from eating disorders and reading up on the subject. I also think there is a lot of diet paralysis going on with people where there are different 'experts' who tell them that this thing is bad, then this thing and they seem to get stuck or berating themselves when they aren't 'perfect'.
All food is real food. All food is something that you can incorporate into your diet. If you eat something that you don't think you should be eating, it isn't the end of the world and it doesn't mean you are doomed to fat/failure.
I think there are some real issues in our modern lifestyles. For one, cooking is becoming a lost art. I recently read that some urban apartments are ditching ovens and real cooktops in place of microwaves because 'no one cooks anymore'.
Why is this an issue? Because we are placing our dietary choices in the hands of others. Whether it is restaurant meals frozen meals or other packaged foods, foods are becoming more scientific and not to our benefit. Companies use our own brain chemistry against us and engineer foods that we are most likely to overeat. "Overcoming Overeating" is a good book to read on the subject. Those foods also tend to have preservatives that we don't need as well as excess sodium which can add up to make us feel bloated and for some, raise blood pressure to dangerous levels.
Cooking allows us to connect with our food as well as family and friends. Cooking allows us to choose what we eat based on our availability (which granted, is often in the hands of our grocers or climate). Many people say they don't have time to cook but not all things are time consuming and get your family involved to help if you can. Things like rice cookers, pressure cookers and slow cookers can help the busy chef. You can also make your own frozen meals out of leftovers if you want to have convenient meals. If you don't know how to cook, there are classes which you may be able to sign up for or even some sites have youtube videos showing people how to cook certain dishes. You are also worth the time to prepare foods that nourish your body.
And if you don't cook every meal, that isn't the end of the world. I do believe you can choose to eat whatever you want but should you? How do you feel when you eat certain foods? Energized? Energized for a short period then lethargic? Lethargic? Bloated?
You deserve to nourish your body in a way that promotes your health. Now eating packaged foods/prepared foods all the time may not be the best way to achieve health. If you aren't sure how you feel then maybe keep a food journal. Note how you feel before you eat (tired, cranky, upset, happy, excited) and then after you eat. Notice if there is a pattern. You can also try an elimination diet to see if there is a way you feel after eliminating certain foods and after reintroducing them. How do you feel a few minutes after eating some chips? How about an hour after? 2 hours?
As I mentioned previously, some foods are engineered for us to overeat and companies seem to work against us rather than for us. Not only that but the availability of our food and prices of our food benefits those companies rather than us as they receive incentives from our (US) government to grow foods that go into heavily processed foods. It'd be nice to supplement fresh fruit and vegetables at the market rather than corn which is used to feed livestock and go into packaged foods.
So I do believe all foods are real food but I also believe you have to make a choice that best promotes your health, physical and mental. If you happen to include packaged food into your diet, just be cautious that you are handing your eating choices over to someone else who may not have your best interest at heart. Also, if the food doesn't make you feel good, why are you eating it?
You can't out-exercise poor eating habits.