"Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it" - Heather Morgan
I want you to stop and think about this quote. Really soak in the meaning of the words. Every time you reach for sustenance, the type of food you fuel your body with will determine whether you are contributing to the health and longevity of your body, OR whether you are contributing to the slow poisoning of it's overall health. Makes a person stop and take pause, and hopefully take a moment to evaluate the choices they make when it comes to their body's fuel.
Does this mean you can no longer enjoy certain types of junk food? That depends on various factors, the most important of which is your individual needs. You have to ask yourself questions that will help you determine what type of lifestyle you should be living based on your personal history, beliefs, health, mental & physical strength, and overall follow through. You are the only person who knows YOU the best. When I talk about making changes to your life in regards to nutrition, I am not talking about goals or resolutions. If you find those things helpful, then by all means, do it. For most people though, they have tried and failed at dieting many times over. The reason for this is that they are dieting without any knowledge of what they are doing. Most people jump on the latest trend or gimmick and eventually end up fizzing out. The reason this happens varies, but some are commitment, restriction, too much change too quickly, lack of support, unrealistic expectations, etc. It just becomes overwhelming and unmanageable.
I personally do not believe in dieting. I believe in doing the work to figure out what lifestyle best fits YOU. Once you do that, everything will come together naturally and you will be more likely to adopt the new changes as a way of life and not just something you are doing to look or feel the way you think you should. I have a lifestyle worksheet that will address these issues that I will attach at the end of this post. Please feel free to print it out. The questions will help you find a starting point, as well as reflect on where you are currently in your journey and where you want to go. My hope is that people will stop focusing so much on dieting and really take the time to become aware of their personal truth around their health, the actions they want to take in order to change, and what they want those changes to look like.
Nutrition is a personal journey. We all make decisions around food based on our upbringing, our education around this specific topic (which for most people is nil), and what has been marketed and offered to us at the stores we choose to spend our money at. Though there is an obvious shift taking place in our country around the food that is available to us, there is a long way to go before everyone is educated on nutrition, as well as the ability to be able to afford healthy choices. The truth of the matter is that there is no one governing the foods that are on the market. Yes, there are some checks and balances in place, but for the most part, the standard of what is allowed on the market is very low. That means it is up to each individual to do our own research and educate ourselves when it comes to the food we are willing to put into our bodies. According to Mike Adams, "Today, more than 95% of all chronic disease is caused by food choice, toxic ingredients, nutritional deficiencies, and lack of physical exercise". I feel if more people were aware that the food they eat contributes directly to how their body feels, people would demand change. Unfortunately, there is a lot of money being made in processed foods, so without significant demand, change will be very slow.
Another thing we need to be doing is to make nutrition accessible to everyone. If you are eating processed foods, make no mistake, this is not quality nutrition. This is empty calories. Many hard working families in this country, as well as those who are struggling and living in poverty, simply cannot afford to buy fresh food. It is more cost effective to spend $10 on a box of processed noodle dinners and a package of cheap hot dogs, than to purchase hormone and antibiotic free range meat, a bag of fresh vegetables and a side grain. $10 vs $30 is a huge difference for a lot of families. We need to show people how easy it is to grow a lot of their own herbs and vegetables, a lot of which can be done with or without a yard. We need to educate people on what real nutrition is and how to read labels. Here's a great article from the FDA https://www.fda.gov/food/new-nutrition-facts-label/how-understand-and-use-nutrition-facts-label , but as you can see, it's a lot to take in. I find it interesting that the food that has the most nutrition (vegetables, fruit, healthy meat) often has no label, or at least, a very short ingredient list. I often tell people, if it is taking a lot of time to read, it probably isn't a healthy choice.
It is important to remember that nutrition is what your body needs to function at it's prime level. If you are eating Low Fat, Dairy Free, Natural foods - this may not be nutritious at all. The important thing to remember is to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables in your daily life. Even adding a serving of vegetables to every meal will make a huge difference. A good rule of thumb is to eat the rainbow (fruits and vegetables of various colors) every day. Don't be afraid to try new recipes or experiment with foods you've never cooked before. Make it fun!
Something else important to keep in mind is water intake. Remember to drink water every day. Your body is mostly made up of water and it needs water to help aid in various important functions, such as lubricating joints, digesting food, detoxing, and hydration. Adding lemon and honey to warm water with a pinch of sea salt, is a great way to make sure you are getting your electrolytes. An important question to ask yourself is, Would you rather eat or drink your calories? Most people prefer to eat their calories. If you are someone who really hates the taste of water, you can add different herbs, fruits, or vegetables to enhance flavor. I remind myself that water is not meant to be delicious, it is meant to sustain and maintain your body! Sometimes in life we have to do things we don't especially enjoy, like pay our bills, get important health tests, and go to the DMV, but we do it because the benefits outweigh the negatives. For instance, we get to keep our vehicle, have heat, catch any health issues before it becomes unmanageable, and not get a ticket if we register our vehicle. Water is one of the things we need to think of in terms of something that has to be done in order to keep what we want (our health!). It's important, so find a way to get hydrated!
The most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to nutrition is to remember to get adequate protein, healthy carbs and sugars (not processed carbs like, white bread and croissants, Sorry!), and fats that are good for you, like avocado, eggs, and extra virgin olive oil (never cooked at a high temp). The No Fat trend is actually very detrimental because we now know that healthy fats are important for lubrication and brain health.
Look, there is a lot of information out there and it can be very overwhelming. When you try to take on too much at one time, it becomes just that - too much! You need to remember that you didn't learn incorrect habits overnight and it will take time to correct them and form new habits. Be kind to yourself. Choose one area a week or month to work on and experiment with it. For instance, if you want to cut out sugar - Great! Spend some time researching the topic, learning what to look for on labels (beware, added sugar is in everything!). Make a list of all the complicated names it goes by and tuck it in your wallet so you'll know what you are looking for. Then, spend some time at the grocery store learning what you can or can't eat. Spoiler: if you go no sugar, be prepared to cut out processed foods, which means pretty much everything on the inner shelves of the grocery store. A little trick is to stick to the outside isles in order to avoid temptation and artificial foods. They will still be in these areas, but not overwhelmingly so. Also, it doesn't mean you have to cut out all your favorite meals. Try substituting with natural sugars, such as honey or real Maple Syrup. Then gradually, over the next month, try some new recipes and some new brands. It doesn't have to be every meal at first, pick one a day the first week, then maybe two the next week, and so on. And if it takes you two months to integrate into your lifestyle -good on you! It's okay!! You are learning, growing, changing; and that takes time and understanding. Once you have your first change mastered, move on to the next.
I feel like we live in a society that says we have to do it all and we have to do it all right now. It's important to assess that way of thinking and being in the world. First of all, doing it all period is impossible. I would rather do a few things very well than do it all mediocre. If you have compassion and love for yourself why you are making changes, you will find that you retain and stay with them better. Feel free to laugh at your blunders - I laugh at myself all the time! Your health is so important and it really does start with what you put into your body. You need to feed your cells the best possible food you can so they can regenerate and work to the best of their ability. If you feed your cells junk, they will work like junk; but if you feed your cells strong, healthy fuel, they will act strong and healthy, while fueling your body with real energy. Remember, as Jim Rohn says, "Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live".
Lastly, the argument I always hear is that it doesn't matter what you eat, some people will get cancer (or whatever) anyways, so you might as well eat what you love. I think that is a cop out. Of course there are other causes of disease. Things like environment, relationships, location, and many other factors play a role in your health. People who are lonely, for instance, have much shorter life spans than those surrounded by good, healthy relationships. There are a lot of factors that go into being healthy and nutrition is just one of them. They are ALL important, but nutrition is a great place to start. If you begin feeling better from the inside, you can work your way outward to your skin, beauty products, household goods, home, vehicle, work, community, and eventually, even the world. When you make healthier choices and demand better, sustainable food, you are literally changing your environmental impact, which affects people you will never know and other living organisms, such as plants and animals. WOW! All of that because you decided to take care of yourself. AMAZING!
I believe in you,