I’ve been reading books and journals about nutrition since I was a teenager. Even if I knew a program or plan wasn’t for me (or appropriate for anyone in some cases) I’d still read about it, cover to cover, trying to understand every concept and what benefits may lie within.
Anyone who reads (and takes to heart) lots of info about nutrition will ultimately find themselves on what I like to call “The Confusion Diet”. This is the stage you get to when you wander through the grocery store afraid to buy anything because you are now in tune to the fact that EVERYTHING is going to kill you, make you fat or at the very least, mutate your cells so that you end up with a third nipple, a bunion on your forehead or something worse.
There are so many diet books that fill us with fear. For the purpose of higher sales and greater publicity, people are promoting nutrition hyperbole backed up by distorted half facts. While I can appreciate their passion, I question their motive. How many of you are confused by any the following (mis)conceptions:
1) Carbs are bad
2) Fat makes you fat
3) Protein will destroy your kidneys
4) Uncooked greens are toxic
5) Grains are evil
6) Whole grains are a “health food”
7) If it’s organic, it’s good for you
8) Chicken nuggets are made from pink slime (this one is probably true…don’t eat chicken nuggets 😉
9) All things vegan are good for you
10) If you don’t eat soy, dairy, gluten or corn you will lose weight
The list goes on and on with diet promises, health threats, etc. To be honest, there are at least partial truths to all of these statements. It would take me hundreds of pages (or more) to myth-bust (or defend) all of them. So, how are you to know where the truth ends and the hype begins? Keep it simple, and follow these basic rules:
1) You should NOT eat UNLIMITED quantities of ANYTHING!
If you are following a plan that tells you it’s OK to gorge yourself with certain macronutrients (Protein/Fat/Carbs) while extremely restricting others, beware. Even the all-powerful vegetables have their limits (although we tend to limit ourselves naturally on fibrous foods). So, how do you know when enough is enough? Luckily, our bodies, when working properly, produce hormones that signal us to stop eating when we’re full. To allow that signal to be heard, eat slowly and mindfully. Pay attention to how you feel while your eating. When you are no longer hungry, give yourself 5-10 minutes. You are probably full and don’t even realize it yet. I hate wasting food, but don’t compete for the clean plate trophy. What you don’t finish, wrap up for your next meal. Leftovers are a time and money saver. Don’t like ’em? Learn to :).
2) Less (ingredients) is more, Less calories, maybe not.
Severe calorie restriction is no fun and not a good long term solution. I understand that there are people who live on highly nutritions, calorie restricted diets and live to be about 200 years old. These people measure their blueberries and 4 walnuts for breakfast, then go meditate for 2 hours, followed by gentle stretching, followed by more quiet time. I am not knocking this lifestyle (we should all search for a piece of this), but I’m willing to bet your life is little more frantic than this. You need fuel, and you need to be able to stay alert (if not for yourself, for the safety of others). The other problem with a restriction diet is that you’ve got no where to go with it. You are training your body to survive on less. Wouldn’t you rather eat as many calories as possible while still losing weight (if that’s your goal) or maintaining (if you’re already at a healthy weight). Don’t be a slave to the calorie, learn to listen to your body. You can journal your calories (it’s OK to know where you stand because it’s easy to get carried away), but more importantly, journal how you feel after eating your meal. If food sensitivities/allergies are suspected, eliminations diets can be extremely telling. Journaling helps you determine if you need to investigate further. We are all born with built in calorie monitors. Over time we train ourselves to ignore those monitors. Practicing these habits will help you repair your internal calorie meter.
Back to the “fewer ingredients” part of this equation: Eating single ingredient, whole foods (think sweet potatoes, broccoli, eggs, salmon, etc.) in lieu of packaged foods with long lists of ingredients and flavors, will allow you to pinpoint food sensitivities and eliminate unneeded crap from entering your body. These real foods will be utilized more efficiently, allowing your body to absorb the nutrients without the accompaniment of nutrient blockers that create chronic inflammation (which can lead to a variety of health concerns). These pre-packages non-foods are doing you any favors. Just keep them out of your house to avoid frequent temptation.
3) Too much of a good thing doesn’t make a good thing a bad thing.
Have you heard of the guy that took too much colloidal silver and turned blue? Or the risk of water toxicity from over consumption? How about starfruit intoxication? I bet that’s a new one. Bottom line, you can over-consume anything if you try hard enough. I’ve never had the urge to eat my weight in starfruit, but garnishing a salad with it can be a delicious way to add Vitamin C, electrolytes and B vitamins to your meal. If you google The Dangers of Kale, you’ll get nearly 400,000 results. However, a google search for The Dangers of Hot Dog Eating Contests yield less than 1/3 of the results. Does this mean hot dogs are healthier than kale? Of course not! Kale is the most nutrient dense food on the planet. This does not mean you can or should eat a bottomless bowl of it. Include it in your diet with other nutrient dense foods and rotate your greens for best results. Vegetables are plants born with defense mechanisms that protect them from environmental hazards. Some are better for you cooked and some are fine eaten raw. Usually, you can determine the healthiest way to prepare something just by analyzing how it’s best enjoyed. Mushrooms are better for you when they are cooked well. Ever eaten a raw mushroom? It’s kind of flavorless and spongey. But cooked, it’s delicious and meaty. Same with kale. It’s tiring to chew and digest raw. Cook it or massage it in oil for best taste and nutritional affects. Peppers are crisp and juicy raw. They are also safe to be eaten raw. Get the point? Raw potatoes=ick, raw cucumber=delish! Don’t over think it, but do be mindful.
4) Chill Out, it’s NBD
When we care for our bodies, eat real food, and not too much of it, the rest falls into place. There are ways to prepare nutrient dense food to maximize their benefits and eliminate risks related to overconsumption. In the Strong Calm Sexy meal plan, you don’t have to guess, because I tell you what to do. With that practice, over time, you’ll know what works best with your body. In the meantime, keep journaling. Reflect on what works best for you. Eat a variety of colorful vegetables. Eat foods in their simplest (digestible) form. Eat slowly. Enjoy your food. If you choose to have a food for a reason other than nutrition (i.e. social experience, satisfying a craving, feeding an emotion), that’s OK, but ask yourself first: How will I feel a few hours after eating this? If you still feel it’s worth having, then go for it. Enjoy it. Savor it. Then, next meal, get back on the plan.
We can all do this. We can keep it simple. We can enjoy food, but we can also find joy in things that aren’t food. Don’t worry: I’m obsessed with nutrition so that you don’t have to be. I’ll keep researching and experimenting and reporting back to you. Meanwhile, if you don’t want to have to think about it, join the Strong Calm Sexy community and get a monthly meal plan that keeps you feeling great and looking your best!
Talk back! What eating trend/tip has you baffled? Have you read about a plan that you want my opinion on (or want me to experiment with)?
What is your “Worth it” treat?