Complicating being healthy is one of my pet hates. As a society we are so removed from what foods work for our bodies, often influenced by the latest advertising campaigns, movies, documentaries, Dr Google, health bloggers who may not necessarily be trained .... the list can really go on.
Even when these people have the best intentions and want you to feel as fabulous as they do, this DOESN'T mean that what works for them will work for you.
I also hate diets. The word sucks and what it brings with it, such as strict rules or stress about eating "right", can remove us from listening to our bodies and eating well.
I went to see the new documentary produced by Pete Evans this week called 'The Magic Pill' and I loved how it really looked at how food can be medicine - how the foods we eat can be causing us harm instead of nourishing and healing us. I also thought it was good where they had health professionals go through people's pantries and fridges and remove processed foods and other hidden nasties.
One thing that kept me up that night though was how they focus heavily on low carb, high fat eating - i.e. paleo/ketogenic diets. This way of eating is not for everyone - for example people with diabetes may respond really well but then people who struggle with their gallbladder may not (due to the high fat content). I love bone broth but it is high in histamine - so people with histamine issues need to steer clear of these. I left the cinema both pumped up with the food as medicine angle but also a little disturbed that once again we are just complicating foods and ignoring the duty of care to each individual by saying one way of eating suits everyone.
So, here are some of my thoughts on eating well:
1. REDUCE or REMOVE processed foods - if it comes in a packet then SUGARS, SALTS and BAD fats (transfats) are typically needed to preserve it and to make it taste good. If there is ONE thing you can do for your health it would be to reduce these types of foods - not always easy when we need convenience, I know this, but a lot of the time we can reduce how big a role some of these foods play in our daily life.
2. Eat MORE vegetables and fruits - the guidelines are 5 and 2. And whilst I love greens with all the benefits they have, when you eat the RAINBOW you are getting a wide range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Again this is a really broad statement and if you are having some health challenges you may benefit from more guidance by someone who is qualified - for example clients I see who have gut dysbiosis (such as IBS) really struggle with eating raw vegetables - and when you think about it it makes sense - raw veggies are hard to digest.
3. Drink MORE water - seriously, we just don't drink enough and when we are dehydrated we can have headaches, cloudy brain, dry skin, etc. With our bodies made up of around 55% water in the elderly and 75% in infants all of this makes sense.
4. Eat GOOD fats - so what the hell are these? They include avocados, coconut, olive oil, fatty fish, chia seeds, good quality butter, nuts and seeds.
5. Eat the best QUALITY meats you can get - think about what you are eating, what it ate (grass versus grain, pumped with antibiotics, etc) and where did it come from (a food lot or a pasture) - what we eat we absorb and so did the animals we are eating. Definitely food for thought (I also like how they touched on this in the documentary).
6. LISTEN to your body - what is working for you? Do you function really well with only a little bit of meat? Do you feel really lethargic or hungry if you have eaten certain foods? Could you have any food intolerances?
7. Get QUALIFIED advice - especially if you have a diagnosed health condition or have been feeling really unwell for a long time. Don't just google and hope for the best or follow what the crowd is doing on Facebook. I have seen women in my clinic who fear carbs so much that they eat so little and end up with their menstrual cycle affected - Lara Briden has a good article on this. Whilst white bread might be 'evil' surely a sweet potato or some legumes is not?
8. REMEMBER food is medicine - foods we eat can nourish us or they can make our bodies work a lot harder than they need to do - for example eating foods high in sugars.
9. ENJOY food - find time to eat without distraction, eat with friends or family and really taste what you are eating. If you have kids get them involved with food preparation (trust me, I understand how hectic this can be!!).
10. LIMIT your caffeine and alcohol - don't get me wrong, I LOVE my coffee and there are days I would really love one the size of my head (I have two small little men!!) but I know it won't be in my best interests! Again listen to your body but excess caffeine through coffee, tea (including green tea), chocolate and any soft drinks you may have (please see point 1 - you need to reduce/stop these) are not good for your overall health - from feeling wired, emotional and even getting the squirts. Alcohol as well needs to consumed in moderation - you really should aim for 3-4 alcohol free days a week, and when you talk about how much you're actually drinking how BIG is that glass really??? A lot of people have alcohol to relax themselves but it can actually have the opposite affect.
My intention for writing this was to express my fear of how we seem to complicate food so much - and yes, at times we need to have strict eating guidelines to have optimal health, but we can also make simple changes to our daily eating habits to have a happier and healthier life.
So please breathe, don't just follow the crowd and speak to someone qualified if you feel you need guidance on how to eat better.