There are many perspectives on eating well and healthy diets. I try to keep it simple:
1. Have an attitude that your life and longevity is your responsibility. It is a daily experiment in which you are the boss of your lab. As in any experiential learning model in which you do something, learn from it, and do it again (better), learn to pay attention to what you eat and how it makes you feel… then adjust. In this case, it’s about being healthy, being resilient, sustaining your life. We’re all a little different. Learn. Learn about what works for you.
2. Have positive goals, but make changes one step at a time in a way that ensures success. Remember, it is a life-long experiment; it is a way of life. Start today. Then again. And again… Today is the most important day of your life. Be positively successful. If it is not enough to set these goals for the benefit of yourself, set them for the benefit of others, perhaps a loved one for whom you are responsible. Be their role model. Walk the walk!
3. Have support. We all tend to want to be warriors in life and prove our own ability to do things on our own. Okay. But we will often be limited in our growth to our previous experience and knowledge. Find a coach, a mentor, a health counselor or therapist, or a motivating – yet diverse – support group. If we want to continually change to be healthy and live longer, we must: (1) be aware of possibilities (education), (2) be motivated to change (personal determination, inspired coaching), (3) be ready to actually change (personal responsibility and ongoing support), then make the changes, and (4) pay attention to change as it happens, reflect, and learn. Begin again.
It is often not enough to know what to do, we all will benefit also from learning how to do it. It is logical as teachers to assume that if we provide valuable information, a student will naturally use that information to try to improve what they do. Not enough. As students, each of us will benefit from learning the steps in how to eat better. You say, “Eat real foods and avoid processed foods.” I say, “how?” Often, the “how-to’s” expose themselves in the process of actually doing things and while trying to eat better. Thus, the on-going coaching and support is vital to helping provide these insights.
Where to start? Take responsibility for your own health, set goals, learn, and get support!
For learning, here are a few resources that I have found helpful:
Precision Nutrition’s Blog and Infographics. Here are a couple of examples:
A few years ago, a friend of mine gave me some simple advice:
(1) Clean out the kitchen;
(2) Go get real food, locally-grown if possible;
(3) Make real food and eat it!
“How?” I asked.
He said, “Try starting as follows:”
At the grocery store, shop around the perimeter where real food is displayed and perhaps chilled. Start with vegetables and fruits of all colors. The center aisles tend to display packaged and processed foods. Real foods are foods that are closest to being in their natural state. If possible, shop at the local farmer’s market. In your diet, taking one step at a time, work towards the following. When you are successful with these items, we’ll go from there and perhaps look at things like vitamins and minerals, supplementation, potential allergies, timing of eating, and of course exercise! Let’s start by getting a healthy digestive system, improving the digestive environment (bacteria and enzymes) of our guts, and reducing associated inflammation in our bodies!
(1) Eliminate sugar and flour: Eliminate all foods that contain processed sugar and/or flour. This includes soft drink and fruit juices, and anything containing high-fructose corn syrup.
(2) Add healthy fats: Use healthy fats such butter, meat fat, ghee, olive oil, lard, coconut oil, whole cream, and coconut milk to replace the calories that were coming from sugars and flours.
(3) Eliminate vegetable / seed oils: These require excessive processing. Use the healthy fats listed above instead, fats closest to their natural state.
(4) Reduce grain intake: This is one of those areas where further research is on-going. Is it the grain itself? Or, is it the source and processing of the grain which causes inflammation in some people? Learn for yourself. Try reducing grain intake, particularly wheat, barley, and rye. Replace these foods with more nourishing and nutrient-dense safe-starches, like potatoes and rice (a low-processed grain), for example. Or, get whole grains from a local, non-industrialized source, a source with minimal processing.
When we look at our evolution and see that many of the common modern-day health problems weren’t common in our evolutionary history, we start to see the many, many variables that influence a healthy diet. A diet based on evolutionary science, using modern, evidence-based data, would probably look like this:
EAT: Vegetables (including root vegetables), fruit (including fruit oils), nuts, fish, meat, eggs, tubers, and maybe… dairy (especially fermented), legumes, and non-refined whole grains.
AVOID: Added sugars and nutritional products of industry (including refined fats, and refined carbohydrates)… items from the center aisles!
Simple enough? Okay. Let’s go! Take your health to new heights… Eat well. Keep hydrated. Move and exercise. Get rest. Have support in your life. And learn!
Keep it simple. Be successful. It’s up to you. Walk the walk. Today.
Here’s to a long, hearty life!
PS: Thanks to my friend and mentor, Tyler S for your guidance, information, and inspiration… You know who you are… and many reading this will too. If you want me to share your info, let me know!