Let’s face some facts, we all eat. Whether you are a nutritionist, avid “foodie,” fellow lifestyle innovative, or your classic stay-at-home mother, today you will pick up some valuable information. What I am about to share with you is nothing out of the ordinary and by no means a secret. In fact, the way I see it, the more “average” you are when it comes to nutrition, the more you might already be in tune with the instinctive insight I am about to share with you.
Today I will break down all dietary dogmas in 3 simple rules. I know that sounds like a pretty large claim. However, the truth is we have turned a simple process into a near world-wide complication. Now I understand that eating has turned into an art form and even hobby for some of us. I hate to take that away from anyone who is currently using eating as a form of nutritional alchemy or even income. I would, however, like to advise that everyone here experiment in adapting these tips to their lifestyle, regardless of what role food is playing in their life.
I will add that though these three rules are by no mean surprises and are incredibly simple, they are not so simple to do. So for my fellow foodie alchemists, feel encouraged to build and create from these three foundational tips!
The Journey: From Complexity to Simplicity
When it comes to eating we really want to keep it as simple as possible. Why? Great question, but first we have to define “simple.” Keeping nutrition simple means purity, not restriction. Though we want a wide variety of nutrients and foods, we want the food themselves to be pure: free of additives, too much destruction, and manipulation.
Likewise, when we are engaged in eating itself we want it to be a spiritual art. The last thing we would want to do while trying to fuel our bodies is run around multi-tasking, stressed out, distracted and not focused. If we are not fully present in eating we can easily not chew enough, shut down digestive function, and maybe bite a lip—ouch.
Similar to fueling up a car, we want to shut it down while we fill it with gas. This lets our bodies focus on the task at hand, prepare for what it needs, and reap the full nutritional benefits from the food we are consuming. To summarize, complexity is not to be confused with variety, creativity, and alchemy. And simplicity is not to be confused with the lack of these things. The goal in moving from complexity to simplicity is to move from unfocused to focused.
The Law of 3—A Diner’s Declaration
Below I will share with you some insight from the recognized author Michael Pollen. In his book, In Defense of Food, he shares his simple “no-brainer” insights on turning complex nutrition into simple nourishment.
Eat Food: I told you this was simple stuff. There is something to consider here however: what is food? If I can state a quick opinion, it would be that plenty of people still don’t know what food really is. It doesn’t seem like this should be an issue for us, but while it used to be that all you could eat was food, today there is more food-like substances than actual food.
The issue is that we are eating these food-like substances and mistaking them for food. These food-like substances could also be called processed foods, GMO’s, and likely anything that is coming in a box or package.
As most of us are learning now, the processed version of foods such as cereals, breads, chips, crackers, and even dairy and lunch meats are not even close to food. Most of their synthetic and chemical ingredients outweigh the actual real food content, if there even is any. To keep the theme of simplicity going I will make this brief: if what you’re eating comes in a box or you heard about eating it from a health claim such as “This will make you lose weight!” or “This will lower blood-pressure!”, these are strong indications that they are not really food but more or less a product or food-like substance that has been created for marketing and monetary purposes.
The truth is, if what you’re eating is real food, then it will be good for your overall health. Yes, some plant foods can be powerful medicines and work to heal particular ailments in the kidneys, liver, and so on. In reality, food is holistic in its healing. All real food will work to heal and support your immune system, and by healing your immune system you heal your entire body. In short, the immune system does not work specifically to heal a particular body part, it works synergistically to heal all.
As far as eating real food goes, the challenge is really only finding real food. You can start in the produce section of your local markets. Choose foods as you would find them in nature: fresh and organic produce in the variety of vegetables, herbs, fruits, spices, nuts and seeds, legumes, and whole grains with minimal organic, pasture-raised, free-range animal products.
Your best options for variety are going to be in health food stores such as Whole Foods, which carry more organic food. Looking up CSAs online, shopping at local farms and farmers markets, and of course planting your own food from heirloom seeds are going to guarantee even better quality of food. If you’re a real serious foodie, you may even want to look into foraging your own wild food. Wild food is as pure as it gets!
Not too Much: Learning to eat the right amount takes some serious mindful awareness. We all have experienced the dramatic effect external experiences can have on us internally. We’re watching a YouTube video, scrolling through Instagram, or driving home from work and see a picture of good food and immediately get hungry. We weren’t truly hungry, however, the unconscious mind works instinctually. It has no control over itself; it is habitually programmed. We don’t have to consciously think about breathing, digesting, blinking, or knowing when to eat.
However, over the years we have broken the link between our conscious awareness and the mechanism of our own instinct. In other words, many of us don’t actually know when we should eat anymore; we have lost touch of true hunger.
This is due to the vast ocean of information available to us, telling us what to do. Though much of this information has been useful in creating income and business, increasing communication, and expanding our creativity, it has not been immediately useful for our intuition when it comes to knowing what food is best. In the end, when we rely so much on others’ opinions on how much, what, when, and where to eat, we lose touch with the natural rhythm of our own bodies.
Our natural hunger is constantly fluctuating. Depending on the amount of sleep, exercise, stress, and happiness we have experienced in each day, our metabolism will be slightly or completely different. For example, if you participate in some extreme physical activity today, you’re going to develop a much larger natural appetite than if you were to sleep and rest all day.
Adhering to a fixed program will only result in resistance somewhere down the line because each day there will be things that occur outside of your fixed personal programs. Any program or advice that helps you become more in tune with your own unique needs is going to be the most affective long-term advice.
This is a simple fix, but again, it takes mindful awareness. Meaning you have to start paying closer attention to your own body and mind. Become aware of how external factors affect your hunger. If you notice a certain smell, picture, environment, or mood sparks your hunger, ask yourself, “Am I truly hungry? Does my body actually need food right now?” Becoming mindful of your body’s natural hunger is done by creating a conversation with your body.
During times of true hunger remain mindful as well. Consult your satiety, chew slowly, eat in the company of others, share food, eat while sitting in a proper dining environment, and practicing gratitude for the food you have will keep you in a state of awareness where you cannot overeat.
We want to avoid eating too much not only in concern for calories and weight gain but also undigested food matter that can become toxic and acidic in the body, leading to disease. Not to mention the wastefulness of eating food you do not need to eat and the effect it has on your bank account and the environment!
To summarize, eating should be a spiritual practice, a fueling and honoring of your body. Stay mindful, be present, ask questions, and be grateful. You can easily master the art of eating just enough.
Mostly Plants: Why plants? The topic of plant foods and their benefits is nearly endless so I will stay brief once again. Plant foods are healing food, medicine, anti-aging miracles, spiritual life force, affordable, biodynamic, nature’s multivitamin, nutrient dense, antioxidant rich, rich in omega 3s, loaded with fiber, free radical fighters, enzymatic, detoxifiers, oxygen rich, and of course cancer and disease combatants. There’s so much nutritional information rampaging through the media, schools, and bookshelves, it’s a full-time job to keep up.
However, finding the common ground in all the information can shortcut you to the right track. That common ground being eating plants won’t do us any harm, and in fact many of their properties have been proven to have the range of advantages previously mentioned.
What about meat? The evidence is firm that, with the exception of vitamin B12, we can easily get every other necessary nutrient from plant foods. That being said, there is no hard evidence that we need to completely remove meat from our diets either. There have been years of debate between meat eaters and vegans, but I’ll try to bridge the gap a little by restating the common ground: at the very least, eat mostly plants.
If you do decide to consume meat, following these guidelines will ensure a healthier experience:
- Do not consume industrial meat. It is toxic, laden with hormones, and fed nutritionally poor food in sickly environments.
- Do consume high-quality, properly raised animal products. Those that have grazed on wild grasses and insects, treated with freedom and love. Then you may benefit from the healthy, energy dense elements found animal products.
A word of wisdom: you are what you eat and what you’re eating eats. Meaning that whether you’re eating a plant or animal product, whatever it’s taking in for its food—sunlight, soil, feed, grass, water, etc.—you are also going to become whatever that is. At this point you have to make a conscious decision between what is good for your health and what is good for the environment. Which leads us back to the emphasis on plant foods.
Carrying out these 3 wise tips can start you down the path to a more freeing approach to your relationship with food and health. When you enjoy real food, eat for fuel rather than just for pleasure, and get your foods from the spirit of nature, you do not have to concern yourself with health. That becomes given.