An ideal relationship to food would focus on healthy living and eating well, not just because it makes you look great, but because it makes you feel great. In my experience, the only sustainable way to achieve this is to avoid processed food while paying attention the quality of ingredients we consume.
Too often, we espouse the benefits of a healthy diet, even as we try to incorporate industrial food products into our meals. But we cannot build a healthy diet around protein bars, shakes, and cereals. By focusing instead on whole, real food, we can eliminate, or at least severely diminish, the presence of processed foods from our lives. The less processed food you eat, the less you crave. Not eating something isn’t motivated by thoughts of “I can’t have that (but I wish I could)” but rather by the realization that eating certain foods don’t help you feel your best.
By focusing on whole, real food, we can eliminate, or at least severely diminish, the presence of processed foods from our lives.
Beyond your own health, these foods also aren’t good for our communities. Consider how the food you buy, and therefore the food production practices you support and encourage, impact others (farm workers, animals etc.) and the environment. By eating ethically raised animals and demanding pesticide free produce, you are moving these sustainable practices back towards the mainstream.
My own experience is testament to the true transformation that is possible when one prioritizes real, unprocessed food and cuts back on refined sugars, preservatives, rancid oils and fillers. While everyone must find the right balance for his or her body, for me, this has meant avoiding grains, beans, and soy, while enjoying lots of raw, full-fat dairy (e.g. kefir, butter, milk, cheese, etc.), cultured vegetables, bone broth, healthy fats, eggs, meat and fish. I occasionally drink green juice and regularly drink kombucha and beet kvass, eat the occasional salad with olive oil, and enjoy a variety of cooked vegetables. I use raw honey and eat some fruit each day. I do still indulge in organic ice cream and other treats occasionally, because balance is important and this way, I don’t feel as if I’m missing out on the holidays or special celebrations. But now, instead of obsessing over calories, I focus on nutrients. The most important question I ask myself is: What real, whole foods does my body need today?
The practical consequences of shifting my diet have been incredible. I have found that the less I eat refined sugar and carbs, the less I crave them. When I do indulge (around the holidays, for example), my cravings and appetite increase in direct proportion to the increase in these processed foods. Additionally, by cooking instead of eating out, I have also saved money (even as I buy high quality ingredients). As the saying goes, pay the farmer now or the pharmacist later.
What we eat has a tremendous impact on our health and more and more is now being understood about the role of gut health and how our microbiome affects everything from our mood to our skin. We want to feed this beneficial bacteria and let this awareness motivate us to make better food choices.
“The practical consequences of shifting my diet have been incredible.”
But don’t just take my word for it. Experts in the field support these claims. As Nina Plank says in Real Food for Mother and Baby:
We’ve been eating pork and butter for millennia, but heart disease is a modern problem. The first heart attack was diagnosed in 1912. Epidemiological evidence also contradicts the assertion that traditional foods cause chronic metabolic conditions. People who (still) eat traditional diets, diets rich in real food- saturated coconut oil, whole milk, and red meat- don’t get fat. They don’t get diabetes and heart disease, either- that is, not until they switch to industrial foods, like white flour and corn oil. (pg. 10)
Plank talks about the value of eating real, whole food with plenty of good, healthy fat. As a result, she said in her book, she was 27 lbs. thinner than she was when she ate a purely vegetarian diet and exercised excessively. I can relate! I used to obsessively exercise but now that I eat so well I just don’t need to. Pilates, walking, hiking and the occasional swim have me in better shape than when I used to devote hours a day to exercise.
The philosophy behind this approach to food is simple. It rests on the idea that the human body is brilliant and is always communicating with us. The challenge is to listen to what it says. Most fad diets and 30-day programs are punitive, restrictive, and unrealistic, and our bodies know this. It is why they so rarely achieve the results they promise. Rather than obsessing over diet restrictions or counting calories or carbs, ask yourself: Is this food going to nourish me? And this does not mean cutting anything out completely. It means limiting your unhealthy choices and optimizing the whole, real food options in your diet.
Food is one of life’s great pleasures and we should celebrate it, not fear it. Once you begin to transition to a healthy, unprocessed diet, you find that your body tells you exactly what it needs. You become empowered by listening to your hunger and you finally begin to enjoy the experience of eating.
I’d love to help you work through the next steps and teach you my own pioneering ways and how to rethink your relationship with food.
- avoid processed food
- listen to your body
- eat real, whole food
- eat for nutrients
- ask yourself, “Is this food going to nourish me? Does this food benefit my body?”