These are among the most common concerns that my clients present to me in their earnest attempt to improve their diets, their health, and often to lose weight. It no longer surprises me how often educated and smart people find themselves confused and frustrated about how, when, and what to eat. Your parents, the media, your friends, and family may have fed you mis-truths about food and nutrition. Being confused is not your fault.
You may need to go out on your own, deliberately, to learn how to nurture your body with food that is truly healthy and healing for you. Don’t be hard on yourself if you are confused or overwhelmed. There is light at the end of this tunnel. And it is shining from a more vibrant version of you.
Allow me to lead you to more clarity and confidence. Let’s start with some simple concepts that can help you get some positive results fairly quickly. You may know much of this already. But since you are reading this on my website (or the PDF version), I assume that you are ready to make significant and positive change. And in a bit, I’ll share ten rules that are simple, and with which you can live and thrive.
First I’m going to make some suggestions of what to avoid. After that I will make some suggestions about what food will make you love the way you look and feel.
The more food you eat that is refined and processed, the more your body might be missing out on essential nutrients. This means that all junk food, most breakfast cereals, store-bought pastries, bagels, cookies, cake, and “white flour anything” is low on the nutrition scale. A bowl of corn chips is not a health food. Even if the pretzels are organic, still, processed flour taken in large amounts will increase the inflammation in your body. At least, don’t let this be what you eat mostly. Although I personally choose to avoid foods like this, you can do yourself a favor and do an upgrade. Practice saying “no, thank you” to these foods that are mostly empty calories.
Before I get to what you should take in primarily in your food plan, let’s go over three more categories that you would be smart to avoid or eliminate.
The first often overlaps with the category above. Excess simple carbohydrates, or processed sugar, in all its forms, can wreak havoc with your weight, your heart, your joints, and even your brain. I’ll say more about inflammation in a bit, but for now, consider that some of the things you might be struggling with (cravings, brain fog, sore joints, elevated cholesterol, hypertension, gut issues, unwanted weight, fatigue… and so many more) are correlated with taking in too much sugar, in all its forms, in your diet. For example, a breakfast of bagel, coffee, and orange juice will take your blood glucose through the roof. This is related to increased inflammation in your body. Even though I am oversimplifying it here, the take-away for you is to cut way back on – better yet, eliminate – sugary snacks and drinks.
Second, a quick word on artificial sweeteners. They are among the unhealthiest foods that you can eat. If you don’t want to gain weight, or have difficulty losing weight, you will like the results of switching to lemon infused water and herbal tea. One of my students discontinued drinking her five diet sodas per day. She dropped twelve pounds, felt much happier, and got her mojo back with her husband. This is a great example of how eliminating toxins can give you a big positive noticeable change. You might not be like my student, but you can apply this to you if you find yourself scarfing down either sugary or artificially sweetened food or drink and want to improve what you eat and how you feel.
And last, regarding saturated fat from animal products is no friend to your arteries. Milk, cheese, beef, chicken, fish, and other forms of animal protein are among the most raging controversial foods on the planet. You will not get the experts to agree. Especially when we intend to "eat healthy" this can be very confusing. Let me make this relatively simple for you. Eat more plants than animal products to help your body heal from inflammation and reduce exposure to a variety of diseases. Avoid processed meat since it is a carcinogen. Practice plate-crowding. This is when the colorful fruits and veggies occupy more space on your plate, thus crowding out food made from animal bi-products. If you want to learn about veganism, I highly recommend the book, The World Peace Diet by Will Tuttle.
Through several of my certification courses, I learned a few specific guiding principles. Two of my primary education experiences were through the Institute of Integrated Nutrition, and e-Cornell T. Colin Campbell’s Plant Based Diet.
The guiding principles are:
At Health Matters Coaching, my job is to help you go sane around nutrition. I coined this term to address how often and easy it is for people to go, well, crazy around what to eat. I love the part of my job where someone asks me is something good for them, or is it bad. It’s true that some food items are flat-out disastrous to your health and should never be consumed, unless you are willing to tolerate the effects on your body. That might be more than some of you want to read, especially if we are just beginning to know each other. But I’ve been at this too long and seen too many people suffer unnecessarily to keep quiet. Like I mentioned, and is worth repeating, according to the World Health Organization processed meat is categorized at the same level of carcinogens as cigarette smoke.
One may argue that a little bit of these toxic foods is okay. That is a very compelling and interesting argument. Let’s say that smoked sausage is very bad for your arteries and your immune system. It’s toxic to your liver and can cause digestive issues because of all of the oils, additives and chemicals. I used to cringe when I heard certain food types described as poisonous. And then I did my homework and fully embrace this word now. So, if eating poisonous food is justifiable on occasion, that reminds me that maybe it’s okay to cheat on my husband, but just a little bit. Or to steal from the store, but very infrequently. Remember, I am passionate about your health. That’s why you are reading this. I know my analogy is absurd. But did it help you get my point?
My commitment to help you navigate the world of food with its confusing twists and turns is among the strongest forces in my life. It is in my DNA. As a result, I will tell you what I believe you need to know, but perhaps not what you want to hear. If you learn that something you thought was good for you turns out to be problematic, simply keep an open mind and be willing to learn. I lead the Vitality Club here in the community where I live. One woman thought that honey nut Cheerios was a health food because they contained honey and nuts. No wonder some people are frustrated and befuddled. (This is not a food that promotes health by the way, so buyer beware.)
My goal for you is to fall in love with food that is good for you. Since I have had my own debilitating struggles around food in the past, and since I learn from my clients how difficult it is to know what and how to eat, I feel strongly about the importance of helping people in this way. If you are trying to “eat healthy” but find yourself confused by the varying points of view from so-called experts, I promise that there is a way to higher ground. And your body will reveal this sooner than you can say homegrown sprouts.
Here are ten rules that are simple. You can live and thrive with these friendly guidelines.
1. Dial way back the junk food.
Get rid of it in your house. It is perfectly okay for you to quit eating junk food. I suspect that most of you reading this do not live under a bridge like a troll, nor do you drive a jalopy that is falling apart. Similarly, eating junk food can become something you did in the past. Raise your standards. If you doubt that you can do this, do a Google search to learn about people, perhaps who are just like you, who reversed diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer by changing their diets. No one ever said they preferred feeling crummy when they used to eat food that left them feeling depleted. One of the most reliable experts in the field, Dr. Michael Greger (author of How Not to Die and How Not to Die Cookbook) recommends The Daily Dozen. You can eat from this list and be well on your way.
2. Learn to cook at home.
Simple is delicious. By making your own food you are in control of the ingredients, the quality of the food, and the portions. You can avoid processed oils, sugars, animal fats, flavors, and coloring. Sticking to the basics is a wonderful way to approach food. Steamed broccoli with some Savory Blend from Dr. Michael Greger’s How Not to Die Cookbook will tantalize your taste buds. The turmeric will help your joints. My husband and I eat lots of turmeric. We are in our mid-60’s and do sports like we are in our 30’s. I did not feel as good in my 20’s even though I’ve always loved sports. Back in my 20’s I poisoned my body with a tragic amount of junk food. My health was poor then, but now it’s fantastic. By the way, it is a myth that whole foods are more expensive than lower quality food, especially when you look at your overall budget. Meats, cheeses, and seafood, for example, are more costly per serving than whole fruits, veggies, and complete grains. Plus, when you factor in the devastating cost of lifestyle induced diseases, it really does pay to be healthy.
3. Think of food as medicine.
When choosing “this” over “that”, pause and consider the nutrition of the food you are thinking about eating. Good choices are always fruits, veggies, nuts (no salt, oil, or sugar added), one-ingredient nut butter (no salt, oil, or sugar added), seeds, and whole grains. Whole grains is the opposite of processed or refined. You will need to look at labels, which can be very misleading. By the way, my favorite concoction of seeds is a blend of equal parts chia, ground flax, and hemp. Add them to nut butters, smoothies, salads, rice, and anything you desire.
4. Speaking of whole grains...
Look at all of your bread products. Bagels, English muffins, tortillas, pasta, and crackers can be loaded with high-glycemic, processed, and refined flour. The challenge to your body in eating foods like these happens on several levels. White flour and all refined varieties will cause the same rapid rise to your blood glucose as table sugar. Because grains that are refined get absorbed easily, they can also produce unwanted inflammation in your gut. A diet of highly processed food is correlated with diseases of the gut, even relatively benign ones, such as gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and cramping. Diseases of the gut can be serious. Colon cancer, for example, is correlated with a diet high in processed foods and insufficient fiber. More on fiber in a bit. Whole grains are dense, chewy, and far more flavorful once you acquire a taste for food like this. They are also nutrient-dense and way more satisfying than, say, a white dinner roll that is soft and fluffy, but sorely lacking in nutrients and fiber. Two of my favorite brands of super-healthy, yummy, nutrient-dense grain products are Ezekiel and Explore Cuisine.
5. About fiber...
Here is an amazing video by my hero, Dr. Michael Greger. He explains why we should be more concerned with fiber than we are about protein. I recommend all of the videos and blog at https://nutritionfacts.org/. It’s free and an unbelievable resource for you as you create healthier foods for you and your family. Your body needs fiber, and you can only get fiber from plants. Animal products do not contain fiber. Fiber – soluble and insoluble – supports heart health, digestive health, the absorption of nutrients, bowel health, and slows down the absorption of carbohydrates, thus giving you more sustained energy than the refined foods from which fiber has been stripped (along with other essential nutrients.)
6. More about fruits, veggies, and other plants.
As I've mentioned, my husband and I enjoy a vegan lifestyle and our diet is based on whole foods that are plant-based. It has been life-changing for me, more than I expected. I am sensitive to the fact that many people would never consider giving up animal products. And this might be you. It’s true that you can modify your diet without giving up animal products. As you can see in my blog, How to Eat Meat, I am able to help guide you to make some adjustments for the benefit of your health. I implore you to make this shift. Interestingly, the benefit of fruits and veggies appears in almost all dietary theories. There a few wacky ones that disallow you from eating fruit, and I highly suggest that you forget such nonsense. Eating fruits and veggies is not a fad or a trend. It’s not hip or a diet. It’s just the smartest thing you can do to help your body thrive.
7. Portion control is key.
If you are struggling with binging or BED (binge-eating disorder), habitually eating so much that you feel stuffed, or debilitating cravings, I urge you to consider getting help. The three keys for being a good, health-conscious eater are the how, when, and what you eat. Although you may not be able to do this right now, you can set the intention to move towards a more sane approach to eating. This includes, in particular, waiting until you are hungry before you eat, and stopping when you are comfortably satisfied. This is a perfect example of how the Five Pillars of the Health Matters System are integrated. The Pillar called Healthy Gut and the one called Unwind from Stress are directly tied into the effect on your body by how you approach food. Inversely, the mindfulness and embodiment practices you will learn through Unwind from Stress will favorably impact your ability to relax around food, make consistent good choices, and move toward a wholesome relationship with food and your body.
8. Regarding those unwanted pounds.
We must include a section on weight loss in this pillar. I urge you to forget about wacky diets. The quick-fix approach works for some good short-term benefits. The programs that run for fourteen and twenty-eight days can really help you cleanse your body, get off the high-fat high-sugar track, and experience relief. It does a body good to have a good cleaning out, especially if the program you are doing leads you to give up some of the foods I’ve encouraged you to dial back. However, for sustained weight loss, a lifestyle change is going to serve you best in the long-run.
Any diet that you start, knowing that it is going to end, will not give you the lasting results that are such a joy to live with.
Not lugging around unwanted weight, not having your knees and back ache due to excess pounds, not looking in the mirror and feeling frustrated and defeated, not hating the foods that you have to eat but resent doing it… you get the picture. I promise you, when you experience weight loss as a side-effect of a new lifestyle that you enjoy, eating foods that taste amazing and that give you an abundance of energy, and that put you in a great mood… you will discover how life-changing this approach really is.
9. Rejoice in the process of nurturing and nourishing your body.
Since the Love Yourself First pillar, it should be more apparent why and how this is the place from which you make your best decisions. Call me an optimist, but when you love yourself first, stuffing yourself with a greasy pepperoni pizza loses its appeal. When you love yourself first, you might turn to a walk instead of a bag of chips to help you relax. When self-love is part of your operating system, you learn to breathe to help yourself fall asleep, rather than using ice cream as a bedtime snack. It’s easy to imagine how many examples we can come up with. Food can be heavenly. I wrote an eBook titled Love How You Look and Feel for the purpose of inspiring you to consider how you approach food. When you think about your relationship with food, what do you realize? If this is an abusive relationship, then you have your work cut out for you. A self-loving, self-nurturing relationship with food and your body can be among the most transformational journeys of your life. This has been true for me.
10. Be patient.
Patience is not my middle name, so if you want results yesterday, I promise that I can relate to that. However, when it comes to improving your diet, choosing something more wholesome over something that might hit your blood sugar out of the park, or that might send a surge of inflammation throughout your entire body, you will need time – and lots of self-love – to make these changes part of your lifestyle. This is why I suggested that you avoid dieting based on deprivation and move toward new habits that make you feel great, and inspire you to stay on the path. Think of your diet (what you eat, not how to lose weight) as an evolutionary process. This week you might want to ditch the artificial sugar. Next month you may be ready to quit processed meat and other forms of saturated fat. Soon you may want to embrace Meatless Mondays, or find new veggies to prepare to your taste. A really good time-frame is one year. Sure, if it were up to me, I’d say jump in with both feet and astonish yourself with an awe-inspiring transformation. But it’s not up to me. This is a decision between you and your body. For me personally, my diet (food choices) have become refined over a very long period. My husband and I are both 66 and we continue to make changes that we believe support our very sporty and active lifestyle.
Like I do at the end of all the pillars, I want to remind you about getting help. I have coaches in a variety of aspects of my life. When someone knows more than I do on a subject where I long to improve, and she or he can lead me to achieve my particular goals, I bring that coach on to my team. It makes sense to me that a coach will guide me to get the results I am looking for faster, smoother, and with less pain, suffering, and frustration.
If you resonate with this, and if you are willing to find out how I can help you move forward with your life, health, food, and body goals, please let me know by completing this form. My passion for guiding you to feel and look better is in my DNA. If you send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject PILLAR and your contact info, I will gladly add you to my Health Matters newsletter plus call you for a complimentary discussion.
Doubtful Sound, New Zealand, March 2019
Copyright ©2019 Rosie Bank