Healthy eating and nutrition can seem like a really bad green smoothie – bitter to taste and hard to swallow. Too many ingredients all chopped up until you don’t know what’s what anymore. The resulting indigestion and fullness but wanting for something else to actually chew. There’s sharp bits that scratch your throat on the way down but you swallow it down thinking you’re doing the right thing. Intuitively, you know this just doesn’t seem right, but everyone says green smoothies are ‘the way’ to powerhouse nutrition so you keep drinking, holding your nose meanwhile…
When did green smoothies and the like become the holy grail of good health and nutrition?
How did green smoothies become the convenient way to eat your greens rather than having some spinach with your eggs in the morning?
How did something so simple like “Vegetables are good for you” become “spoon them as a powder from a container and you are sorted for the day?”
How have we become so confused about what to eat, that in fact, most of us are just more confused then ever. Or the alternative, so obsessed with healthy eating that it well surpasses treating your body as a temple and becomes a fixation on righteous eating and the purity of our food.
When did this..
become more appealing than this…
- What should I eat?
- What is good for me?
- Is sugar good or bad?
- What about fat, doesn’t fat make you fat?
- Can I really eat butter and not worry cholesterol?
- Are carbs really the devil?
- What about carbs after 5pm?
- How much protein is enough/too little/too/too much?
- Is soy good or bad?
- Is raw food the healthy way?
- Do I need to include superfoods into my diet for good health?
- Is organic really better?
Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?
The list of questions is endless and they come up time and time again with family, friends and in the community. It’s a minefield of information out there and quite literally as a consumer, it can be a tricky path to sift through it all and work out what healthy eating means to you.
There are so many strong contributing factors in how we have become what I term ‘food-intolerant.’ Healthy eating isn’t rocket science, it’s mainly common sense and really listening to your body. And you don’t need to go to uni or to study nutrition to do this.
I like to think of it as reacquainting your mind with your body’s natural intelligence and wisdom.
One of the problems lies with the word should and how this information can actually promote more confusion and more guilt. We agonise over what we should be doing, what the doctor tells us we should be doing, or our best friend, or our mum, or the girl over there raving about her green juice and why you should drink them too.
There seems to be a whole lot of ‘should’s’, an even longer list of ‘should not’s.’ In this way, we feel that there is only right and wrong so the term ‘in moderation’ gets completely lost in the mix. And the consequences? Sadly, a mountain load of guilt which can lead people to deciding healthy eating (or more importantly living a healthy balanced lifestyle) is too hard, expensive, troublesome, inconvenient, confusing, frustrating and ultimately not worth pursuing. Cue the potato chips from the vending machine.
Sadly, we have lost our natural intuition with what fuels our body best, as a whole and as individuals. At the Institute of Integrative Nutrition where I am studying to become a Health Coach, one of the founding principles is Bio-individuality – one man’s food is another man’s poison.
I do believe we need to bring back some sense of self-knowing and intuition with the food we eat, how we eat, the exercise we do, the lifestyle we live. Cut the white noise and just listen to what the body is really saying. Deep down we all know that fruit and vegetables are good for us. We may not need to know about the specific antioxidants, flavonoids or vitamins that they contain but their vibrant colours are enough to suggest that they are nature’s superfoods.
But intuition goes beyond that and we can all learn to listen more sensitively to our own body, what it might need, what it likes and dislikes. I like to think of this learning as exploring or an awareness. It doesn’t have to be more scientific than simple awareness.
For example, if you get a stomach ache after you eat ice cream every time perhaps you could look at a potential dairy intolerance of lactose intolerance.Or after you eat meat you feel really heavy and tired and fall asleep quickly after. Perhaps you’re eating a little too much animal protein? Maybe you have been trying more soy products in your diet or experimenting with becoming Vegetarian – soy milk at breakfast, two soy lattes, and some tofu at dinner. But you have noticed more bloating and gas lately? Perhaps you’re not digesting the soy easily and you could try a little less soy exposure over your day.
There are countless examples like these that once you check in with yourself and really notice how you feel after a meal or across the day, you begin to realise your body has it’s own intelligence if only you listen carefully. And trust yourself.
Years ago at the beginning of my health journey, I can quite openly admit I became a bit obsessed with getting it right all the time. I could see how my body was responding positively and I naturally only wanted to take that as far as I could after years of struggling. But very easily it became a prison of healthy eating; I wouldn’t eat out and I did feel socially isolated because no one understood how important it was for me to eat so specifically. It went too far.
Gluten is not my friend and I will do anything to avoid it. But I could see how this sort of behaviour could landslide quickly into an obsession over healthy eating that was not so much a lifestyle but just another diet, without the New York Times Bestseller title. Fortunately it didn’t take me too long to realise, that I didn’t need to and could not control everything. And food is just one aspect of an enjoyable and balanced life.
Interestingly enough, when I started to listen more to body and how food affected me not just physically but mentally and emotionally, it became so much clearer what I really needed or wanted. Those strong cravings for the nutrition-depleted foods seemed not so strong anymore. I didn’t feel ‘naughty’ for having some dessert when I felt the need. Food wasn’t bad or good anymore.
Cooking my mum’s Macaroni Cheese (in as much a gluten free and cow milk free way as possible) nurtures me in a way that it did when I was a child. It’s a beautiful reminder of love and nourish meant, not something to deprive myself of.
We do have the ability to find our way out of the healthy eating maze and out into the world of enjoying food and enjoying our lives, without the guilt. Because isn’t that the point of enjoying a healthy lifestyle, to enjoy our lives with our loved ones?
Try this one out and see if it changes how you feel about healthy eating…
Food fuels me but it also nurtures me.
Next post, I will delve a little deeper into some food trends, fads and superfoods that we are told WE MUST EAT and why it’s worth experimenting with some and maybe letting go of some others. Experiment is a key word here! If the fumes from opening a tub of Supergreens/Spirulina/Wheatgrass powder makes you want to bring up your breakfast, the next post might interest you. Let’s just say greens powders are not my friend either….