I've spent over 25 years observing how people eat and what they eat and it's fascinating. What I've noticed is that people are confused and frustrated. One month there will be a study claiming the health benefits of eggs and the next month there will be a study claiming it's a bad source of cholesterol.
I'm going to give you the non-frustrating approach to healthy eating and living. An approach that will be easy to follow for the rest of your life. It's based on two little theories that have helped my clients, over 9,000 Integrative Nutrition students and their clients.
For several years I followed a macrobiotic diet and I counseled and taught others to follow these principles to improve their health. I experienced improved health so I truly believed my clients would too. I got very mixed results. Some people experienced better health, but not everyone. So I began to experiment. Some of them got better if they ate more raw foods, while others got better if they ate less raw foods. I realized that one person's food is another person's poison.
When I was experimenting with my clients on different ways of eating I came across people who experienced improved health by leaving a dysfunctional career or falling in love. It was fascinating! I realized that there's more to health than the foods we eat. Yes, it's good to eat your vegetables, but relationships, career, spirituality and exercise is food for the soul.
These are the two "big concepts" that I've found have the largest impact on my clients and students.
However, there are also a lot more detailed concepts you can play with. But remember, in the spirit of bio-individuality, these are not hard-and-fast rules that work for everyone. Try your own take on them and see if they might be useful for you.
1. Drink more water: There is no right amount of water to drink, but generally the bigger and more active you are, the more you should drink. By increasing the amount of water you drink you can significantly reduce cravings, aches and pains and increase your energy.
2. Practice cooking: You might hate me for saying this, but cooking is a fundamental step to healthier living. By making your own meals you know what's going into them. Meals don't need to take hours to prepare and involve multiple ingredients. Here are some simple recipes to get you started.
3. Increase whole grains: Trust me it's not these types of carbohydrates that have led to the obesity epidemic, but rather the processed goods like doughnuts. Whole grains are some of the best sources of nutritional support and provide long-lasting energy.
4. Increase sweet vegetables: People forget that these exist and they are the perfect medicine for the sweet tooth. Instead of depending on processed sugar, you can add more naturally sweet flavors to your diet and dramatically reduce sweet cravings. This is a great sweet vegetable recipe.
5. Increase leafy green vegetables: These are seriously lacking in the American diet and they are most essential for creating long-lasting health. More specifically they help eliminate depression, improve liver, gallbladder and kidney function.
6. Experiment with protein: The majority of Americans eat way too much protein and mostly in the form of animal meat. Try other forms like beans or soy.
7. Eat less meat, dairy, sugar and processed foods; consume less coffee, alcohol and tobacco: Did you notice I said eat less instead of don't eat? If I told you not to drink coffee or chocolate you would want it all the more. By increasing your whole grains, vegetables and water you will naturally crowd out the more processed items.
8. Develop easy self-care habits: People get so wrapped up in their busy lives that they forget to take care of themselves. This can be something as simple as a relaxing bath and as nice as a day at the spa.
9. Have healthy relationships: I call love the ultimate superfood. A loving, supportive relationship can nourish your soul. What's more is when you feel love and happiness you are more likely to eat better. Reach out to that one person who makes you feel loved and nourished.
10. Find physical activity: You don't need to spend hours at the gym. What gets you moving?
11. Find work you love or a way to love the work you have: So many of us spend 8 hours a day in a job that is unfulfilling and end up stressed out which leads to a slew of health problems. Ask yourself if your job is aligned with your values.
12. Develop a spiritual practice: Some people freak out when I tell them this, but it's really about connecting with yourself. You don't need to start going to church or praying every day. Maybe being spiritual means taking a walk in nature. Finding a spiritual practice can help you slow down and appreciate the non-material things in life.
This is the most laid back health program ever, but it really works. You don't need to follow the steps in order and you can do one step a week. Pick the step that you are most interested in trying. Have you wanted to try a pilates or yoga class? Go for it! Maybe you've wanted to experiment in the kitchen.
I also recommend that you don't do it alone. Everyone has someone in their life that also wants to improve their health. Who is that for you? You can be each other's supportive coach and hold each other accountable for making the small changes to improved health.
I look forward to working with you on this journey to improved health and happiness.