This is the ninth of a 12-part series titled “Baby Steps.” On the first of each month, I post 1 tiny step toward better health that you can take every day for that month – practically without trying. Soon, that tiny step will be part of your daily routine, and you won’t even remember you never did it before. The next month, add the next baby step. By the end of 2016, you’ll have accumulated 12 new healthy habits, and you’ll notice a difference – not day to day, perhaps, but definitely between any before and after photos you might take and any journal entries you might make. Check in during each month with a comment below and/or on Facebook – I’d love to hear about your progress!
If you’re new to the Baby Step series, you can catch up on the first 8 months by following the links below:
- starting your day with lemon water
- pausing to breathe
- eating your greens daily,
- turning off all screens at least 30-60 minutes before bedtime
- switching to sea salt in your kitchen.
- asking yourself, “Why is this happening for me (as opposed to to me)?”
- curing the sugar blues
- moving from “I have to” to “I get to”
If you’ve been following along all year, how’s that all going? This month finds us ¾ of the way through the year and the series: what’s been easy? what’s been more difficult?
As a health coach, I’m often asked, “What should I be eating? Should I eat grains? Is it okay to eat dairy?” I also observe many people who look to the latest diet book to tell them how to eat. But then one author says we should all be eating a vegan diet; another says we should be focusing on a Paleo lifestyle; a third preaches the benefits of macrobiotics; etc. Whom to believe?
As a nation, we’ve gotten a bit lazy about our food, not just about cooking at home but about what we choose to eat: we prefer to be told what to do, perhaps because if we do as we’re told and “it doesn’t work,” there is someone else to blame? Or is it because there’s just so much conflicting information out there?
One of the fundamental principles of Integrative Nutrition® is bio-individuality, the idea that one person’s food is another’s poison. That sounds pretty harsh, and if you’re eating clean whole foods cooked from scratch at home and don’t have any life-threatening allergies to food or medical conditions such as celiac disease, you’re unlikely to run into a truly “poisonous” item unless it’s an unvetted mushroom.
What bio-individuality really means is that it is up to each person to do the work of figuring out what sort of diet is best suited to his/her own body: it’s a celebration of our uniqueness. There are certainly lots of specialists you can work with and questionnaires you can fill out to determine the potentially best choice diet based on your Ayurvedic type, your blood type, your metabolic type…and ultimately it comes down to doing the research and treating yourself as a test subject:
- Have you ever wondered whether you’re meant to be vegetarian or vegan? Don’t just read about it – try it.
- Are you a vegetarian or vegan who isn’t feeling 100%? Try incorporating some fish and/or eggs into your diet.
- Do you suspect you might have a sensitivity to gluten or dairy? Try an elimination diet.
- Do you feel unwell despite the fact that every doctor’s visit tells you that you’re just fine? See if changing your eating style makes a difference.
This month, as back-to-school styles flood the news, the ads, and the stores, I encourage you to go back to school yourself: this time, you are the subject of study. Try on a new eating style you’ve been considering. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Maybe, like Mikey of Life cereal fame, you’ll like it! (Am I dating myself with that reference?)
The only rule? Stick to whole foods. Whatever (within reason) you decide to try, keep the following in mind – these tips apply to any sort of eating style:
- Remember to stick to whole, close to the source foods and use them to “crowd out” the highly processed/packaged foods in your life. Choose from vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, full fat dairy, wild caught fish, and pastured meats – whatever fits your plan and your budget.This experiment is not about calorie restriction; rather, it’s about eating in moderation. You shouldn’t ever feel ravenously hungry, neither should you feel ridiculously stuffed.
- Likewise, it’s not about denial: whether you’re eating animal proteins and/or whole grains or not, focus on large quantities of vegetables – no healthful eating style eliminates these – and allow yourself an occasional treat, choosing the healthiest and yet most satisfying one you know.
- Keep it simple: your meals don’t need to be complicated. It’s the peak of the farmers’ market season in most areas of the country, so focus on filling more of your plate with fruits and vegetables, cooked or raw. Try to prepare meals in such a way that you can imagine yourself sticking to the plan for as long as it’s working for you.
- Keep a food journal: don’t just write down what/how much you ate: write about how you feel right after eating, an hour after eating, 3 hours later. What keeps you satisfied, and what doesn’t last? How’s your energy level? How’s your sleep? How do your workouts feel?
Let me know in the comments or on Facebook what you’re trying on for your eating lifestyle and how it’s going.
If you’re still not sure you can make a change on your own, consider hiring a health coach to help you – my role is not to tell you what to eat but to help you identify the diet and lifestyle choices that work for you and to coach you into reaching your health goals! If you’re in the Ann Arbor area, consider signing up for my Fall 2016 Supper + Support series, which will focus on helping you make some of these decisions, creating the meal plan tailored to you, and acquiring some of the hands-on cooking skills to make it happen.