Be Light and Healthy

Back to Basics – Simplifying Eating

Posted on: February 6, 2011

“Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly Plants.”  Michael Pollan

Eating was once a simple and enjoyable experience.  In addition to providing sustenance for the body, the experience nourished the soul.  Families ate wholesome, unprocessed foods prepared at home while they enjoyed each other’s company.  Our ancestors lived in synchronicity with nature and ate locally grown, seasonal food that provided nutrients and energy to sustain their active lives.   Animal protein was not the cornerstone of a meal, and sweets were indulgences that were enjoyed on special occasions.   

Today Americans are constantly bombarded with advice on what to eat.  Processed foods are heavily advertised and marketed to children as well as adults.  There are hundreds of diet books alleging to have the solution to weight issues.  Years ago the food industry realized the demand for food, real food, was limited.  Consequently, their marketing began to focus on health claims and individual nutrients.  Remember the oat bran craze, the low-fat craze, the omega-3 craze?  Nutrition is a fledgling science rife with conflicting findings that are constantly changing.  The intricate synergies of nutrients and antioxidants at work in whole foods are still not understood by scientists. 

Because they are natural creatures, animals follow their instincts when it comes to eating.  We are natural creatures too, and each of us is born with the instinct to know how much and what to eat to uniquely nourish ourselves.  Left to follow their instincts, young children only eat when they are hungry.  If they are provided with a variety of healthy choices, they will naturally choose what their bodies need.  Unfortunately, we become conditioned from a very young age to renounce our natural instincts.  The onslaught of processed foods full of unrecognizable ingredients diminishes our senses and taste buds while also leaving us starving for nutrients.  Our bodies were not created and have not evolved to deal with the chemicals that are rampant in processed foods.  In addition, society conditions us to distrust our instincts.  Food is sold in individual serving sizes because it is assumed we can no longer discern when we are full and stop eating.   People often choose their food based on the number of calories, convenience, the omission or addition of a specific nutrient, or a health claim.  Americans have been inundated with snippets of marketing propaganda and advertising that have left them confused about what to eat.  Many people believe that a popular O-shaped breakfast cereal is a whole grain due to misleading claims.  It is not.  A whole grain includes the endosperm, germ, and bran of the grain.  Examples of whole grains include barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, rice, spelt, and wheat berries. 

One way to simplify navigating through America’s food maze is by opting to eat whole foods instead of processed foods.  Whole, unprocessed foods are nutritional powerhouses.  Diets rich in plants provide fiber, antioxidants, and protection against many diseases.  Unfortunately, we rarely see celebrities touting the benefits of broccoli or advertisements urging us to eat more greens.  Some people are under the impression that it costs more to buy healthy food.  Typical Americans are spending their money on calories not healthy, nourishing food.  When I was eating a junk food diet, I never hesitated to spend $7 for a hot fudge sundae.  When I started eating healthy, I initially found myself foregoing organic produce due to the price.  I was definitely getting more calories for my dollar with the hot fudge sundae.  When I paused and thought about it, I quickly realized that the better deal was the organic produce because I was getting a lot more healthy nutrients and antioxidants for my dollar.  I believe that spending money on wholesome food is an investment in our health and in the long-term will save us money in medical costs.

If you pause for a moment and compare eating an apple versus an individual serving snack pack, the apple’s health benefits far outweigh those of a processed snack.  When I started eating healthy foods, the voices in my head would sometimes urge me to forego the apple in favor of junk food.  By opting to eat the apple, I learned how good it tasted and made me feel.  Eventually, I lost my desire for the processed junk foods.  Admittedly, choosing to eat whole foods typically requires more time spent in food preparation.  Think of it as an investment in your health and the quality of your life.  I’d much rather spend a little more time every day preparing healthy foods than visiting conventional medical establishments and living with a diminished quality of life due to failing health.  In addition, teaching children to eat healthy and spending quality time cooking with them is a gift that will last them a lifetime.       

I invite you to go back to the basics and simplify eating by adding more whole foods into your diet and tuning into your natural instincts.  After years of being inundated with food recommendations from a multitude of sources, trusting your instincts may initially be disconcerting.  In addition, if you’ve been surviving on a diet full of processed foods, it will take time to adjust to whole foods.  Be gentle with yourself as you slowly incorporate more healthy choices into your life with an emphasis on plants.  Instead of building a meal around animal protein, consider including it as a smaller part of your meal.  In addition, pause to sense how much food your body truly needs for optimum health and energy.  I invite you to tell your friends and sign up for weekly e-mail updates to get informed and inspired to Be Light and Healthy.  When you sign up, you will receive an e-mail requesting you confirm your subscription.  After you confirm, you will begin receiving weekly updates.  

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