By Christine Garvin
Adkins. Vegan. Raw foods. South Beach. Ornish. Ayurveda. Zone. Nourishing Traditions. Candida diet.
OH MY GOD.
What is a person to do? Low-carb? High-carb? Low-fat? High-fat? A combination? Sometimes it feels as if jumping out the window would be an easier proposition.
Ok, let me start off by saying all of these diets have some credibility and will work for some people. Probably all of them will work for everyone for all least for a short period of time. But these (and all) diets are almost always completely the opposite of what a person had been eating (hence the probability toward weight loss–or weight gain, if that is what is needed in the situation). And because our brains are wired to maintain homeostasis–due to a little something we like to call “habits”–completely changing the way you eat can work for a little while, but soon enough your body is going to pull you back to the old way of doing things.
Guess what? It’s not as simple as lack of will-power as the health “experts” try and beat you over the head with.
So how do you go about making a healthy change in what you put in your body? Take it slow. Take it slow.
Did I mention you should take it slow?
I went from being a strict vegan for five years to attempting to eat a Nourishing Traditions diet (high protein diet, with a focus on organ meats) in a month’s time. My mind was saying, “Yes, yes, yes! Let’s do this!” but my body was saying, “Whoa, sister. You expect me to start ingesting what exactly?” And it really took at least two years for my body to catch up to my (monkey) mind. So instead I recommend letting your system slowly integrate the information you are taking in about leading a healthier lifestyle. Depending on where you are at in the real food continuum (and by “real” food, I mean whole, unprocessed foods), a great place to start is moving in the direction of eating pre-1950.
I see that you are asking “why pre-1950? Haven’t things improved tremendously since then?” Uh, yeah…the answer is not really.
As with anything, there are pros and cons to the mass industrialization of food. But we are really only now beginning to see the extreme negative consequences this shift in our food culture has had on both our environment and our health. Pesticides have been linked with many cancers and birth defects, and processed foods have been connected to the dramatic rise in diabetes and obesity. In terms of disease, we thought we found the answer when Louis Pasteur discovered that bacteria was the “cause” of disease, and all we had to do was eliminate the little buggers to keep/reclaim our health. This “kill or be killed” approach is one we use in many respects–man vs. nature, man vs. man–and is showing its cracks like never before in (recent) history.
So going back to the most common way we ate before the 1950s:
- Whole, unprocessed fruits, vegetables, grains and meats from local farms
- Fresh, unpasteurized milks and juices (if you are worried about bacteria, take some grape seed extract or raw apple cider vinegar before sipping on these drinks, although the raw milk industry is much more closely monitored than the pasteurized milk industry)
- Wild fish from waters that are known for being the least toxic. You can get your Pocket Seafood Selector at http://www.edf.org/documents/1980_pocket_seafood_selector.pdf.
- Diversify your grain intake (not always wheat-based), and cut how many grains you eat by at least half.
By taking these four simple steps, you will doing so much for your health and the environment that you won’t even completely comprehend the benefits. Just to name a few:
- Your sugar intake will go down tremendously by not eating packaged foods and reducing the amount of grains you eat, which means you are beating signs of pre- or full blown-diabetes to a pulp. You are also helping out your liver and heart at the same time, and more than likely, reducing your cholesterol.
- Organic foods have been found to have twice the amount of nutrients as non-organic foods. This not only means more vitamins and minerals to keep us healthy and moving through our day, but all the nutrients we need to ward off cancer, Alzheimer’s, stroke, depression, and every other illness.
- You get a power-packed punch of brain-enhancing Omega-3s from wild fish without the antibiotic residue that wrecks havoc on our digestive system.
- Drinking raw milk means you are getting the good bacteria that the antibiotics in commercial meats, milk, and fish are destroying (along with that round of antibiotics your doctor gives you any time you come in with a sniffle). Good bacteria, or probiotics, are essential to proper digestion. If you can’t get raw milk, or are allergic to milk like I am, be sure to eat other foods that contain probiotics, such as yogurt (there is a new coconut yogurt on the market), raw sauerkraut, and fermented beverages such as kombucha. Having good bacteria in your stomach is the MOST important aspect of good digestive health. Believe it, my friend.
The environment thanks you: eating local, free range meats means a decrease in the amount of energy used for the production of grains fed to commercially-raised animals (plus the animals are often taken much better care of during their lives instead of being raised in a factory farm); soil becomes richer without pesticide use, which means better food for not only us, but the animals and insects that are a necessary part of our ecosystem’s survival; food is not driven, flown, or shipped for thousands of miles that use incredible amounts of fuel to get to us.
Begin with incorporating these four aspects into your daily life to truly participate in a holistic approach to eating. As these become a part of who you are over time (and again, give yourself TIME), then you can tweak other aspects if you are having particular health concerns or want to lose weight (unless of course you have an advanced case of a disease–at those moments, you may have to do more, and only a trusted health practitioner can help you with that decision). Along the way, you can pay attention to what foods make you feel good an hour, two, or four after you eat them, and what foods make you feel like crap. But this is most certainly about a lifestyle change, and not a three-month-radical-diet-change extravaganza. Not worth it, I tell ya.
And please remember restriction always causes at least an emotional, and usually physical, boomerang affect in the long run. Decide right now to follow your heart and instincts around the changes you make in your life, not based on what the latest famous MD says is the perfect diet.
Author biography: Christine Garvin, MA, NE, holds a Masters in Holistic Health Education and is a certified Nutrition Educator. fter many years of trying to eat the “perfect” diet (which completely depends on who you are talking to and when), and to stay at home on Friday nights so as to not be swayed to drink a glass of wine, she decided to return to her fun roots, but to bring along all the ways she was educated about health and wellbeing in the interim. Her many trials and failures led her to believe that life is all about balance, and this is what a person living holistically strives to do.