"It's as easy as 1-2-3!" I hear it a lot this time of year: Work out three times a week; eat three balanced meals a day; if you want something that's "bad" for you, count to three before reaching for it.
With all that advice, even grouped in threes, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Luckily, I recently had an opportunity to talk to Jennette Turner, a local natural foods educator. She offered me some good rules regarding health and wellness that actually made sense. And, interestingly, she grouped them in threes, too.
1. The most common mistake I see is when people decide to eliminate a food or type of food from their diet without working on their diet as a whole. For example, imagine someone who decides to give up sweets (either all sweets, or a particular thing, i.e. donuts). For a person used to eating sugary foods several times a day, this is an unrealistic resolution. Most people with addictions to sweets have unstable blood sugar. If you eliminate sweets without changing your diet to provide you with stable energy levels, you are bound to fail, because our bodies can't function without a stable source of energy.
2. A second common mistake is when people try to change too much at once. Our dietary habits are really ingrained, and we have a lot of baggage with them. There's the reality of how food fits into our lives. Dietary logistics, if you will. Do we have time to cook? Are we cooking for others whose needs or tastes we need to accommodate? Do we have to eat at restaurants a lot for [or because of] work? Are we always rushing out the door at the last second in the mornings? And there are emotional components. For so many people, eating ties directly to feelings of self-worth. We're 'good' if we eat the salad, 'bad' if we eat the chocolate cake. Lasting change only happens by examining both our schedule and our psyches, and making changes step by step.
3. Thirdly, people can be too rigid. Changing your diet requires a sense of adventure. It requires you to be open and curious about yourself. How do I feel when I eat this way? Why am I eating this food? If you try and make a change that is too prescriptive, with too many "rules" for yourself - like, 'I can't eat that, I can only eat this' - you wind up in a box where there is no room for discovery. And humans don't want to be in a box! Sooner or later you will get out, and then you'll probably feel guilty or beat yourself up about it. And shame never leads to positive change. When I work with clients, we make changes step by step. I don't tell folks to stop certain foods, I just add new ones. This way, they integrate new habits into their lives at a do-able pace.
1. Be curious. Ask yourself lots of questions. Even if it's not immediately apparent, there is a reason [that you're] eating a pound of cookie dough in the car. If you are open and curious you will learn about yourself, and understanding is the first step toward change.
2. Add positive foods into your diet first, rather than trying to eliminate what you see as negative. For instance, if you have a coke for breakfast every morning, cutting that out without replacing your energy source won't help. If you add a protein, like eggs and toast for example, then you are giving your body something to run on.
3. Let go of the idea that there is a perfect diet. There isn't. No diet is one size that fits all. Even if it works for a while, it won't work forever. Our nutritional needs are constantly changing. Just as our lives and work schedules change, so do our dietary needs.
1. Dark, leafy green vegetables - these provide one of the biggest nutritional bangs for your buck. They are loaded with vitamins and minerals, (as well as) dietary fiber.
2. Grass fed and free range meat products - these are a great source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Both grass fed meat (red meat in particular) and free range eggs are good sources of omega three fatty acids, too.
3. 100% Whole grain hot cereals or breads - these are complex carbohydrates that provide you with steady energy, as well as being a good source of nutrients and fiber.
1. Boxed cold cereals - they are so highly processed at such high temperatures that it is hard for your body to absorb the nutrients in them. Even if they are made with whole grains, they are still not a great choice for breakfast.
2. Imitation foods, i.e. fake meat and cheeses. The more highly processed a food is, the harder it is to digest and the more difficult it is to absorb nutrients. All food has life energy, and the more processed a food is, the more of this energy is depleted. [Basically] if the item in question was invented in a lab and manufactured using industrial machinery, it ain't food, so don't eat it!
3. Refined vegetable oils, such as soybean oil. Oils are damaged by heat, oxygen, and light. When oils are refined, they are exposed to all of these in the process. Additionally, (because) nutrients (are also) refined out, they are even more susceptible to oxidation. These degraded oils cause free radical damage in the human body, which has been found to contribute to aging and disease.
Three better options would be extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and good, ol' butter.
Kindness, patience, and curiosity (wanting to learn about food and/or yourself). Whatever the opposite of being anxious and controlling is, that is where healthy eating resides.
Jennette Turner is a Natural Foods Educator who has been teaching people to eat well and improve their health for over ten years. Jennette earned her Holistic Nutrition degree after three years of intensive study at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City. She is a certified member of the American Association of Drugless Practitioners and a member of the Weston S. Price Nutrition Foundation. Her articles have appeared in publications nationwide. To find out more, go to www.jennette-turner.com.