You would probably expect someone like me who has studied nutrition, to completely agree with the statement ‘you are what you eat’. After all, my job is to convince you that you need to eat nutritious foods. Eat healthy become healthy, it’s simple, right? Sorry folks, I wish it was that simple.
But you already know this! Every time you switch on the TV, read a magazine article or link in to social media, conflicting ‘truths’ abound as to what is good and bad food. First fat is bad! You should eat low-fat to avoid heart disease! Now that’s wrong! Now fat is good and you need full fat! Eggs are the best source of protein? What about the cholesterol … bad for you? Meat, is it bad or does it have a high bio-availability of protein and other nutrients that are good for you? And on it goes until most of us don’t know what to believe or who to trust. I wish I could tell you I’m about to make things crystal clear but that would just be another lie. I can tell you from my own experience though, that a good understanding of nutrition allows me to see through a lot of this apparent confusion for what it really is. But even this knowledge doesn’t make the journey of implementing healthier eating any less challenging.
I have come to the conclusion that unless you are someone like Hugh Fernley Whittingstall, running a small holding, growing and making your own food and producing your own meat and dairy, there is no way to know with any certainty that what you are eating is healthy. The Hugh’s of this world can ignore the media hype but the rest of us have very little control over food quality and its possible effect on our health. We are in the vulnerable position of having to trust others. People are unaware of the changing nature of food! The egg of fifty years ago looks the same today but nutritionally it is very different. In its purest form, eggs and most other natural foods can only truly claim their rightful status if they have been grown or fed naturally in a natural environment.
The Illness, pharma, healthcare including [gyms /health stores /alternatives] and food industries are big businesses that are busy selling ‘health’ in one form or another. They battle it out in the public arena like the gladiators of old. They need to win your trust to keep you invested! But this constant stream of media sensationalism creates a great deal of fear and solves nothing. Ongoing stress is a waste of your valuable energy and is NOT good for your health. Think about this for a moment if your health is their concern, what if by some miracle we all became well enough tomorrow not to need them – what would that mean for business? There is a place in our lives for all of these services but see it also for what it is – business. The only person that really cares about your health is you! And, you are not powerless in this! The good news is, looking after your health is a choice you can make at any time. It will be challenging! Our society is not currently set up to make this easy for you. More good news – if you are reading this blog you are still alive. What you are eating hasn’t killed you – YET 🙂 Read on if you want to find out how to keep calm and carry on in the face of forces outside of your control. There is a lot you can do for yourself in the pursuit of better health.
Calm your over-fed head!
Today our minds are over-fed with information which can be both good and bad. In order to remain sane you need to be able to safely filter out what is not necessary for you to know. ‘The work’ of Byron Katie could provide a good method of filtering. She says – consider there are only three types of business, your, theirs and the world’s / God’s.
Next time you hear a tightly held belief of yours about food or health getting smashed to pieces, try filtering it. For example, it recently hit the headlines that some scientist declared ‘coconut oil’ as poison, when it is generally viewed as a health food. So, unless you are directly involved in producing or selling coconut oil, is it your business? It might be if you are using coconut oil and are now unsure of its safety or reputed health benefits. To make up your own mind you will need to check into this claim or the product in more detail. Otherwise, don’t waste any more time thinking about it. It’s someone else’s business. Underlying all of this media ‘dynamite’ is a constantly changing world of other people’s business. Bring all matters of health back to you and what you have control over. Minding your own business in this way will reduce your stress levels considerably. It is impossible for anyone to know everything.
It’s all going on always!
Inside and out … the word for this is ‘dynamic’ meaning… a system or process characterized by constant change, activity or progress. The only thing certain is change. This is the nature of food, of life and of you. Is it realistic then for us to expect things to stay the same or to believe anything we are told with absolute certainty? No, but we love things to stay the same, it makes us feel safe.
We had some really good weather this summer in Ireland so I got to wear sandals. Climate change! 🙂 So, I did an unremarkable thing and painted my toenails. A few weeks on the varnish had traveled down the nails. Growth and change! It reminded me that every living body is dynamic. We don’t see it that way most of the time but it’s all going on. Did you know your nails fully regrow within 3-6 months! Your hair grows 1 to 1.5cm per month. Your skin regenerates approximately every 27 days. Your intestine is the most highly regenerative organ in the body with new cells in place every 5-7 days. Even your bones are in a constant state of renewal. It takes roughly 10 years for your whole body to regenerate. Dynamic or what? And, though we think we want certainty, what we actually have always, all the time, is constant change. The good thing about change is it brings with it fresh hope. Start to feed your body more natural foods that contain the nutrients it needs and it’s ready to respond by functioning with ease because this is what it does… naturally. You don’t have to make this happen, you are just facilitating a natural process. Eating lots of artificial and unnatural foods means your body has to work extra hard to stay well, but it also does this naturally. At some point though, it may start to signal that all is not well, by producing symptoms of dis-ease!
Healthy eating has changed even since I first took an interest years ago when the saying ‘you are what you eat’ was a way of either encouraging or shaming people into healthy eating. There was more of a ‘take it or leave it attitude’ then. It was ‘alternative’ and perceived as something reserved for the hippy, woo-woo types. The fact that over 20 years later it is at the forefront of our everyday lives is not necessarily progress. What was considered alternative has now become mainstream and necessary for survival. The health of the human race is in crisis like never before. Many believe that healthy eating plays an important role in turning the tide of ill health on an individual and global level.
What can you eat?
A good rule of thumb for eating healthy is to include as much natural whole (unprocessed) foods and drinks in your diet as possible. Growing your own is great, organic if you can get it is super. I have included some go to links at the end of this blog. The closer any food is to its natural state the better. Vegetables, fruit, water, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes and good quality unprocessed meat and fish, the best quality fats and dairy you can get, all of these can form the basis of a healthy eating plan. Eat regularly and well but don’t overeat. Have a treat occasionally. A change may involve more home cooking and being better prepared with healthy recipes. If you can aim to achieve this 70/80 percent of the time – that’s enough. Trying to reach perfection is not healthy either.
The further you move away from recognizable and natural the more vulnerable you become. It is anyone’s guess what hidden nasties are lurking in processed foods, pharmaceuticals and the products of industrial giants. Not only do you need micro vision to read product labels, you also need to be an expert in chemistry to decipher the list of ingredients. To drive this point home, click here for a link to an article deciphering a whopping 95 ingredients in a slice of carrot cake produced for Sainsbury’s.
You are not just what you eat!
What you eat is important but it’s not the full story. It would be just as true to say you are what you think, how you feel, where your live, what you breath, whom you interact with. These are also just as important to your health and wellbeing. During this past summer, I visited a family I know that grow their own vegetables and fruit and came away with a box of freshly picked produce. I can’t tell you how long it had been since I’d last shelled beans. It just struck me as amazing how these pods full of beans had grown from a tiny seed that would soon be cooked and eaten, providing nourishment for me. Human labour, soil, sun, air, rain and time, all played a part in making these beans manifest. Our own life cycle is not that much different. We need the right nourishment, the right environment and the right support from others to flourish. And yes, the beans got gobbled up and one day we too will disappear into a hole – in the ground! 🙂 So why bother?
I often hear this statement from people who want to make a point that healthy eating is a waste of time “sure, you’re going to die anyway”. I get it, we hear so much in the media about all that we need to do to reduce risk factors and prevent obesity, chronic diseases and death. But is this really your concern or are we into the health concerns of other people’s business again. I think it’s the latter. Our government is going to look really bad if even our children are obese. They need to show they are doing something about it. Not to mention the cost to the HSE of this rampant ill-health. Lots of ‘concern’ there. Even the words risk, chronic disease, death and that awful word ‘obese’ have such a negative impact on our minds. Without even fully realizing it we end up focused on all this negativity, cave in (what’s the point) and do nothing. Bring it back to you. Yes, one day you will die, that’s god’s business, but are you actually dying today? If not, shift your focus to living well today. Your body is your responsibility, the vehicle that carries you through this life. If you want it to serve you well, look after it.
In nutritional therapy the focus is not only on diet but also sleep, movement, emotional, mental and spiritual health. Balance! In my humble opinion ‘stress’ is a major contributing factor to health. Managing stress is no less important than healthy eating. Stress affects us on all levels, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Besides minding your own business, one of the best lessons you can learn in life is to master how to remain calm…. These things are within your control.
I wish you well 🙂
- The Organic Supermarket – Website here
- Green Earth Organics – Website here
- Bord Bia Farmer’s Market List – Website here
Recommended reading: The 4 Pillar Plan-Dr. Rangan Chatterjee Website here