My ‘Eating Well’ Philosophy
Let’s face it: dieting is hard. It’s restrictive, it puts unrealistic expectations on us, and a small slip-up can easily become a binge when guilt takes over and sends us spiraling in to bad habits. We approach food with an ‘all or nothing’ attitude, and end up see-sawing between kale and Krispy Kremes. So it’s time to wave goodbye to ‘the diet’ and welcome ‘conscious eating’ … okay so I made that term up, but if people can ‘consciously uncouple’, then they can certainly consciously eat.
So let’s forget die-hard diets and focus on educating ourselves about food instead. The main question to ask yourself is this:
Does it nourish my body?
Food is to be enjoyed, but it’s also the delivery mechanism for the building blocks our body needs to be healthy. All the major eating philosophies circulating around at the moment – raw food diets, paleo, low-sugar, 5:2 – have one thing in common: they promote whole foods. The transition from processed, refined products to natural produce is the smartest thing you can do for your body. That’s the kind of food your body evolved with, and it’s the kind of nutrition that it knows how to process.
Overly refined foods are depleted of their vitamins and minerals through their processing and storage. Some vitamins are so fragile that up to 70% are lost by the time they get to your table.
So in a nutshell, nourishing foods deliver your body everything it needs to achieve your health goals. The easiest way to achieve this? Most (if not all) of your grocery shopping should come from the periphery of the supermarket, and not from the aisles. That’s where the fruits, veggies, and meats are. So stick to the outside, and don’t wander in to dangerous territory of packaged goods too often.
Every body is different, and required different nutrition. That’s why I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all diet. But for most people, the following rules should be their guide:
Moderate carbohydrate intake, all comprised of whole-food carbohydrate sources and limited sugars.
Ditch flours, breads, and sugars (yep! I’m including honey and maple syrup in there) in favour of a rainbow of vegetables. Sugars spike insulin, training the body to store fat. That insulin then does the reverse and lowers blood sugar, tricking your body in to thinking it’s hungry when it’s not. We then overeat carbohydrates again and perpetuate the cycle. The end result is unhealthy weight gain and diabetes risk.
So why less complex carbohydrates then? We also live in the age of dysbiosis, where our good bacteria are upset by alcohol, stress, and medications. The end result is a degree of imbalance that allows “bad bacteria” to ferment the carbohydrates in our gut, creating gas and inflammation. They eat them as a food source and in return cause illness. That doesn’t mean I think carbohydrates are bad, but rather that modern humans have such a chronic gut flora imbalance that unfortunately, the bacteria can digest the carbohydrates before we do and cause serious discomfort.
In saying that, I don’t think that grains are the culprit here, and I don’t think that people should be removing these things from their diets if they have no problem with them. Oats, for example, are amazing at lowering blood cholesterol, and feed good gut bacteria. They’re also used in herbal medicine as a relaxing ‘nervine tonic’. So if you didn’t need to, why would you cut them out?
Make 50-60% of every plate out of multi-coloured vegetables, and if you want to, up to a third of that can be root veggies like sweet potato, or whole grains that your body can handle without symptoms. Banish sugar (and artificial sweeteners) but a few pieces of fruit won’t hurt you unless you suffer fructose malabsorption (again, not everyone does!)
Moderate fat intake, focusing on unsaturated fats.
Fats are not the bad guy anymore, not even saturated fats. In saying that, it’s not a free-for-all either, and there is a limit to how much your body needs for physiological processes. A teaspoon or two of uncooked olive or coconut oil is fine, half an avocado is fine, oily fish and small amounts of fat on meats are fine, but deep-fried foods, cheap fatty cuts of meat, and half a cup of salad dressing simply provides too much energy for the average body to handle – unless you are trekking across the north pole or climbing Everest.
Protein at every meal
Protein seems to be the realm of body builders and gym junkies, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s more than muscle: it’s skin, it’s hormones (and therefore energy) and it’s strong tissues throughout the body. It also lowers the glycaemic response of carbohydrates, meaning that the insulin response will be lowered.