As promised, here are five simple steps to help you answer the question: “What do I eat?” The first step is a bit wordy, but hang in there ;)
1. Make the distinction between food and food-like products
This isn’t an opinion-based distinction. Food is “any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth.” Pop-Tarts are not nutritious and do not maintain life and growth. By definition, then, Pop-Tarts are not a food.
Any food that is grown or raised naturally with love and in a healthy environment has genuine nutrition. Real, authentic food is naturally nutritious. That’s the reason exists—to nourish. The challenge is that, in today’s commerce-driven world there is an abundance of fake, food-like products masquerading as real food and they confuse people.
Because of this, the distinction between food and food-like products isn’t always black and white. There is some grey area and it’s important to be aware of the varying levels of authenticity of foods.
Why do I use the word “authentic” to describe food and why is authenticity important or relevant? Because authentic food is food that has not been tampered with or processed in a way that makes it less nutritious (or, in some cases, downright harmful). Generally, the more authentic a food is, the more nutritious it is.
Authentic foods are extremely obvious once you open yourself up to this concept. In fact, it’s silly I’m even explaining this concept. Don’t overthink it. Examples include fruits and vegetables of all sorts, unpasteurized cheese or milk, wild or pastured animal meat, whole grains, sprouts, and much more. This doesn’t mean that every one of these foods will agree with you, but what you need to do is figure out the foods that do. It’s really that simple.
Let’s say that the most authentic foods are those found growing wildly in nature or naturally grown in a personal garden. An example would be wild berries you find while hiking or a backyard herb garden or citrus tree. On a scale of 1 to 10, this type of food would be in the range of 8 – 10.
On the other end of the spectrum would be food-like products—food that has been tampered with or processed by modern means to the point that it is radically different in appearance, taste, texture, smell and/or nutritional content from its authentic counterpart. An example would be something like a pastry or imitation cheese spread. On our scale, these things would rate somewhere between 1 and 3.
Here’s an example of the varying levels of authenticity a food can have: Let’s take wheat for example. You can grow a wheat plant naturally or even find certain strains in the wild. That’s an authentic food. But when you take the wheat kernel and remove the fiber and nutritious parts of the grain to make a refined flour, as is the case with the majority of the wheat currently on the market, that is no longer a food but more like a science experiment. It’s a food-like product, manufactured purely for maximum shelf life and to appeal to the masses.
A middle ground would be something like a 100% whole wheat grain bread product with no artificial ingredients added. Something even better than that would be a sprouted wheat bread, where no flour is used and the whole grain is pressed into an unleavened, thick muffin-type loaf. And the next level beyond that would be wheatgrass, which is the grass produced by sprouting wheat kernels.*
Use common sense and keep it simple. Before you eat something, ask yourself: “Would this food have existed 10,000 years ago? Or even 1000 or 100 years ago? The older a food, the more authentic it is and the more nutritious it will be. As nutritionist David Wolfe says, “Whatever simple reasoning cannot ascertain is nonsense and should be dispensed with. Nothing vital is complicated.”
For a more exhaustive explanation of what real food is, see my previous blog post, “Is Your Dietary Compass Broken?”
2. Allow yourself to eat whatever you want
I’m serious. Stop restricting yourself. Immediately. As Eckhart Tolle says, “Whatever you fight, you strengthen and what you resist, persists.”
The part of your brain that controls diet is wired somewhat like a 4-year old. Tell a kid “NO!” with authority and he wants to do the exact opposite. I guess we’re just rebels at heart.
Instead, say, “YES!.” Tell yourself you CAN eat whatever you want—and really mean it, because it’s true. The magical thing about doing this is that, once you realize how certain foods are negatively affecting you, and once you add in more foods that positively affect you, you won’t want or have time for anything that doesn’t make you feel great.
This is why using “cheat days” is not usually a sustainable practice. It inherently implies that you should eat perfectly every other day. Look, if you want a candy bar, eat a damn candy bar—regardless of what day of the week it is! Allow yourself to do that.
Finally, don’t categorize food as either “good” or “bad” but rather as “food” and “non-food.” When you have that down, you can then go a step further and group those into “foods that make me feel good” and “foods that make me feel bad.”
3. Identify your ideal foods and eat them often
When I say “ideal foods” I’m talking about food that makes you feel good long-term on all levels—physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. This means that the idea of eating a certain food is a pleasant one (mental/spiritual), you feel good eating it (emotional), and it agrees or sits well with you (physical).
Your mission: eat these kinds of foods as often as possible. There’s a principle called the Law of Attraction that basically states that like attracts like and what you focus on, you get more of. This universal law is always at work in your life, whether you believe it or not. My goal is not to convince you of this right now but to show you how you can use it to your advantage when it comes to diet.
The way you do this is by focusing on the foods you’re already eating that make you feel good—foods that fit the description above of authentic food. Maybe it’s something as simple an apple. If you like them and currently eat them, try incorporating them into your diet more often. Try finding the most authentic version of an apple you can find. Maybe it’s an heirloom variety you find at your local farmer’s market. Or maybe you know someone who has an apple tree in their backyard. Both of these will have more vitamins, minerals and life force energy than what you can buy at the supermarket or even most health food stores. Also, try finding similar or related foods that you can add in as well. In this case, pears or other fruits are good examples..
The more you focus on the foods that you’re already eating that are good for you, the more you’ll effortlessly attract other foods—maybe ones you’ve never even tried before—into your diet.
As a wellness and lifestyle mentor, I work with people to develop individualized strategies for figuring out what foods are most ideal for them. You can check out my program packages here.
4. Add in more good stuff, don’t worry about subtracting the bad stuff
As you find more foods you like to eat, continue adding those into your diet. This seems simple, but what most people do is focus on removing “bad” foods from their diet and so they tend to create a certain negative momentum or vibration around these “bad” foods and that causes them to never really be removed from their diet.
Instead, focus on adding in the good stuff. This will beget more good stuff and soon you will not have any room for food that slows you down or makes you feel anything less than the superhero you are.
5. Find social support
I believe that a lack of a social support system is the main reason people fail at maintaining healthy lifestyle changes. If you’re often around family or friends who are always eating donuts while you’re eating grilled veggies, it’s tough to make lasting changes, especially if you were just eating donuts with them not too long ago! The social aspect of food should not be overlooked. We are social creatures and need to feel accepted, regardless of what we eat. This lack of acceptance is hard for many people to deal with and many times causes them to fall back into familiar, unhealthy eating habits to make those around them feel more comfortable.
The solution for this is going to be different for everyone. Maybe you can find a someone to be your “lifestyle change buddy.” Maybe that someone is your significant other or a friend or even an acquaintance. You could get involved in a Facebook community or other online forum whose members have similar goals as you. Attend local events at health food stores or go to seminars like the Longevity Now Conference to be around like-minded individuals. The point is, you need to find at least one person to relate to and bounce ideas and feelings off of. It’s often the difference between success and failure.
In my wellness mentorship programs, I am your built in lifestyle change buddy! You get two 1-on-1 phone coaching sessions with me every month as well as lifetime email support. I’m grateful to have experienced and overcome many obstacles when it comes to diet and be able to share my ideas to help you on your journey toward the best health ever.
In abundant health,
P.S. Tell me if this post is helpful or completely not helpful. I truly, truly want to know. What do you want to hear more about?