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So You Want to be Healthy? (Part 2/2: What do I eat?!)

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,
Ruben Chavez

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?

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So You Want to Be Healthy? (Part 1/2)

So you want to be healthy, huh? You want to get to your ideal weight and make lasting lifestyle changes, right? You want to have more energy and vitality…but there’s just one problem—you don’t know where to start.

Whatever your health or diet goals are, there’s not just one “holy grail” diet or product that will get you there—there are a bunch of different ways to go about it. The question is, are you doing it in a way that you actually like and believe in (and therefore can continue doing)? Because if you’re not, I guarantee you it won’t last. I speak from experience.

Being the healthiest version of yourself won’t happen by making one good choice for one meal or one day or even for a whole week. It’s about making healthy choices consistently over a sustained period of time to achieve the results you want. That’s why diets don’t work and lifestyle changes do.

I want to clear up a great misconception about diet, which is that to get results, you have to eat perfectly all the time. I’m here to tell you that this is completely false. First of all, what does “eating perfectly” look like anyway? It’s an arbitrary goal and can’t really be defined. Perfection is not the goal. It’s not possible or even necessary.

“We live in a world with such an abundance of dietary options, it’s become difficult to answer the most basic survival question: ‘What do I eat?'”

The natural human diet is and always has been more of an art and less of a science. If we look back on human history, it’s evident that humans will eat almost anything we can, from bugs to plants to tree bark to animals and in weird cases, non-food items like glass, paper and even highly refined grain products! (hehe) The question then is not what foods can we eat, but what foods will make us feel the best and help us to thrive. Ultimately, all any of us want from anything, is to feel good.

The challenge is that in today’s modern world, with our advanced scientific knowledge we tend to over think what we should eat and what it means to live a healthy lifestyle. We use our intellect too much and our common sense too little. We seem to have forgotten our most basic natural instincts. You shouldn’t need to look at double-blind studies to know that blueberries are good for you.

That’s why there’s so much grey area when it comes to “clean” or “healthy” eating. Everybody has an opinion and wants to shove their way of eating down your throat. We live in a world that contains such an abundance of options when it comes to food—what I call “dietary noise”—that it’s sometimes difficult to answer the most basic survival question: “What do I eat?”

In my next blog post, I’ll give you 5 easy steps to help you figure that out for yourself.

Cheers,

Ruben

P.S. I promise not to give you some crazy diet regimen or meal plan.