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It's a challenge growing up in North-America and deciding what to eat. We are one of the few cultures around the world that do not have a definable "food culture" or "norm". Instead since the introduction of "nutrition" and "nutritionism" in the mid 20th century we have become a neurotic culture fragmented into an every increasing array of "food-isms" way too cerebrally driven and obsessed with understanding and choosing our food with our brains instead of our biology.
We ALL need to take a collective deep breath in and simplify. Its not about "veganism, vegetarianism, raw-foodism, paleoism, locavorism, slow-food, fast-food, super-food, macro-nutrients, micro-nutrients, ratios ..etc). While this "nomenclature" allows us to discuss, compare and make sense of the healthful and unhealthful elements of food, none of these labels or lifestyles has the key to our ultimate health. We are each individuals that are constantly changing, evolving and adapting. So what might be perfect for us one day or one season will invariably change and need to be flexible and modified.
In the last few years I have hugely appreciated the advice of friends, colleagues & mentors like Brendan, Michael Pollan, @holisticguru, @drjlaithwaite, Jonathan S Foer, Eion Finn, Katrina Bos and Micahel Fisher. But more important than learning "RULES" I have learned from their experience to be mindful, be present and develop a relationship with our food and our health that is joyful and inspired.
Too often we try and approach food in a binary, algorithmic way trying to rationalize nutrition as black and white, right and wrong delineations. We need foremost to develop a relationship with our biology and begin to understand how different foods affect us individually and learn from our own internally driven experience. Unlike wild mamals, our biggest challenge is navigating the dizzy-ing array of consumer advertising and mental dialogue to really tune into our experience of food from the inside out (not the outside in).
STEP ONE: SIMPLIFY
Start with a basic general strategy & lifestyle based on our biology and the fact that we are mamals:
- eat REAL naturally occuring food that is fresh
- eat mostly plant based foods
- include lots of water
- eat small amounts more often
STEP TWO: FOCUS
Focus on the things you want to include not the things you want to exclude or avoid. Instead of driving yourself crazing saying I shouldn't eat sugar, I need to avoid procesed carbs, NO junk food, no GMO..etc. Just focus on "STEP ONE" over and over with your choices and choose increasingly real food, mostly plant based, drink plenty of water, eating small amounts more often. As you find more and more ways to keep developing this "STEP ONE" life-style & culture you will naturally begin to exclude all the foods you "shouldn't eat". Remember we are eating to gain and sustain lfe and health not to fit into a catagory.
STEP THREE: REFLECT
Now start to pay attention. How do you feel mid morning after your breakfast. How do you feel in the gym after your pre-work-out snack, how do you feel after a week of heavy strength training eating mostly plants. If we stick to "real" food we will all do well. All the arguements beyond that are nattering over small gains in health and fitness that will come and go depedning on larger macro-cycles of sleep, rest, stress, seasons, genetics, environment ..etc. Unless your pay-cheque depends on your athletic and biologic performance you are probably doing yourself a greater dis-service "worrying" about food than its worth. Stress and anxiety has a much larger influence on our health than whether or not we ate tofu or organic free-range poultry with our salad or not.
STEP FOUR: REFINE
As you start to understand your basic response to food, energy and your performance, change simple things one at a time. Include more calories as oil and healthy fats and see how you feel. Include more water and see what happens. Eat at slightly different times. With each small change more important than whether you cranked out your PB at the gym or at a race, how does your body FEEL on the inside. Develope this intuition and self knowledge in ever refined degrees cultivating a relationship with your food rather than a regimen.
STEP FIVE: SMILE & FLOW
Again, unless your paycheque depends on your biologic performance and capacity, RELAX more and be at ease with your "REAL" food. Be grateful, cultivate a deep appreciation for the energy in food which is largely derived from the sun and earth. Celebrate the natural flavours and simplicity. Nurture a deep connection to the world around you and the food and nourishment it provides. Be that lion in the jungle that eats intuitively and basks in the sun and doesn't worry about the latest 30 day challenge. Learn from your experience and from your "pack" of friends and mentors. Let your wisdom flow from within, be joyful, be inspired and it will help you RISE.
So while you may be striving to be a "High-Raw-Ovo-Lacto-Vegetarian-part-Vegan-Felxatarian-Locavore" spend more time out of your head and in your body:
- Keep going back to BASICS, be present with your food and yourself
- live the EXPERIENCE of your nutrition.
- The biology we were born into this world is GENIUS, created and refined over countless millenia
- Given the REAL basics our body will do the rest
- The best thing we can do is GET OUT OF OUR OWN WAY, avoid developing neurosese about our food.