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One of the biggest challenges I’ve had with nutrition is that I’ve never really identified fully with one nutrition ‘community’.
I LOVE veggies and know the importance of eating them, but I’m not a vegan.
I really LOVE eating meat, including super satisfying cuts like bacon, a ribeye or chicken on the bone but I don’t follow the paleo diet.
Most of what I eat is real, whole food but I also eat some processed food and convenience items like protein bars from time to time when I need a quick option on the go, so I’m not a full-on follower of a whole foods philosophy.
For me, shedding rules and regulations around food and carving out my own nutrition philosophy has taken years, but it’s allowed me to have SO much more freedom and enjoyment around food.
A lot of how I eat these days has to do with learning healthy behaviours and changing my mindset about food. After all, humans have thrived on a variety of diets for thousands of years, so the idea that there is one best diet for all of us is hogwash.
If you’re looking for more peace, more results and more enjoyment from food (yes, you can have them all!) this is how you get started…
If you’re tired of playing the on-the-wagon and off-the-wagon game with food then taking the time to craft your own nutrition philosophy will be an extremely worthwhile endeavour. I think you’ve got to get to the point of being at least a bit frustrated with food and diet in order to create something meaningful and worthwhile for yourself.
When clients come to me after following strict diets, we do a lot of work on shedding the “this food or behaviour is good” and “this food or behaviour is bad” habit. I try to get them to understand that a desire for sustainability with eating habits is the ONLY key to lasting, long term results. If we continue to diet and restrict, we will always be playing the on and off the wagon game.
And that shit is exhausting, so let’s put a stop to it. Frankly, the world needs more of YOU and what lights you up and you can’t do that well if you’re worrying about food all the time.
So, you’ll need to start off by understanding that humans are great at adapting well to a variety of environments and diets. There is not one best diet.
You also need to know that if you don’t enjoy how and what you’re eating on some level, it will not last. Remember, sustainability is key to lasting results.
Your nutrition philosophy will also need to reflect your own personal goals and lifestyle. Maybe you’re a long distance runner, perhaps you’re a busy mom and professional or you want to gain muscle. This will affect your philosophy.
And finally, life is not stagnant. Your philosophy is going to change over the years, so be flexible, or at least create a strategy that can weather vacations, work travel, stressful times and super motivated times too.
This is going to be your personal strategy so it better include foods that you think taste great and those that make you feel physically fabulous too. This absolutely takes some trial and error, so here are a few questions to ask yourself first:
If you hate kale, then by all means stop eating it. You can get vitamin A, energizing B vitamins and fibre from lots of other foods instead. Try other greens like spinach, arugula or swiss chard.
For me, meat does this really well. Having red meat with some fat content like a rib-eye steak or some salami in my salad helps to fill me up and prevents all sorts of cravings for other foods later on. Some of my clients include cheese or dairy daily to help increase their physical and mental satisfaction levels.
This goes for ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ foods. How does ice cream make you feel? How about garlic or onions or chickpeas? Luckily, I can tolerate a lot of foods really well. One thing I struggle with is eating super sugary foods (like candy or low-fibre baked goods) without any protein or fibre. I get shaky, headachy and nauseous, so it’s easier to avoid these foods when I consider how they make me feel.
Maybe it’s due to my life long desire to always be forging my own path, but I’ve always shied away from following a certain set of nutrition rules. I like guidelines better!
Remember that your nutrition philosophy needs to be yours, and the more personalized it is, the greater the chance that you’ll be able to actually use it daily in your lifestyle.
Humans tend to crave certainty, so off-the-shelf and done-for-you diets are popular for this reason. We often don’t want to put in the months and years of crafting our own philosophy when we can just pick up a book and follow a set of rules that are already written out for us.
In order to create your own nutrition philosophy you’ll need to adopt the ‘buffet mindset’ (no, this is not like a buffet in Las Vegas). The buffet mindset means that we look at what every diet touts as a golden rule, we consider all the hardcore rules and popular diet dogma and we take what works for us and leave the rest.
Here are some examples of what I’ve taken from popular nutrition information to use for my own philosophy:
Here are some examples of popular nutrition information that I do not follow:
Remember, this doesn’t mean that I’m eating wagon wheels and other processed, sugar laden foods, but I do eat potato chips sometimes. Some of the produce I buy isn’t organic and I do eat sugar a few times a week!
If you’re the type of person that needs permission to not follow every rule in the book, then there you go, I just gave you permission to pick and choose what you put in your nutrition philosophy box.
The biggest challenge you’ll face when crafting your nutrition philosophy is that oftentimes when we’re not following a specific set of rules, were doing the exact opposite. We’re eating anything and everything because freedom!
A philosophy still needs a foundation of tenets, you are just doing the tough, time consuming, conscious work of figuring out what those tenets are, and why you want to keep certain guidelines over others. If we don’t nail down our philosophy, we won’t get results, we won’t enjoy what we’re eating and we won’t be sustainable (remember, that was Step #1).
Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and I’ve gotten to a confident, healthy and happy place with food by mirroring the nutrition philosophies of others and then learning how to add and subtract what did and did not work for me as I went.
And there is a big but here; choosing a certain nutrition guru to follow can be motivating and a great way to learn a ton of quality, science-based information, but you’ll need to be a critical thinker.
Following the nutrition habits of someone you find on instagram or because you think they’ve got a great body can be tempting, but often leads to frustration and frequent diet-hopping. Remember, this is exactly what we are trying to avoid!
Be discerning with your choices, does this individual have any certifications? What is their personal story and journey with food? Have they helped others? Are they sharing quality, research-backed information or fad-based, celebrity endorsed tips? Is their information going to be practical in your life?
I’ll share a bit more of my own nutrition philosophy as an example for you here, and even more importantly I’ll tell you WHY these tenets are part of what I do.
Lana’s Nutrition Philosophy:
What I want to get from food is enjoyment + health + balance.
I pair protein+fibre to keep me fuller for longer, to balance my blood sugar and to support building muscle.
I eat tons of vegetables because I like them and they make me feel great.
I eat foods like cheese, salami, pickles, chocolate, peanut butter and wine because they satisfy me, prevent cravings and help me listen to my hunger cues better.
I eat lots of local and organic food to support my community, care for the environment and eat food that tastes really great!
I drink lots of water to support my digestive and immune systems, I drink coffee because I love it and I drink wine (when I’m not pregnant) as another satisfaction tool.
I listen to my physical AND emotional hunger cues so I can be aware if I’m actually hungry or bored or dealing with emotional stress.
I stick to my guns with what, when and how much I eat so that I avoid resentment and guilt.
Of course what we eat matters, but most diets rarely discuss the mental, social and emotional facets of eating and food behaviour.
If you’re so stressed about preparing your sugar-free-overnight-organic-chia-pudding that you end up chomping chocolate chips the whole time, then what is the point of it all?
If you can eat fabulously at home but then you join your girlfriends on Friday afternoon for drinks and can’t keep your hands off every appetizer on the table due to feeling so deprived, then your nutrition philosophy is not working FOR you.
Some of the best tips I’ve used to change my own behaviour around food (because I was definitely a victim of the two scenarios above!) include the following:
Using these mental and behavioural strategies is paramount to your success in making your nutrition philosophy work for your body, your mind and your life. Food is more than fuel, it is social, it is celebratory, it is a tool for great health and it needs to be respected and understood, not merely controlled.
Now that you’re aware that my own nutrition philosophy could be described as a mostly whole food with some convenience items, mostly local, protein-fibre-fat combining, mindful eating, muscle building, digestion supporting diet. NO wonder it’s not a catchy title, ha!
Good luck on your journey with food, may it be enjoyable, ever-changing and delicious too.
Until next time,