Food…We eat it every single day, but do we really know what we are eating or how it affects our wellbeing each day? I used to consider anything I could get my hands on and eat as food. Most of it came in a box, a plastic wrapper, or the non-vegetable frozen “food” section (chicken fries and ketchup anyone?!). I basically lived off that “food” for years.
The thing I realize now was just how crappy I used to feel on a daily basis. I was always tired, but just thought I needed more sleep or caffeine. I couldn’t stay awake or focused for class, but just thought I had problems with attention or the material must have been boring. I would get irritable and angry easily, but I just labeled myself as having “anger issues.” Physically, I was ashamed of the acne I had yet to “grow out of” and the stubborn fat around my face and waist I could never burn on the treadmill or with more crunches. I had asthma that limited my ability to enjoy sports and other physical activities. All of these things depressed me. They led me to believe my body was broken and needed to rely on medication to just get me through each day. Are you able to relate to any of this yet?
To the left is me at the vibrant age of twenty-one. True, my diet was pretty terrible. You eat whole grain cereals with milk, yogurt with granola, frozen chicken tenders with a little cheese on top (that’s considered Paleo, right?), the healthy frozen meals, granola bars, cottage cheese, oatmeal, lunch meat sandwiches on whole wheat bread, and some salad with balsamic dressing. Well, I did too once I had more money after graduating, and I thought I was eating pretty healthy. Yet, my problems persisted.
It wasn’t until I completed my first Whole30 almost two years ago that my relationship with food and perception of what I considered to be food was changed forever. I wonder now if the majority of what I had been eating could even be considered food. I must admit, I’d never thoroughly inspected food ingredients in my entire life. It was a very challenging thirty days. However, the lessons I learned about food and its effect on my body were invaluable. I now had an awareness of the impact food can have on one’s body. Awareness is such an important tool to have in your backpack (thanks ShaunT, I like that idea) when you want to go on a transformational journey.
I want to help you realize the food you eat can either make you sick and feel like crap or be your medicine that enhances your health. You might be wondering, “how can I tell if something is healthy?” Well, I have had conversations with clients, friends, and family about food items and whether or not they could be considered “healthy.” A majority of the time, people make their decision based on nutrition facts; calories and the breakdown of fat, carbohydrates, and protein. “What about the ingredients,” I ask. Then, they will look at the ingredients and back at me with a look of confusion on their face. “I am not really sure what half of those ingredients are. I never read them.” Well, you should.
If you have ever looked at the ingredients and had this thought, let me ask you this. Do you buy it and eat it anyway or feed it to your family and children? Have you ever wondered what those ingredients actually are and the effect they may take on your body? The majority of what people eat can hardly be considered food. It’s been processed so much and filled with chemicals that are designed to be highly addictive and keep us coming back for more. I’d say a majority of things are more a food-like-substance than anything else. I need to thank Dr. Mark Hyman for coining that term. We should add that to the dictionary if “omg” and “lol” are being added.
I am grateful to have had the pleasure of listening to and meeting Dr. Mark Hyman, one of the leading experts in functional medicine. I love this quote by him. “There is no such thing as junk food. There is junk. And there is food.” According to the dictionary, the definition of food is “any nutritioussubstance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth.” Nutritious essentially means something that gives us strength and helps us grow. Now, think about the idea of maintaining life. How can we call something food when it is contributing to disease and eventually death?
You need to start thinking of food as medicine, not just something with calories you eat to provide you with energy to live. Food is information that plays a vital part in controlling your body and mind. It has the power to restore vibrant health more than anymedication you will ever be prescribed. Healthcare needs to shift into the mindset of food and lifestyle first and medication as a last resort. Food also connects you to almost everything that matters in your life; your family, friends, and community. Dr. Mark Hyman even mentions in his book that food has the power to reduce poverty, violence, homicide, and suicide. Think about that for a minute and ask yourself, “what the heck have I been eating and how does it affect my life, the other’s lives, and the planet?”
Luckily, we are in the midst of a health revolution. It’s not a war like the one our founding fathers fought in the 1700s. However, it’s a fight for our freedom and lives all the same. People are suffering, becoming prisoners to their bodies and diseases, and dying from the “food” they eat each day. Have you seen the shows on television about individuals and families who weigh over 600 pounds or a ton collectively? Do you know someone that has to take 10-20 medications each day just to stay alive? Yes, these are some of the more extreme examples. However, there are many others suffering, like I was, from health conditions rooted in problems from the “food” they are consuming each day.
Thankfully, food and beverage companies are beginning to become more transparent in their ingredients and processes. Big food companies are noticing the demand for healthier food choices that are less processed and have less added sugar and chemicals. Other companies that focus on real, whole ingredients are booming. There are hundreds, if not thousands of blogs focused on sharing recipes with fresh, whole ingredients for every diet out there. There are food delivery services that make it easier for busy families to cook nutritious meals at home. I don’t even know how many companies there are that advertise weight loss programs with daily supplements and meal replacement shakes. Gyms and fitness studios are popping up on every corner. Instagram is full of fitness models and experts showing us the next best workout to lose weight or burn fat.
All of these are great (except maybe the weight loss programs and some of their ridiculous claims). However, it may be too much information to take in and digest (get the pun?). “Which diet should I follow? How much and what type of exercise should I be doing? How do I best prepare home-cooked meals for my family and which recipes should I be making? What should I buy and avoid at the grocery store?” The list of questions you could ask yourself goes on.
I know firsthand how frustrating and confusing it is to find what works best for you or stick with something long enough to see an effect. In fact, it usually ends up causing you to be stuck in what’s called “analysis paralysis.” You try to analyze so much that it paralyzes you and you don’t make any significant or lasting changes that would impact your health and life. It ends up being easier to succumb to the excuses and obstacles in your life (real or perceived) than to take action.
The truth is, there is not one template for health that can be applied to everyone because each one of us is different. This is why many experts believe that health coaches have the ability to make a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of others. As a health coach, I can help you navigate all of the solutions, find the one that works for you, and fits into your life. In fact, my goal is to empower you to discover your own wisdom and strength. I know it’s very difficult to make lasting changes in your diet, lifestyle, and behavior. That’s why I always provide support without any judgment and help you cope with the many stressors that can get in the way of lasting change. I know that it’s much easier to let yourself down than it is to let someone else down. That’s why I would hold you accountable to the goals you set for yourself.
It’s not easy to do navigate your transformational journey alone. This is especially true in a society that sets us up for failure with regards to improving the foundation of our health with our food and lifestyle choices. It helps to have someone guiding you. I know I wish I would have had someone to guide me.
I wish someone had told me that it starts with the food you eat each day. Trust me, I don’t advocate for never eating another piece of cake, pie, or dessert in life. You have to enjoy your life. Just think about where it came from, what’s in it, and the situation you are in. Did it come from a box or did you or someone you know put their love and effort into making it? Are you at a celebrating a special occasion or family gathering? If so, it may nourish you on a whole different level, and we need that nourishment as well to thrive.
It’s time to change your relationship with food. Realize that it is something can heal you, not just something that may make you sick.
Strive to thrive,
Guess what this “food” item is based on the list of ingredients in your comment below!