Books, blogs, doctor shows, weight loss programs, nutritionists setting up shop on every corner. We’re surrounded by people telling us how to eat healthy pretty much everywhere we look.
But beneath the shiny book covers and behind the cameras, there are a few things that no one tells us about healthy eating. At least no one ever told me.
Today I’m sharing 6 truths that no tells us about healthy eating—from my perspective. They’re healthy eating taboos, so to speak. In my typical fashion of clearing the clutter and giving you straight up honesty, I’m not going to candy coat things. Let’s dive in.
1. You don’t have to eat Paleo to be healthy.
What?! Paleo isn’t the golden standard of healthy living? Well, maybe for some people. And I fully respect those who are 100% committed to the lifestyle.
But the thing is—and I cannot emphasize this enough—we are all different! There truly is no one-size-fits-all way of eating. If Paleo works for you, makes you feel great, and helps you achieve optimal health, that’s amazing! But here’s the thing: it doesn’t work for everyone. I’ve met many people who are glowing portraits of health and follow a predominantly plant-based diet. Others are “recovering vegans” who found that including animal products in their diet made a huge positive difference in their health.
I can’t tell you how many Paleo cookbooks show up on my doorstep. It’s “the thing” right now. Please don’t think I’m calling it a fad. I’m not. I think the Paleo principles are, for the most part, very sound and helpful. I’m just saying that the Paleo movement has boomed in popularity in the past few years, which of course is going to influence how people view it. Just because it’s dominating the airwaves right now doesn’t mean that everyone and their brother needs to follow it to a T to be healthy.
Remember: we are all unique and what works for one person will not work for everyone!
2. You can eat a lot of the right foods, and you won’t get fat.
When you eat the right foods, you can enjoy them in abundance without gaining a pound. Portion control can be thrown out the window with the right foods. What are the right foods? Take a guess.
Did you say vegetables? Bingo! Eating non-starchy vegetables in large portions (think leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, celery, cucumbers, green beans, mushrooms, bell peppers, zucchini, and Brussels sprouts) won’t affect your weight in the least. In fact, you may lose a few pounds because you’ll be so full of veggies that you won’t have cravings for the stuff that makes you gain weight: sugar and excessive starchy carbs.
Vegetables should be the star of the plate. Lean proteins and healthy fats are fabulous, too, but they shouldn’t steal the show. Vegetables should. Eat this way and weight just won’t be an issue.
3. It’s not all about the food.
It’s also about the mind and spirit. Sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is shift the emphasis from the plate to the person. From the sandwich to the soul.
Try as we might to make healthy choices and exercise, if there’s something else brewing within the shadows of our hearts then all of the physical work we do will be null and void. It’s not all about the food. It’s about looking at our health holistically. We are comprised of mind, body, and spirit. But too often, body gets all the attention. Mind and spirit get the short end of the stick, and our health suffers for it.
Don’t let the food mask what’s really going on inside.
4. It’s okay to splurge, and not call it a splurge.
When we treat splurges as guilty indulgences that should only happen every once in a while, we’re setting ourselves up for a bad relationship with “unhealthy food.” Chocolate cake? Well that’s a splurge! Ooey and gooey brownies? Special occasions only! We start associating our “splurge” foods with feelings of regret, self hate, and guilt. And that’s no way to enjoy a treat!
I believe that it’s perfectly okay to splurge, just don’t call it a splurge. Call it what it is: a treat to enjoy every once in a while. Not a reward, not a weakness. A treat. A special something to savor. Relish every bite. It’s better for your health, it’s better for your spirit (see #3 above), and it’s better for your taste buds. Seriously. You’ll enjoy the treat a whole lot more when you give yourself full permission to love it before, during, and after you eat it. No regrets.
5. It’s okay if you don’t like kale. Or kombucha. Or nutritional yeast.
Gasp! Really? I don’t have to like kale in order to be healthy? Nope. And that’s coming from me, the crazy for kale girl.
Same thing goes for kombucha. Nutritional yeast. Hemp seeds. Seaweed salad. You don’t have to like any of these foods to be healthy. Achieving optimal health is all about finding your unique rhythm and fueling your body with what works for you. By all means, give the healthy “vogue foods” a try (seaweed isn’t that bad, I promise), but if you don’t like them or—more importantly—if they don’t make you feel good, then feel free to skip them. There are plenty of other healthy alternatives that will cover your bases.
Not a fan of kale? Go for spinach, Swiss chard, collard greens, broccoli, or cabbage.
Kombucha just too weird for you? No problem. There was no such thing as kombucha in the grocery store up until a few years ago anyways, and I honestly don’t think we’re all radically healthier because of it.
Do your own research and make your own rules when it comes to the best foods to eat. The most important thing you can do is educate yourself. Health will coming look for you when you make it your intention to live life with your best, healthiest foot forward!
6. Moderation should be a 4 letter word.
By which I mean that “everything in moderation” can quickly be blown way out of proportion. “Chocolate in moderation” may be once a week for me, twice a month for you, and “after dinner only” for the next person. Moderation can quickly be twisted to match our moods. It can sabotage even the healthiest diet.
So what is the correct definition of moderation? That’s for you to decide. For me, I trust myself and go with how I feel. Sometimes I will go for weeks at a time without a real “dessert.” At other times (ahem, like when you’re writing a cookie book…), treats are much more plentiful. I just don’t keep my trigger foods around the house. Cashew butter is a very special treat. Dried fruit is in limited supply and usually for recipe testing purposes only. I’ve learned that giving myself a special “treat day” simply does not work for me. It becomes too much of a mental game and messes with my head. Fueling myself with lots of healthy food keeps cravings away from the get go, so I don’t feel deprived and I enjoy my treats all the more when I do eat them.
Instead of saying “everything in moderation,” perhaps we should say something more like, “seek balance in all things.” It’s not about controlling or moderating the amount of any one thing, which by default will lead to at least some level of restriction. Instead, it’s about striking the perfect balance of all things for our own unique selves. Seeking balance is not about calculating, restricting, or underconsuming. It’s about knowing our personal weaknesses, making the most of our strengths, and finding the sweet spot that lies somewhere between them.
Choosing balance over moderation is a daily choice, but it is one that teaches us to grasp the freedom that comes through eating with consciousness versus eating with control.
What Do You Think?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. What truths about healthy eating have you come to discover that no one tells us? Chime in with your comments.