Something I encounter constantly as a health coach is the fear, frustration and anger around what someone will have to give up. We're so wired in the diet mentality and that typically means giving things up; usually things you really like. This same approach goes for health in general.
Want to sleep better? Give up coffee.
Want to lose weight? Give up processed food (notice I didn't say "eat less fat.")
Want better skin? Give up chocolate.
Want better digestion? Give up dairy.
When we want something to change in diet or health, we immediately think, "Oh goodness. What am I going to have to give up?." As you know, that's really hard to do. Most nutritionists give their clients a list of foods to avoid, which usually leads to craving those foods more and a whole lot of deprivation. I am not a fan of deprivation.
How much time do you spend thinking about the foods on the "bad" list?
You'll have it when you're out, when you meet a deadline, when it's the weekend, or when you've gotten back to a good weight and you can reward yourself. No matter what, the foods that you label in the bad category end up being a reward. Hmm... Sound backwards to you? Yes. Sound like this isn't actually helping your relationship with food at all? Let's do it differently.
When I work with clients, I usually take a step-by-step approach of adding foods in, replacing certain foods with other foods and then, as a last step, we remove certain foods. 9 out of 10 people see great results just from adding in and replacing certain foods with better versions! When done gently, this is an organic process and doesn't require specific attention or painstaking effort.
Here's how this works:
STEP 1: Your body needs more nutrients. Fact. 99% of us are undernourishing ourselves. If you're reading this blog, you likely have access to food when you want it and need it. Most of you have access to organic food, health food stores, farmer's markets, the best online sources for good food and more. The issue isn't access. The issue is not eating enough nutrient-dense food. What we think of as "healthy" is often a label sold to us by various food industries, but not actually food filled with the macro and micronutrients you really need. Macronutrients are proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals.
STEP 2: Once your body starts to get more nutrients (not just more food), systems in the body begin to regulate. Every system in your body relies on nutrition. Major systems like your digestion, detoxification, endocrine (hormonal), immune, skeletal, cardiovascular and nervous systems, just to name a few, all depend on nutrition to function properly. Magnesium, for example, is one of the most overlooked minerals in our diet. Magnesium is essential for over 300 chemical reactions in your body. It helps move your bowels, supports your bone health (not just calcium for this one), supports heart function, energy production, is a natural blood thinner, can prevent diabetes, is an important addition to anyone dealing with chronic pain and/or stress and much more! Now, it's not that you need to eat specific foods high in magnesium all the time, but making sure you are getting a varied diet of nutrient-dense food will help.
STEP 3: This is when the magic happens: Once systems in the body regulate, you feel better! There are all sorts of things out of whack when you do not feel well or are not at your optimal weight. You may not even feel symptoms yet, but if you're not feeling as good as you know you should or you weigh more than you think you should, something is off. It's that simple. You deserve to feel good. When you feel better, you do not crave (a note on cravings below) the foods on your bad list. You naturally have less interest in these foods because you are giving your muscles, bones, detox organs, hormones, etc what they need to function optimally. Your body isn't confused anymore. When we don't take in enough nutrients, a signal is off. Your battery is low. Once you eat more nutrient-dense food (and way before you start cutting out foods that aren't ideal), things start to flow and you are healthier and happier.
Let's look at a real-life example of this and something I see often with clients. I believe most of us are gluten-intolerant to a degree and all of us benefit from trying a healthy gluten-free diet for 30 days as an experiment. When I work with clients who present very obvious signs of gluten intolerance, I encourage them to do this experiment. As you can imagine, for someone who has never had a dietary restriction, cutting out gluten is pretty major. It's a staple in the diet and it is so difficult to think about what else to eat at certain times. Breakfast can be particularly challenging for people making a transition to gluten-free. Bagels, toast, cereal, muffins, waffles, pancakes, etc are all classic breakfast and brunch foods. Gluten is also a common piece to common grab-n-go snack foods. What I have found works best with clients who do need to try a gluten-free diet is my ADDING IN approach first. I support clients to add nutrients into their diets, incorporate more fat into their breakfasts, and give them guidance around buying some nutrient-dense foods they've never eaten. We do this for a period of time until certain systems start to regulate. At this point also find that their energy increases, which makes them feel better in their bodies and less likely to reach for the gluten-filled, flour foods. Their cravings and need for relying on these foods naturally reduces and they can enter into the gluten-free experiment feeling more confident, open and excited for additional possibilities of feeling better. And they do!
Remember, given half the chance, your body has the capacity to heal itself. It just needs support.
A note on cravings: Cravings are important and cannot not be ignored. If you are craving something, it is your body telling you it needs something, whether physical or emotional. Our favorite foods give us something we need, whether it be familiarity, comfort, habit, or a missing nutrient. Constant cravings for starchy foods like bread, pasta, crackers or even whole grains is often a sign of low energy. Your body is smart and it knows that these foods will give you the quick energy boost you need. Craving sweet foods can also be an energy issue, but often a sign of dehydration or eating too much salt. Your body is pretty darn smart and deconstructing these cravings is essential.
When it comes to achieving optimal weight the right way (losing weight without getting healthier will not give you lasting results), it's usually about what you add into your diet rather than what you cut out. It's near impossible to give your body nutrients all day and still crave a pint of ice cream in the evening. Likewise, if you are drinking water and herbal tea throughout the day, you'll find less room for soda. If you fill your body with healthy, nutrient-dense foods, it is only natural that cravings for less healthy foods will decrease over time. I've seen this happen time and time again.
Looking for additional support?
Check out Renew You.
The magic starts on Tuesday January 14th.