Paleo. Intermittent Fasting. Vegetarian. Keto. Low Fat. Low Carb.
It’s no secret that with all the styles of eating out there, it can be absolutely overwhelming to know what, when and how to eat. So to cut through some of the noise, I’m here to get back to basics, so we can all just take a big breath and reconnect to ourselves and our bodies for a moment.
I always say: “Health starts in the gut,” because I truly believe it! Think about it. All of our building blocks- every single vitamin, mineral, and nutrient our body needs- comes from our digestive system. So if you’re going to start anywhere in turning your health around, or preserving your vitality well into the future, nutrition and healthful eating is the foundation.
To simply do this, here are my top 3 places to start.
#1- Listen to YOUR body
This sounds super simple, and it is! That’s why it’s #1 on the list. But simple doesn’t always mean easy. With the plethora of fad diets out there and so much information, our heads get filled with messages that end up separating us from our beautiful, intelligent bodies.The truth is we've gotten pretty far from the one thing that will tell us what we need to nourish ourselves well, every time... our own bodies. Our bodies are designed to work well when given the resources it needs- whole nutrients, sleep, down time, movement and love. If any of these are missing, we have a problem. But back to the nutrition part, there are some very simple ways we tune into what we might need.
The 4 “Golden Rules” for listening to your body:
Time for a Gut Check!
When was the last time you checked in with your gut? In case you need some guidance, here’s how you can do a quick gut check:
Are you eating things you know don’t make you feel good?
What’s up, dairy! Or maybe it’s gluten, too much refined sugar or coffee. Whatever it is, we often keep up with eating habits we know don’t serve us. If we continue to eat foods that aggravate our digestive systems, we may experience uncomfortable symptoms like gas, bloating, cramps, acid reflux, or bowel movement disruptions like loose or hard stools. Over the long term, eating irritant foods can create inflammation in the gut which can eventually lead to more serious health disruptions down the road stemming from leaky gut. Some studies show that leaky gut may be associated with other autoimmune diseases (lupus, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis), chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, arthritis, allergies, asthma, acne, obesity, and even mental illness. (3) Part of listening to your body involves cutting out foods that it doesn’t like so instead of mounting an inflammatory immune response, it can dedicate its precious energy to important functions like detoxification and healing.
Are you forcing yourself to eat in a way that doesn’t work for you?
Maybe intermittent fasting leaves you feeling weak and hangry, but you’re forcing yourself to do it because you heard it can help with weight loss or blood sugar regulation. This may be the case for some folks, but we’re all super different! If it doesn’t work for you, it may actually be more stressful on your system, causing other health consequences down the road. Listening to your body means paying attention to those cues and switching it up when a specific strategy isn’t serving you or supporting you to feel more balanced and nourished.
Your Body Speaks In the Language of Symptoms
In case you need a reminder, your body speaks to you in the language of symptoms. When you feel full of energy, vibrancy and are in a state of general well-being, that’s your body saying: “Thank you!” When you feel depleted, fatigued, and have specific symptoms of any kind, that’s your body communicating to you: “Hello, my dearest! Something requires your attention over here. Please listen to me before this gets worse!”
What Is Your Body Telling You? Get Curious About What Your Body Is Communicating
Your body is the only barometer you need when it comes to knowing what works best for you. Listen to your body’s cues.
If you’re craving carbs all the time, maybe your body is telling you it isn’t getting enough protein or fiber to sustain it all the way to the next meal. Or it’s saying: “Hey! There’s too much cortisol running through my veins, and I’m trying to replenish my energy reserves. Slow down and rest!”
If you’re getting anxious after drinking coffee, maybe your body is already over-stimulated and is saying: “Hey sweetheart, lay off the caffeine to give my adrenals a break, would ya?!”
If you eat fruit for breakfast and are starving an hour later, maybe your body is telling you it needs a hearty meal with protein and fiber to start out the day and stabilize your blood sugar for longer.
If you eat a big meal right before bed and you wake up feeling super groggy, maybe your body is telling you it needs more time before bed to digest properly.
If you skip meals and eat a super low carb, low fat diet but are still feeling cranky, tired and are gaining weight, that’s your body telling you it isn’t getting the building blocks it needs, is in “survival mode” and something needs to change.
If you do keto and lose your menstrual cycle, that’s your body telling you it doesn’t have enough resources to supply your reproductive system with the hormones it needs to stay in balance.
If every time you eat dairy (or any specific food), you have to run to the washroom or get a skin flare up (or any other symptom), this might be your body telling you it doesn’t like this food because it’s aggravating and causes inflammation.
All this to say that your body is always telling you what it needs, and if we’re too busy to tune into those cues and aren’t paying attention, we miss these important messages. And guess what? If we miss our body’s whispers, and then ignore the full on conversation, and then tune out the shouts...well guess what? Our body will start screaming. And that, my friend, is where serious health issues start to surface so we have no choice but to pay attention.
#2- Eat Whole Foods, Eat Real Food
Yup, again this is super simple, but in this world, not always easy! Like all of these strategies, I understand this may take some conscious effort and that’s ok. You can do this!
We live in a fast and refined food haven these days. Generally speaking, refined and “quick” foods are highly refined, full of weird and harmful chemicals, additives, hormones, pro-inflammatory oils and lots of sugar and salt. One of the easiest ways to assure you’re providing your body with solid nutrients is by focusing on whole foods. This means simple ingredients. Bringing it back to basics. Whole food and real foods include: whole grains, meat, eggs, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. As much as possible, eat foods that resemble the original ingredients!
What might it look like to focus on real, whole foods? Maybe it means cooking up spaghetti squash or quinoa to eat with that delicious home-made tomato sauce instead of relying on refined pasta as your source of carb; or instead of quick-oat packages with sugar, you’re making some steel cut oats in the slow cooker overnight and adding some berries and a splash of maple syrup. Maybe for you, it would just mean eating out 1 less time in the week. Meet yourself where you’re at, and build on it one step at a time. Often these shifts don’t happen overnight, and offering yourself some grace is always a good idea.
Why is this important? Real food in its whole form is designed by nature herself to be rich in minerals, vitamins, fiber and protein which naturally provides the building blocks your body needs to thrive. That’s it. It’s as simple as that ;)
#3- Become a Multi-Color Eater: Invite Color Into Your Life!
One of the single most powerful ways you can support your health and that beautiful body of yours is by getting up close and personal with fruits and veggies, 6-10 times a day, to be exact. I’m not kidding- If you make ONE change to the way you do food that will have the biggest impact on your overall vitality and well-being, this would be it. This is one I’m working on myself, on the regular. In this fast-paced, grab and go culture it can be so easy to get through the whole day, look back and realize: “Wow, I had one piece of fruit and a serving of veggies in that soup… I think!”
It’s so important to get enough fruit and veg in the day, as well a wide variety of colors and here’s why:
Every color you see in fruits and vegetables (like the purple of blueberries or the red of a pepper) all have their own unique, naturally-occurring phytochemicals that have their own unique health benefits! Cool, right?!
Purple and blue, for example, come from a phytochemical called Anthocyanins, which act like an antioxidant to quench free radicals, fight off cancer cells, decrease inflammation, fend off microbes, prevent cardiovascular disease and prevent obesity. (1)
Lutein, on the other hand, the phytochemical that gives vegetables their green color, has been found to improve or even prevent age-related macular disease which is the leading cause of blindness and vision impairment in the elderly. It’s also been shown to ameliorate cognitive function, decrease the risk of cancer, and improve measures of cardiovascular health. (2)
It doesn’t stop there! Every color, like I said, has a positive impact on different cells and organs in the body, so getting a little of every color is going to set you up for covering a lot of important ground when it comes to your health.
Check out this incredible, quick and fun breakdown of each of the phytonutrient colors and their health benefits here: Health Benefits of Eating the Rainbow (City of Columbus, Human Resources Department).
It can be easy to fall into a bit of a rut by always choosing the same foods when we go to the grocery store. Try switching it up! Observe what colors you get a lot of, and then try adding in more colors of the rainbow to get those rich, healthful plant phytonutrients that offer powerful protective qualities for our cells and bodies.
One Last Word of Advice- Be Gentle on Yourself
As women, in particular, we’re especially hard on our bodies (our magical, beautiful,intelligent & powerful bodies that work so hard for us, day in and day out). It’s so important to invite in some gentleness, some kindness and some love towards ourselves and our bodies as we navigate through any changes we’re making. Remember that it’s not all or nothing, it’s all or something (as my workout coach Betty Rocker always says!). You don’t need to change a million things overnight. Also, if you’ve been waiting for permission to switch something up that isn’t working for you (but you’ve been clinging to it because you think it’s “healthy”), here’s your permission slip to let it go and focus on the ways of eating that truly nourish you.
May you be truly nourished, my dearest, from the inside out.
With Wild Herbal Love (as always),
READY TO GET TO THE ROOT CAUSE OF YOUR HEALTH ISSUES, NATURALLY? BOOK A CONSULTATION WITH ME SO WE CAN DO IT TOGETHER!
- Khoo, H. E., Azlan, A., Tang, S. T., & Lim, S. M. (2017). Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: colored pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits. Food & nutrition research, 61(1), 1361779. https://doi.org/10.1080/16546628.2017.1361779
- Buscemi, S., Corleo, D., Di Pace, F., Petroni, M. L., Satriano, A., & Marchesini, G. (2018). The Effect of Lutein on Eye and Extra-Eye Health. Nutrients, 10(9), 1321. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10091321
- Harvard Health: What is Leaky Gut and What Does It Mean For You?