Nowadays most of us have enough knowledge to know what a healthy diet should look like. More often than not, we look down on our plate and admit that it contains pretty much everything that is not on the "healthy" list. We all heard it before. There's always an excuse: I don't have willpower, don't have time, it's expensive, it takes too much planning, etc...or the worst one: I'll start my diet on Monday! There's always that dreaded Monday...
Most experts in the field agree that when it comes to
eating a healthy diet, there are two main things to focus on: knowing what to eat and getting yourself to do it. The second one is the most important one. The entire diet industry revolves around the fact that "getting yourself to do it" is hard. Of course, there are ways to get yourself to do it, but they require willpower, a lot of patience, and these are in short supply these days. So, instead, the diet book industry preys on people who aren't getting the results they want, by suggesting that we were wrong all along, you don't need to eat those bland, healthy foods. Instead, a new and revolutionary and science based (ahem!) method lets you eat all the foods that you love, or follow some specific rules about the way you eat them - and you'll be healthy, strong, sexy, and fit. In other words, there's always a new shortcut that the industry is able to promote and make money on. And the more we take these shortcuts, the less natural our eating habits become! We precisely time meals, we obsess over food combinations, we measure the pH of our urine, we meticulously count calories...and eating becomes more stressful, not less. Even worse, when we buy into a new magic bullet diet, we convince ourselves, of course with the author's help, that something as simple as eating whole foods must be wrong, and it certainly deprives us of key nutrients, and each time we look at the simple and natural diet from a different angle, we stray further from a healthy way of eating, and the more we beat ourselves up and create warped relationships with food.
Eating healthy is not complicated! Sure, there's always new research about nutrition we can try to apply to improve our diets, but do we really need that to achieve a basic level of wellness? There are about five groups of people around the globe whose lifestyles produce disproportionately high numbers of people who live to be centenarians: in rural china, the Papua Highlanders, in central Africa, the Tarahumara Indians, and the Seventh Day Adventist in Loma Linda, California. Genes certainly play a role in longevity, but
when you look at the lifestyle factors these groups have in common, the patterns are clear. They eat lots of plants, mostly with little or no meat. They eat mostly whole foods that they grow and prepare themselves. They have strong relationships with family and friends. Exercise is built into their lifestyle through walking, gardening, and other enjoyable activities. However, they don't count calories, don't follow diets from books, don't drink protein shakes, don't pee on limus paper, don't avoid gluten at all cost, don't "do keto" or drink Bulletproof Coffee (although they do drink coffee, tea, and a little red wine!).This way of eating is intuitive. Not contrived. Simple and natural, but without rules they can't break five to ten percent of the time, during celebrations or otherwise.
Find someone you trust, someone whose ideas stand up to scientific scrutiny, and most importantly, someone whose approach is practical and won't cause you undue stress. I follow T. Colin Campbell, Caldwell Esselstyn, and Neil Barnard. I eat 100% planet-based, whole foods, with some wiggle room once or twice a week for oil, nuts, and sometimes refined sugars. The point is that what to eat isn't the hard part. Pick an approach you believe in and stick with it for a while and don't chase the next shiny thing that drives you crazy with conflicting information. Only then you can focus your energy on getting yourself to do it. Hard only until it becomes a habit, without all the waffling and self-doubt that comes in when you're trying to incorporate advice from multiple different sources. I know for a fact that if you try massive action and then it fails, you owe it to yourself to try small steps, rather than just throwing your hands up and telling yourself (again!) that you're not good at making changes!