Here I’m outlining for you five of the most important things about nutrition according to yours truly. This means knowing these truths will make achieving or maintaining a healthy body composition so much easier. Remember that body composition is 80% diet, in many cases even higher. Bottom line is your daily eats determine your bod. There are other ways to be “thin” but thin does not equal healthy and this is the easier, softer way. You could eat 1200 calories of engineered breakfast cereal today and possibly lose weight but you would not be nourishing your cells and you’d be hungry and ready to snap. These guidelines are going to be invaluable as you stay in a healthy lifestyle and find what works for you.
1. Nutrients Matter
I’m going to do something you won’t see in the diet industry. I’m starting with what you should eat instead of what you shouldn’t. Before we have any discussions about what to remove or limit, I want to talk positively about what you need to put in your amazing body. How many diets have you tried that have you counting down your food/point/calorie allowance without a thought of counting up your nutrients? That’s such an important and freeing paradigm shift! Let’s start positively nourishing our bodies.
You need a balance of the main macro- and micro-nutrients to feed your cells, stay satisfied, and promote health and longevity. In other words, I don’t care much if you don’t like vegetables or meat. We’re all grown-ups here and I’m telling you that you need to do some soul-searching and find a way to get adequate nutrition. We’ll talk more in other posts about the finer points of what that looks like, but for now I want you to know and believe that nutrients matter. Nourishing your body is at the core of being healthy. Nutrients matter more than what a meal looks like on Instagram or whether it’s a small enough meal to make you skinny overnight thanks to some misinformed diet fad. Many weight loss methods essentially starve your cells, and we’re not about that here. It’s in the name- we are fed.
2. Fat does not make you fat!
I know that may be obvious to so many of you but I had to say it. For those of us raised on the food pyramid and diet industry rhetoric of the 90’s and many years before that, this is nothing short of revolutionary. I was a card-carrying member of the low-fat and no-fat movement. Learning basic biology puts that to rest. The (unfortunate) truth is:
sugar/carbs = insulin = body fat
When I learned this and saw the results in my life, it was completely life-changing. You can read more about that in my story. Spoiler alert: when I cut out sugar and stopped worrying about limiting healthy fats, I lost 29 pounds in a month and finally had hope for the first time in a long time. Just research how your body processes excess blood sugar and the mechanism of insulin and body fat storage. You won’t see cookies the same again. Sorry. You probably already knew the cookies were a problem though, and chances are you’re reading because you want to be healthy without crazy cravings and starvation.
The kind and quality of fat matters, but for now I just want you to remember that fat is not the enemy. Even more importantly, it serves vital functions in the body and keeps you full and satisfied. If you need to lose weight, fat is your friend! It will help you reset your appetite and hormone signals so that you don’t eat your coworkers. In all seriousness, eating enough fat is a major key to sustained health and metabolic healing.
3. Simple Caloric Restriction is not the whole story.
The same group of us who ate religiously low fat can recite the “calories in, calories out” mantra like something out of Brave New World. There is an extent to which that is true but it’s not the whole story at all. This is self-evident in the millions of dieters who have lost weight and gained it back plus some when they “went off” the diet. The yo-yo cycle is terrible for your metabolism and very depressing. If you restrict significantly enough, you will inevitably lose weight but as we discussed in #1, you won’t be nourished. Personally I can eat a lot more calories in a balanced-carb THM day of eating than I can of bread, pasta, sugar, and treats. The former keeps me full and happy, metabolism humming, and meeting my fat loss goals. The latter wakes the craving dragon and leads to weight gain over time even if daily calories are lower. Over the last couple of years I have been so incredibly pleased with how much good food I can consume in a day without any extra weight showing up.
Certainly the amount you eat matters and overeating even healthy foods will not serve you long-term. When you eat the right kind of foods, it is a much more intuitive process to find your balance and restore healthy hunger and satiety cues. If you’ve ever been obese, you know what a dream that is. You can hardly believe me when I say that my appetite is under control, extreme cravings a thing of the past, and I can trust my body to know what I need. Believe. Believe, and join me in lifelong health.
4. Every body is different.
Also kind of a “duh,” but necessary to mention here. There are a myriad of factors that make everyone different, including genetics, health history, gut health, and allergies/sensitivities. There are a number of “healthy” foods that I don’t personally tolerate well, and right now I’m doing an elimination diet to check for further sensitivities. Your list will be different, and what you can eat as an occasional treat or indulgence will be different from me. You will have your own journey of finding out what works for you. I hope that you will learn from my experience and advice, but you may be different.
This is especially important to remember when people question your food and health decisions. I have experienced a lot of this, and I am happy to give you my advice for how to answer graciously. At the end of the day, nobody else has to live in your body and live with your choices but you. It is my sincere hope that you find a lifestyle that keeps you healthy and thriving for a long time to come.
5. Health Comes from abundance, not restriction
This is a riff on #1 but a very important concept in its own right. Especially now on the AIP, I constantly have people say something to the effect of, “Wow, so many things you can’t eat!” I’m not going to deny that fact. My response, though, is always the same: “I have found more delicious recipes than I could try in many years; I’m having a great time!” It’s totally true, and attitude is everything. Look through a bunch of paleo blogs and cookbooks and then call me back and tell me it’s a restrictive approach. I also see no freedom in eating foods that make me sick, miserable, and obese.
One of the key reasons diets don’t work is that the focus is on what you can’t or shouldn’t have. It’s an unpleasant white knuckle experience that I am not going to repeat ever. True health comes from an attitude of abundance, of celebrating all of the beautiful food we’ve been given to support health and vitality. That mindset shift is essential to your long term health. Practice joy in your eating and be mindful of the abundance of healthy food available. Trying new things each week, searching new recipes, and making a point of being adventurous with your kids is fresh and fun. You are blessed with good food. Be thankful.
so.. what now?
I hope you’re pumped by the reminder of these freeing truths about nourishing your body. If any of them are new to you, I hope it’s great news. Even if this lifestyle sounds so different from where you are right now, putting these into practice will enrich your life. I will be posting soon about where to begin, whether you are looking to go whole hog or just make better choices. If you are ready and willing to make a big change, I highly recommend just going for it and starting. Make a meal plan, do some shopping, and eat paleo next week. Repeat. Before you know it, it’s your new habit. That’s how it was for me and it obviously changed my life.
If you’re new to THM and unsure where to start, I have some recommended resources for you. I plan to do a post and link roundup for newbies soon. In the meantime, check these out. Also, just get on Google and Pinterest and check our your local library for cookbooks. There is wonderful info out there and you don’t need to be alone. Get excited! See it as an adventure. If you’ve been eating in this style for awhile and are feeling uninspired, the same applies. Remember that my five truths are five of the reasons you make the effort for your family. Try some new recipes this week, try meal planning or prepping in a new way, order yourself a new cookbook, and as my dad would say “scratch your [backside] and get glad!” Your health is worth it and basically what I’m trying to say is that I know life and making whole food for your family is a huge job, but if you’re not having fun that’s your fault. Really taste your dinner tonight and remember how great you have it.