I was talking with a client this week, and she was sharing her struggle with shifting to a healthier diet.
“I’m just not good with deprivation,” she said. “I know I need to cut back on sugar, but all I can think about is giving up all the foods I love. It feels overwhelming… and slightly depressing… and I just want to quit before I even begin.”
I’m sharing this with you because I know she’s not alone, and her comment reminded me of the exact point in my life when I fell in love with nutrition.
So many of us grew up immersed in diet culture and messaging that repeatedly told us that to lose weight or have the body we wanted, we had to give up the foods we love for calorie counts and restriction.
I definitely did (specifically the low-fat craze of the 90’s, aka the Snackwells era), and for a long time I evaluated food solely through the lens of how I believed it would impact my weight.
But everything changed when I picked up my first real nutrition book, T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study. I was looking for a solution to afternoon sugar cravings and instead stumbled upon this book which details one of the most comprehensive studies ever done on the link between diet and disease.
The study was a collaboration between Cornell, Oxford and the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine, and it tracked the lives of 6,500 Chinese citizens over 20 years, looking for correlations between their diet (specifically, their consumption of animal products) and incidence of diabetes, obesity, cardiac disease and cancer.
They found that the people who ate the most animal-based foods had the highest rates of all of the chronic diseases tracked, and the people who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest.
While this may not sound particularly newsworthy today, when I read the book in 2006 it blew my mind. I’m pretty sure I mentioned that book to every single person I talked to during the six months after I read it, and I definitely gave away (unsolicited) copies to friends and family.
That book sparked a journey for me down a rabbit hole into nutrition and healthy eating, and then way, way beyond into the world of holistic health and wellness.
But the biggest takeaway that stays with me today is that what we choose to eat is about SO MUCH MORE than restriction or indulgence, gaining or losing weight.
What we eat impacts our health on every level, from our immunity, to our energy, to our mood.
When we embark on a path to eat healthier, we have the option to embrace foods that we know support aspects of health or even specific systems in the body:
- There are foods that support liver function, and foods that support hormone balance.
- Fruits and vegetables contain unique combinations of phytonutrients and antioxidants that have different cell protective properties.
- We can use food to support better sleep, increased energy and reduced anxiety.
When you view healthy eating through this lens, you start to make the shift from “What do I have to sacrifice and give up to be healthy?” to “How can I maximize the quality of my life through the food on my plate?”
When you focus on NOURISHMENT, not deprivation, healthy eating goes from being a downer that requires willpower and sacrifice to a powerful tool that you can use every single day for maximum energy, focus and healing.
I don’t know about you but I find that MUCH more compelling and inspiring.
I have a lot more to share on this, but for now I’ll leave you with one simple way you can try putting this into action for yourself.
Instead of focusing on all the foods you miss out on when aiming for health, try challenging yourself to see how many varieties of fruits and vegetables you can eat throughout the course of a day.
A simple phrase for this approach that you might have heard is, count COLORS, not calories.
Those different phytonutrients and antioxidants I mentioned above? They are found in the different colored pigments of fruits and vegetables.
So the more colors of fruits and veg you consume in a day, the wider the variety of phytonutrients (and protective properties) you benefit from.
Think red apple, orange bell pepper, yellow squash, green brussel sprouts, blueberries, purple radicchio…
When your focus is on how many nutritious foods you can get onto your plate, the unhealthy options naturally get pushed to the side or left off entirely – without you paying so much attention to it.
So make it your goal this week to eat the rainbow (NOT in skittles), and notice the impact it has on your meals over the course of the week.
If you need some help putting this into practice, or creating a healthy routine that works for YOU, you might be ready for a wellness coach. I’m currently filling spots in my private coaching program, and I would love to support you.
You can find out more and apply here.
Have a wonderful week, and eat those rainbows.