Someone asked me that a while ago. Fair point, I thought.
She used the example of soy milk. How everyone banged on about how great an alternative to dairy it was, so we put it on our cereal and made lattes out of it, and even dabbled in soya yoghurt for a while until we admitted it was disgusting. Then the ‘experts’ popped up and pointed out that soy can mess with your hormones and it’s mostly all GMO (so can mess with everything else as well). And we thought, ‘Hang on a minute, we were told this was a health food. WE WERE TOLD!’
The latest greatest miracle food isn’t a food at all. It’s a phenomenon. It was breakfast cereal (no protein, tonnes of sugar). It was margarine (sent heart disease rocketing…oops). It was fat-free everything (still being peddled, despite FAT NOT MAKING YOU FAT). Then sugar-free everything (despite overwhelming evidence that artificial sweeteners are evil). Then gluten-free everything (but mostly not artificial-crap-free unfortunately). It was egg whites (turns out the yolk is where the good stuff is). It was soy. It was grapefruits. It was green juice.
And now here we are, in the era of bone broth, chia seeds and kombucha, where everyone is a leeetle bit confused about what they should be eating.
Did you catch that word? ‘SHOULD’.
What we SHOULD be eating.
What we’ve been told we should be eating.
By brands. By healthcare systems. By our friends. By our mums. By freakin’ everyone except by…
…Us. Our bodies. Our intuition. Our incredible internal guidance systems that we’ve all but forgotten about.
And therein lies the problem.
Brands invest a s**t tonne in advertising and PR. I know. I was part of that world. You wouldn’t believe the effort that goes into working out who you are, how you live and what you want in order to weave a story around a new product that speaks to your deepest desires and insecurities absolutely. And the creative ways that are found to get that product in front of you, until you’ve seen it so many times it feels like the whole world has tried something you haven’t and you’re missing something life-changing if you don’t buy it.
To the industry, you’re not a person, you’re a ‘consumer’. You exist to consume. And millions of pounds and people are invested in figuring out how to make you do that, over and over again.
Screw your body. Your waistline. Your bank balance. Buy, people, BUY!
[And BTW, I’m talking about big food companies here. Not the peeps stone grinding nut butters, baking granola and making artisan chocolate.]
So when someone wails at me, ‘Why is food so complicated?!’ my level of surprise is around 0. I get it. And this is what I say.
Food is not complicated. It’s actually incredibly simple. And the more I coach, learn, teach and eat, the more I think it pretty much boils down to this:
EAT REAL FOOD
Vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, eggs, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds in their purest most unadulterated form.
These aren’t products but foods. Whole foods. They don’t have ingredients – they are ingredients. They are the foods without an ad campaign. The foods your nana would recognise. They were nurtured by water, sun and soil and not created in a lab or factory.
They don’t need much packaging, or a health claim, or additives or fortification. They rarely have calories labelled. No one’s tempting or coercing you into buying them. They’ve been around forever. They’re terribly unassuming and not at all flashy or fashionable. They’re even cheap. Yet they contain not only everything you need to live, but everything you need to THRIVE.
You see, it really is so simple. And yet somehow, it seems extreme. And in our society of convenience, innovation and the next big thing, almost impossible to execute. Eating from scratch, without packets and pots and jars of ready-made this or that, without being able to dash into shop for lunch, has become unfathomable. Unrealistic.
Therefore, I’m not suggesting you boycott the supermarket and go back to the land – although I do harbour secret desires to do that very thing (ideally involving a log cabin). What I am suggesting is that you eat as close to nature as you can. When it comes to making eating simple and health effortless – that’s the secret sauce.
Here are a few pointers to make it happen:
- Make the bulk of your weekly grocery shop from the above list
- Buy best quality you can afford. Your. Body. Is. Worth. It.
- If you can, buy organic so you’re not eating unwanted pesticides and toxins
- Make food shopping fun – order a veg box, go to farmer’s markets
- Cook as much of what you eat as possible. If you don’t cook, LEARN.
- Buy anything else from places that cook the way you do
- Appreciate everything
- Waste nothing
And if you do find yourself with a ‘food product’ in your hand, here’s what to do:
- Read the ingredients and make a conscious choice about whether you want those things in your body. If you can’t pronounce something, you probably don’t.
- Do some research. Google it. Find out the pros and cons. Then make your own, informed decision.
- If you decide to try it, really pay attention to how your body feels afterwards. Are you tired? Alert? Is your digestion all over the place?
If this sounds like a massive effort, think about the process we often go through when we buy clothes: We go shopping, find something we like, try it on, debate it with a friend, think about whether we can afford it, send a picture to our mum, try it on again, buy it, then maybe barely even wear it. And that’s going on your body, not in it.
Clothes make you look good but they don’t keep you alive or healthy. Food does both. When you eat something you send a message to your cells telling them how to work and act. So really, there’s nothing more worthy of your attention, your time and your money.
So you see my lovelies, food isn’t complicated. You simply gotta keep it real.
Oh, and if this has got you going and you want more info, I highly recommend Michael Pollan’s, The Food Rules. It’s a skinny book stuffed full of whole foods wisdom.