The 12th annual Food and Health Survey released recently by the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFICF) showed that Americans feel overwhelmed and confused by conflicting food and nutrition information. This isn't hard to believe given the amount of nutrition books published every year, the many fad diets that promise quick results and the big influence food and beverage companies have on the USDA Dietary Guidelines and food labeling. We're bouncing between trends and weight-loss scientific theories like ping pong balls! This is what I believe we must be aware of and how to make healthy living a simpler deal.
CONFUSION HAS NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES
In order to remove ourselves from all the nutritional noise, we must recognize three things:
1. The noise out there often promotes the "quick fix" or "quick plan" diet (100-day diet, 3-day cleanse, etc). We desire a magic pill that will solve our problems without the hard work. Inevitably, this dynamic promotes postponing getting healthy because we're simply waiting for the next effective diet that "this time I will follow and will give me the body I want." The quick fixes don't work in the long-term. What works takes time and effort.
2. We mistakenly make losing weight our goal, but the real (and most effective) aim should be to be healthy. Losing weight has a beginning and an end. But what happens after you reach your goal? When the objective is to be healthy, you live it and you learn how to be healthy. I promise, weight-loss will be an inevitable (yes, probably slower) consequence of adopting healthier habits.
3. Books and diets create a gap between the "expert" and the reader. It creates a hierarchy. They make us believe that learning what to eat is a complicated scientific process, that we cannot learn how to do it ourselves and prevent us from realizing that we know our bodies better than anyone (we're just disconnected!).
FOCUSING ON THE CONSENSUS
Yes. There are many conflicting and opposing nutrition theories and eating approaches out there. Instead of trying to understand the science and determine who's deciphered the key to a healthy life, focus on the things or habits that most health experts agree on. No doctor, dietitian, personal trainer or health coach (or your mom) will advise against the following:
1. Eat minimally processed foods and try to focus on plant-predominant foods. This eating pattern reduces the risk of all chronic disease. Period.
2. Stay active! Including physical activity in your routine helps manage weight, reduces inflammation, and supports good cardiac health.
3. Avoid toxins present in alcohol and tobacco. Smoking exposes our bodies to toxins like tar, nicotine, arsenic, carbon monoxide and other poisonous substances, and depletes our system from vitamin C and E. Excess alcohol negatively impacts our liver, pancreas, brain, heart and immune system.
4. Sleep well and enough. Good quality and quantity of sleep has a positive impact on our immune system, cell regeneration and overall health.
5. Work on finding stress management routines that work for you. It could be meditation, walking in nature, breathing techniques, yoga, running. Just find what works for you.
Simple, gradual steps make the difference. Don't try to understand the science or determine which diet is better. Eating and nourishing our bodies shouldn't be complicated. Ignore the noise and focus on the consensus and listening to your body.
If you want support including healthy habits in your routine, contact me for a complimentary 30-minute session.