We have conversations about food with people every day and it is amazing to hear the array of thoughts, ideas, and opinions. One thing becomes clear very quickly: people are confused and frustrated and often just want to be told what to eat and when.
Food is both simple, and not so simple. It is simple in the sense that following a few very basic guidelines can bring about significant change in your body pretty quickly. That’s great, because generally we like approaches that are simple and act fast.
But food is also not so simple – or more accurately our food culture is not so simple. Food – or stuff we think we can safely eat – is in front of us practically 24/7. Every checkout line offers racks of snacks. Our stores are full of food products (the stuff we think is safe to eat) with the perfect trifecta of sugar/fat/salt, that hook our brain with just a bite or two and keep us coming back for more. We eat while we watch, when we gather, and when we’re lonely or bored. Food is not just biologically necessary – it is social and deeply rooted emotionally and culturally. So, not so simple.
Our body needs the nutrients – vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytochemicals, and other substances – that only come from real food. By real, I mean carbon-based, like us. Plants and animals, basically. In as close to original form as possible, our body is evolved to process and extract what it needs. Processing takes out things we need and requires the addition of things we do not – including stuff our body doesn’t even recognize. Basically, that’s the difference between food and food products.
Here’s what’s real: when you change your diet, your body changes. So, your own body will confirm; you are as you eat. The laws of nature and biology tell us our body needs real (vs fake), whole (vs processed) food. And if you pay attention, your body will tell you precisely what, how much, and when.
Michael Pollan, in his brilliant writings about all things food, also recognizes all things human. Since the laws of nature are basic, his suggestions are elegant. Since we won’t read more than a few sentences, he writes succinctly.
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Food really is that simple. Honest. All those signals your body is sending (bloat, digestive upset, headache, weight gain, cravings, elevated blood pressure, joint pain, chronic fatigue) can fade away. How you feel every day and your health in general can improve dramatically. Big picture: even chronic diseases are being successfully treated with diet.
You don’t need to perfect with your diet. There’s plenty of room for the fun stuff when your fundamentals are solid. Small improvements done daily can create big results, so pick one of Pollan’s suggestions, do it daily, and see what happens. And here are our suggestions:
“Keep it simple. Make it personal. Make it sustainable.”