1. Raise your standards. Don’t be afraid to be a bit of a food snob – I actually encourage it. The truth is, if you’ve ever experienced for yourself what it’s like to feel energized, strong, and full of vitality, and have digestion that hums along smoothly (you know what I’m talking about) – not to mention clear, glowing skin – then you’re less likely to accept feeling like a second-rate version of yourself. This isn’t to say that your choices are always going to be perfect, but if you do stray (detours can be fun!), you’re more likely to return again because you’ve set the bar so high. The whole goal is to reach a place of ease. When you break certain fundamental laws that govern your body, you end up with dis-ease – the opposite of what we’re going for here.
2. Unsubscribe. Don’t identify too strongly with any particular paradigm of eating or food label. As your body and environment evolve, so too will your diet. Also, keep in mind that a tool is just a tool (and there are many at your disposal). Trial and error is a good thing. Don’t follow the in-crowd. Personal accountability means finding out what works for you. There are many different diets and ways of eating that work for people all around the world. Extrapolate the best from each. Let the seasons of the year AND the seasons of your life serve as your guide.
3. What goes in must come out. Consider the amount of food you eat in relation to, ah-hem, how frequently you have a BM. Is your body keeping up? If you’re eating 3 meals per day (plus snacks), but only going to the washroom every few days then your system is backlogged (pun not intended). Let this truth really soak in and it will change the way you eat.
4. Health begins in the gut. If you have health problems take a closer look at how smoothly your digestion is running. If things aren’t functioning properly it can spill out (figuratively and literally) to other parts of your body. Always start here first when you’re unsure. Refer back to #3.
5. You choose your trade-offs. Your body, your business. Everything has a cost and each of us gets to choose how much (and how often) we’re willing to pay. Want to look like a fitness model? Are you willing to pay the currency if it means a super pristine diet and a disciplined exercise schedule that interferes with your social plans? Maybe you just want the freedom to eat whatever you want, whenever you want. But again what’s the price tag? If it’s debilitating bloating and unpredictable bowel behaviour then I would challenge you to redefine what freedom means to you. At the end of the day, you get to choose which trade-offs are worthy and which ones you’re happy to compensate for somewhere else (guilt-free).
6. The dose makes the poison. Your personal set point for how much of a food you can tolerate at any given time will change based on your current health status, or more precisely, your gut health. Quality matters, but so does quantity. Foods that agree with you in small amounts might cause unpleasant symptoms in larger amounts. This goes for more “controversial” foods such as dairy, wheat, and sugar, but also applies to foods that are seemingly innocuous to most people, like apples, celery, and tomatoes. Of course, there are exceptions, but it’s rarely ever so black and white – which is a good thing if you don’t want to follow a severely restrictive diet for the rest of your life!
7. Sometimes extremism is necessary. While moderation is a nice concept, many people don’t fare well with it. They need more structure and less ambiguity around certain choices (which is why going cold turkey is often surprisingly easier for people). Of course, there are some things that shouldn’t be consumed even moderately if you have certain health issues or struggle with addiction. Sometimes it’s necessary to give up “that thing” (whatever it is for you) for an established period of time until equilibrium is restored and you reach a place where you can enjoy it moderately.
8. Make mealtimes sacred. Sit down and enjoy your food. Take a few moments to calm down before eating. Don’t eat on the go or eat hurriedly (better to wait if you can). Set the table. Create an environment conducive to proper digestion so that your body can utilize the nutrients you’re feeding it. Give-up needless snacking (don’t worry, your body will recalibrate).
9. Play the game. Don’t bench yourself on the sidelines. Don’t wait until you have the perfect body to start living your life. Sometimes avoidance feels easier because there’s less risk of messing it all up. But there’s always going to be holidays, dinners, and special occasions to challenge you, and while certain situations and habits may be worth avoiding altogether, holing yourself up in your apartment like a hermit doesn’t do anything to help your morale – in fact, it’s a surefire way to make you feel depressed and lead you to emotionally eat (allll the chocolate stuff), hindering your goals in the process.
10. Keep it simple. It’s easy to get caught up with all the hype of fancy superfoods and expensive supplements, but they’re not a requirement. It’s not to say that these things can’t be helpful or beneficial, they’ll just never replace the importance of a healthy diet. At the end of the day, your body needs simple foods that are easily digested and assimilated and then seamlessly eliminated (because point #3 ). Think of this as your foundation and then build upon it as necessary.
Here’s toasting you a long and healthy, well-lived life!