A few months ago James Fitzgerald wrote a blog post called Healthy Fitness is Not Fast or Extreme. As soon as I saw the title, I screamed (to myself in my own head, which I find to be an extremely effective form of communication), “Yes! Same thing for healthy eating!”
Reading his post, I applauded his observation that human biology and biochemistry have not significantly changed even though our technology has evolved by leaps and bounds. I cheered when he called out Big Business for making the expected outcome extreme and fast. I celebrated as he encouraged all of us to honor our consistency and steady progress in our life-long journey to healthy fitness. I wanted to shout to all of you, “Ditto for nutrition!”
Then, I wanted to add one more thing, and that is: Regardless of what anyone else says or has experienced, you are the only person who can determine what the right foods are for you in any given moment.
What does that look like in the context of healthy eating? At the most obvious level, it means that you get to choose to not eat foods that are lacking in the nutrition department. For example, even if all your colleagues partake in Friday morning doughnuts, you can show up with your smoothie and enjoy the office camaraderie without the sugar rush. Or you can decide, when out to eat with your friends, to order grilled fish and sautéed vegetables rather than a bacon double cheeseburger and chili cheese fries.
Beyond these nutrition-based decisions, food freedom also means that you get to choose which so-called healthy foods work for you. For instance, even though the paleo diet is the hottest thing right now, if eating meat leaves you feeling heavy, you can opt for plant-based proteins instead. Or if you feel bloated several hours after eating lentils, you can skip them and get cholesterol lowering, digestion supporting fiber from other sources like a pear or lima beans. Or if you just don’t like the taste of avocados, eat some macadamia nuts instead to get those monounsaturated fats.
Also keep in mind that the right food for you in a specific instance might be the less nutritious or less optimal choice for your physiology. Because sometimes the right food is the one that feeds your soul and you get to choose if your mental health is better served with a specific food in certain situations. For example, if you are celebrating the July 4th holiday this weekend and you know that your heart will dance with a slice of your grandma’s cherry pie, by all means, have the pie and enjoy it! Afterward, use that same freedom to choose a salad loaded with colorful veggies for lunch on Tuesday.
For me, this is the essence of personalized nutrition and the key to reaching optimal health. First, you are a wonderfully unique person with individual and ever-changing needs as relates to food. Second, you are an intelligent, successful adult with the freedom to make the best choice for your whole self in each moment. Given these two truths, I’d like to add one more tip to James’ list to help you on your journey to well-being:
Eagerly embrace your nutrition independence and truly feed your body and soul.
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