It can feel daunting to change eating habits, especially among the myriad of health food fads, superfood claims, and constant criticisms about the typical American diet. You may be aware that the way you eat needs to change, but you may not be sure where to start, and you may not know what is really going to make a difference.
About eight years ago, I felt the same way. I was fresh out of college and fed up with the way I was eating, but even more, I was fed up with the way I looked and felt. I was ready for change. Over the past several years I have slowly developed a healthy lifestyle and gained a wealth of knowledge about natural, wholesome foods and eating habits. Looking back at my journey and the steps that I took to becoming healthy, these are five steps that I would suggest as a guide to getting started.
- Take small steps. Big, deep changes like altering the way you eat takes a long time and small steps. After all, the way you eat now has taken years to develop. The way you eat depends on your emotional relationship with food, how you ate as a child, what your income and the rest of your lifestyle is, and more. It should come as no surprise that a “detoxing in two weeks” type diet won’t do much in the long run. If you feel really ready for change, take it easy on yourself and make small steps that will stick!
- It’s a lifestyle not just a diet. I personally hate the phrase, “going on a diet.” Partly because of what I mentioned above (small steps not a month of no carbs!), and partly because it’s not just about food. The way you select, prepare, eat and feel about food needs to change, not just what you put in your mouth. You need food that is going to fuel your life, to nourish your body, mind and spirit. If you look at it from this perspective, you will better understand the changes that need to be made to achieve the life that you want, be it having more energy, being a healthy role model for your kids, or being illness-free.
- Eat whole foods. The biggest, most immediate change with the way you feel and the way your body functions can be achieved by eliminating processed foods. Typically you should be looking for foods that have gone through as little processing as possible before getting to the grocery shelf and your kitchen. For example, you would purchase some brown rice from a bulk bin, natural spices (not spice mixes) and salt instead of a box of Uncle Ben’s Instant Rice with a seasoning packet included. What this means for your body is that it isn’t receiving artificial ingredients that can be toxic, and it is allowed to do its job, which is to digest your food in a way that provides energy and nutrients for it to function optimally. Processed foods and artificial ingredients can confuse your body – it does not know how to process or digest those foods. Also, when it is given, for example, a grain that is already broken down into white flour, it has nothing much left to do but to store it as a starch or, if not burned, eventually a fat. There is no longer any nutrients to derive from it and you gain little from the experience of eating it, except maybe the extra calories.
- Eat with moderation and eat a rainbow. I know you’ve heard this one before, and that’s because it’s right. You can get fat and unhealthy on anything. Our body has hundreds of jobs to do every day in order for us to live and so it needs a diversity of tools (vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, proteins) in order to carry out those jobs properly. For good measure, make your meals as colorful as possible, covering half your plate with vegetables and fruit, a quarter of your plate with protein, and a quarter of your plate with whole grains. Don’t forget the fat, too. Low fat diets are purported everywhere but a moderate amount of healthy fat is very important in the absorption of some nutrients and in sustaining appetite. Aside from the olive oils and fish oils that are already talked about, this includes natural animal fats, too. Saturated fats, not trans fats, are loaded with vitamins and nutrients and won’t clog your arteries!
- Buy organic or local and eat seasonally when you can. Being in a single income household with two growing boys, I know this can be difficult sometimes. I do what I can, prioritizing what needs to be bought organic or naturally and go conventional for the rest. The dirty dozen is a good place to start. These are the 12 produce items that are most contaminated by pesticides and insecticides. Also take a look at the 12 least contaminated foods. I don’t buy these foods organic unless they are offered for a great deal. After that, I try to buy organically and locally what we eat the most. I also form relationships with local farmers so that I know how my food is being treated and, sometimes, I can get a good deal for being a loyal customer!
Good luck on your journey to eating naturally. Keep educating yourself! Read your labels and learn about the ingredients in your food. Learn how they affect your body and how they are brought to your table. When you understand what affect food has on your body (and the earth), you feel confident in the foods you choose and don’t need to listen to what celebrity doctors or fad diets are saying you should eat. Above all, you begin slowly developing a healthy relationship with food and a naturally wholesome lifestyle.
*The author is not a doctor and has not been medically trained in any way. All the advice given is straight from her humble experiences as a naturally driven wholesome foods advocate and mom.
Acacia is a stay at home mama playing through life one moment at a time with her husband and two young sons. She is a natural parenting, cloth diapering, gentle disciplining, home schooling, wholesome foods eating, spiritually centered steward to this great Mother Earth.
Statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products and/or information are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. Readers are advised to do their own research and make decisions in partnership with their healthcare provider. If you are pregnant, are nursing, have a medical condition, or are taking any medication, please consult your physician. Nothing you read here should be relied upon to determine dietary changes, a medical diagnosis, or courses of treatment.