As a Health and Wellness expert, I’m often asked what are the rules for eating clean. Based on my own experience, I’ve found that it works best when I coach and guide my clients to break free from black and white thinking and find the best diet and way of exercising for them.
We live in a rule based culture. We need to judge everything as right or wrong. Everything is black or white and we make decisions based on it.
The trouble with rules however, particularly when it comes to eating, is that they make it really hard for us. We break a rule we feel as though we’ve failed, we throw in the towel.
Then we have to deal with all the conflicting “truths” that are out there. There’s an ocean of information, sometimes ambiguous, often contradictory and always changing with the times and the latest scientific evidence. Are eggs are high in cholesterol or the perfect breakfast food? Can coffee help to prevent Alzheimer’s or is it addictive and to be avoided?
Here’s the story of my own coffee journey.
I come from a country where 3-4 cups daily are promoted as healthy so I followed those rules. I then realized I was addicted. I needed the fix to be happy and not cranky so I stopped completely. OH MY GOD! I felt so bad the first few days with full on withdrawal symptoms; sleepy, cranky, unhappy, unfriendly, you name it. I decided there and then that I didn’t want to be addicted to anything ever again.
Eventually my body managed to become energetic even without this kick from outside. The interesting observation was that the happier I was and the more things I did that fulfilled me the less the thought of coffee even crossed my mind. On the days that I had to do something that I thought was a waste of time or made me unhappy, that was when I really craved this little black drink.
Now my approach is that I don’t care what studies and experts recommend anymore. I don’t think: “either I am a coffee drinker or I am not”, I simply listen to my body. There are days when I don’t drink coffee at all and there are days when I really enjoy a cup. Other days I can’t even smell it because I am already so hyper and caffeine would just make me mad. I did this a few times and it was not good for me, or anyone in my vicinity.
What I’ve come to understand is that cravings are our bodies’ way of telling us they need something. It took me many years of eating 300g of chocolate per day to find out I was both lacking in minerals and feeding my emotions.
My turning point was finding out what my body was really craving on a physical and emotional level. Often we are not genuinely hungry just "mouth hungry". We are actually sad, angry or stressed and are feeding the need with food. We try to solve the wrong problem.
The facts of the matter are that your body needs enough vitamins and minerals to function properly. If it doesn’t get them, you won’t feel it directly but it will be in 10-15 years time when chronic diseases will start to appear. This is the dangerous part about fad diets and unhealthy food, especially the diet –junk food – diet – junk food roundabout we so often find ourselves on. We starve, our metabolism drops, we eat again the weight goes back on. Those rules just don’t work.
So don’t worry about rules, my guidelines are this:
- Choose your foods by listening to your body and understanding the needs you need to feed
- Don’t stress about the black or white, you’ve all the shades in between to work with. I have a raw food business, and people are surprised and sometimes disappointed that I’m eat and promote MORE raw, not 100% raw. Your diet doesn’t need a label
- KISS! Keep it super simple. Ditch calorie counting and work on portions according to your personal specific needs eg 5-7 portions of fruits and veggies, 3-4 grains products, 2-3 protein and 1- 2 fat and sweets
- Follow the 80:20 rule. Be super good to your body 80% of the time and 20% you can indulge
- Relax and enjoy your own personal journey to a healthier, happier and much less stressed version of you.