Here’s a word I seem to keep coming back to this year.
In fact over the past few days in particular, the word has almost consumed my mind.
You see last week, I posted one of the most thought-provoking articles on Facebook that I have come across in a long, long time. Maybe ever. The article was written by a woman I think many of us—male or female—can resonate with. It was written by a mom who has gotten to the point of being super, duper overdone with all of the “rules” society is trying to throw at us these days.
Rules about what to eat. Or not eat. Rules about what sunscreen to use. Or not use. Rules about how to school, how to parent, what to watch or not watch. Rules, rules, rules everywhere you look.
And you know what? I’m totally with her.
This may surprise you coming from me, a nutritional consultant. Someone who has lived and breathed in the “holistic arena” for the past 10 years. But I’m going to be transparent here and say that after reading it, I wanted to jump up and shout, “Amen!” to absolutely no one in particular.
Rules…well they just kind of suck for lack of a better word. They really, truly do. They overwhelm people. They can stir up anxiety and they can (unintentionally) at times cause people to feel like no matter what they eat/buy/do, it isn’t good enough and never will be. Rules can draw such a hard and fast line in the sand that many people get to the point of saying, “Oh screw it! This doesn’t work. I’m done.” Sorry to be so candid, but I think it’s high time for some honesty so we can feel free to admit it’s where a lot of us end up. Been there?
Now I’ll stop right here and acknowledge the obvious fact that I too have played a part in coming up with some of these “rules.” I know this. When a lot of us in the health and nutrition industry started coming up with them, I truly believe we had good intentions. We were trying to help people feel better because we cared. We wanted to do right by people, honestly we did.
However in the process, it has become pretty apparent that rules don’t really work. Most of us just want to break them anyway.
Case in point: I have been using a microwave. YEP – that’s right, I said it. I have used the microwave more than a handful of times recently. I get that it’s probably not awesome for us, but I have two little people now and I am tired. So some days, I use the microwave. Shock and awe, I know.
The truth of the matter is that for just about every person who walks into my office, it is not really about food. In other words, the solution to their problems has actually very little to do with what they are putting into their mouths. Instead, it has a lot more to do with emotions, past hurts, unforgiveness, negative thinking and unsustainable living (hectic schedules, not enough downtime and so forth). Food is not usually the culprit, even though for a long time, I was pretty convinced it was.
So when it comes to food, what exactly do I have to say about it?
Keep it SIMPLE. Keep what you eat and how you think about food as SIMPLE as you possibly can.
Eat real food. Eat things with relatively few ingredients you can actually pronounce that can’t live forever on a shelf somewhere. Try and eat what your great-grandmother might have eaten when filling your grocery cart. Then when you’re trying to create a snack or meal, eat carbs and proteins together because without getting into the science of it, they complement each other nicely. They help keep your blood sugar stable. I think we can all identify with what it feels like to let our blood sugar get too low. We get “hangry.” So try to keep it simple and eat throughout the day to avoid getting to that point. It really doesn’t have to be much harder than that.
I know what some of you are thinking: But I just can’t eat certain foods.
This is a very touchy area, to well, touch on. So let me start by saying that I get this, I really honestly do. Because I’ve been there. I spent many years there actually.
While I certainly don’t have all of the answers—not by a long shot—I would like to very, very gently give you a few things to mull over.
At one point in time, (the majority of you) were in fact eating the foods that are now difficult for you to digest…right? Our food has changed a lot over the years, no doubt about it. But on the other hand, so have you, chemically speaking. You used to be able to eat those foods. So what changed more? You or the food?
Another thing to chew on. I have a ton of clients that when removed from the stress of everyday life, can go right ahead and eat foods that otherwise bother them. Think of how you feel on vacation. Do a lot of foods bother you then? If not, consider the possibility that food isn’t necessarily to blame. Just a few things to think about.
Back to how and what you should be eating. If you feel like you need a little more direction beyond just keepin’ it real (or you’re a rule follower and really, really want one to live by), then grab ahold of this very simple one, The 80/20 Rule:
Eat as well as you can—without totally stressing yourself out—80% of the time. The other 20%, go ahead and live a little. I’m not suggesting you start routinely living on Ho Hos, Ding Dongs and Mountain Dew because I don’t know anyone who would look or feel awesome doing that. What I am saying is that you should feel a.o.k. about enjoying desserts here and there, ice cream with your kids or a trip down to the market for a sweet treat on the weekend. Not too difficult, right?
Let’s try to get back to enjoying life! Before all the rules came into play. Before we had to second-guess so many decisions and before we felt so anxious about what might happen if we eat a piece of bread or a slice of cheese. Are you with me?
In terms of the woman’s article that really provoked me to write this, I’d like to end by highlighting one of her last paragraphs:
“My father and stepmother run an after care facility for trafficked children in Thailand. Two weeks ago they took in a 3 year old. I repeat, a 3 year old. She has never spoken and is completely malnourished. Only God knows what she has seen, endured. Meanwhile, we here in the West are getting bent out of shape about what time we put our kids to bed.”
Now that my friends, is perspective.