When I counsel people about nutrition, it’s never just an “eat this and not that” conversation. Making a “good” list and a “bad” list is generally just too broad or too restrictive, and there are always exceptions. Most of the time when we talk about diet, folks already have one in mind that they want to try, or one they’ve been struggling to make work but not feeling quite right about it. Why can’t we humans get it right? Why are we the only species on the planet that just don’t know what to eat? Well, it’s not always simple. Our bodies are complex. Our food supply is adulterated. Availability of food might be scarce. And of particular importance – we’ve lost our innate intuitive sense of what our body really wants. We have access to so much information about food now that we can certainly make an educated decision about what to eat, but with too much information (most of it conflicting and far too generalized), we get flustered and (even worse) afraid of food altogether. So how can we look back and connect with our intuitive ability to know what to eat?
First, start by reading the first blog post I ever wrote entitled You Are Not What You Eat so we can get the “story and ego” out of the way of our dietary choices. Then we can move on to focusing on the three inner wisdom steps of connecting with the whole: the body, the season, and the food.
When was the last time you connected with your breath, cleared your mental chatter and focused on what your body was saying before you prepared (or bought) your food? It might have been while (if ever). I find that the more I do this myself, and the more I counsel people on this process, the more trusting they become of their food choices across the board – allowing them to trust their own decisions before diving head first into the black hole that is the internet for nutrition guidelines. The more focused and aware we become of our own body, the more accepting and thoughtful we become of what we put in our mouth. When the impulse might be saying “sweet!”, but innately you hear your body is saying “nourishing, colorful, vibrant”, you will naturally take the time to prepare what the body really needs, not what it impulsively wants. I’ve even had vegans of 5 years hear their body crave meats, and although ethically they’re opposed, we turn it into a ritual of gratitude that’s not about the food, but about the process of preparation, the thoughtful act of nourishment, and the gratifying ritual of giving thanks. It may not be an all-the-time thing, but cultivating that innate wisdom of connecting with the body to ask is a profound and powerful tool to claiming your own health.
How much time do you actually spend outside every day? Have you ever grown your own food, or visited the farms where your food comes from? How much do you know (or want to learn) about seasonal eating? Just like plants, the human body uses every aspect of nature that our food uses including sunlight, minerals from the soils, clean water, oxygen, and temperature. We have more in common with what’s on our plates than you might consider. Eating seasonally helps to keep us connected to our environment in a deeply rooted way, and eating seasonally enhances our relationship with the world around us, nourishing our body and keeping us balanced with everything the seasons have to offer.
Can you visually identify the foods that you eat on a daily basis? When you purchase something in a package, does it even resemble the original food source anymore? How many foods in the grocery store or at the farmers market can you identify? Much like people, foods have their own story, personality, and vibrancy that they can offer to us if we’re willing to get to know them. I’m sure you’ve heard the quote, “If your grandmother couldn’t identify that food, don’t eat it”, and that brings us to the reality of adulteration in our foods in a half hearted effort to fit “healthy” eating into an already too-busy life. People just love foods that take minimal effort to prepare, and as soon as something comes in package, jar or freezer section, the more degraded and processed the food becomes (often with plenty of additives to make it shelf stable). When we can develop a relationship with our whole foods in a similar way that we develop relationships with people, I’m pretty confident we would have a much healthier relationship with what we put in our mouth, and a much more trusting relationship with the foods that we eat to support our health.
When you’re looking to expand your knowledge of new whole foods, fruits and veggies, take stroll through Ellwood Thompsons’s produce department to see what’s in season and what’s grown nearby. If you don’t recognize something, give it a try and have fun with preparing the food! Remember, take some time every single day before at least one meal to mentally check in with your body and listen to what your body is asking for. Your inner intuition will never steer you wrong.
Lindsay Kluge M.Sc, CNS, LDN | HealthCoach@EllwoodThompsons.com