This time of year, everybody seems to be talking about ways to be healthier. People are still motivated to accomplish their New Year's resolutions, whether they are trying to eat less or exercise more or do other things to try to improve their lifestyle. Sometimes, though, it seems like the more people learn about food/nutrition/health etc., the more complicated being healthy becomes.
What Can I Eat Now?
A few years ago, I thought of healthy eating and living as a simple concept, influenced very heavily by all of the mainstream advice about health I had always heard. I realize now, though, that the word "healthy" has so many different interpretations to it and that everybody has their own idea of what it means to be healthy.
A healthy diet to one person might mean eating a low-fat diet of mainly fruits and vegetables with little or no meat, while for another person it might mean eating lots of meat and dairy products such as whole milk and butter. Some people try to restrict their intake of carbs as much as possible while others believe that carbs are essential for good health.
And then there are all of the little details to worry about. Maybe you've heard for years that whole-grains are "heart-healthy" and that you should eat as many servings of them as possible, but now you're hearing people talk about phytic acid and the fact that your whole grains need to be soaked, sprouted, or soured before your eat them. Or maybe you've been religiously downing green smoothies everyday, but now you've just heard about the high oxalate content and you're afraid to have even one leaf of raw spinach.
Have We Gone Too Far?
No matter what food group, it seems like there is always somebody raving about what a health miracle a certain food is and somebody else warning everyone about its potential dangers.
That's not to say that it's not important to be informed and to learn as much about food and nutrition as you can. I think it's very important, and I'm so thankful that I've learned as much as I have in the past couple of years so that I could make positive changes in my diet and lifestyle for better health.
A lot of times, though, I think it's easy to get carried away by all of the varying health advice out there, especially about the little nit-picky things. I think that we often forget to listen to our own bodies because we're so distracted by the overload of health "dos" and "don'ts" that drown out everything else. Listening to your own body can sometimes be like trying to hear a pin drop at Niagara Falls.
Give Your Body Some Credit
It's easy to follow the latest health advice you've heard without even thinking about whether it is something that would be right for YOU and for YOUR body. Though some health and nutrition principals seem to be pretty universal (I don't think anyone could really say that GMOs and pesticides and artificial ingredients are healthy), there are many areas of health that might work better for one person than for another.
Just because some people think that grains should be avoided doesn't necessarily mean that you need to avoid them too. And just because you've read about all of the health benefits of raw milk doesn't necessarily mean that your body will be able to tolerate dairy products well either.
As important as it is to learn more about health and nutrition, I think it's even more important that we learn to listen to our own bodies and to try to figure out what they are telling us. Our bodies usually tell us when something is wrong or not working as well as it should, giving us little warning signals, provided that we actually listen to them.
Listening to my body is something I feel like I've almost forgotten how to do. I've gotten so used to just eating things and doing things because I know that they're supposed to be healthy for me that I forget to pay attention to what my own body might be telling me.
Rather than just eating a certain food blindly because I know it's supposed to be good for me, I need to try to pay more attention to how my body responds to that food. How do I feel after eating it? Was it well digested or not? Do I have more energy? Do I feel good?
What Are Your Cravings Trying to Say?
Even the factor of whether or not you're in the mood for a certain food can be one of your body's signals. One day you might want to smother your bread with butter, while the next day just a little bit might be enough to satisfy you. Your desire for more or less butter could be your body's way of telling you that it needs more good fats or that it already has as much as it needs for the time being. Or maybe you can't get enough lettuce and cucumbers and lemonade in the summertime, but in the winter the thought of eating a big salad makes you want to go wrap a blanket around yourself and put on ten pairs of socks. Your lack of desire for a cool salad could be your body's way of saying that it needs something warming like a hearty stew with a slice of homemade bread.
It's true that food cravings can be tricky to interpret sometimes, especially if you find yourself craving something like french fries, but even junk food cravings could be messages from your body about what it needs. While it's not really the best idea to have fast food french fries cooked in rancid vegetable oils, your body might just be trying to tell you that it needs more salt right now. You could satisfy that need easily by making a batch of homemade french fries or by eating another real-food snack that's salty.
The Moral of the Story . . .
. . . is to keep on learning as much about health and nutrition as you can but to remember to listen to what your own body might be trying to tell you. And try not to stress too much about following every single piece of advice you've ever heard about what's healthy! Eat real foods that appeal to you and let your body help you decide what are the healthiest choices for YOU.
This post is linked to: Sunday School at Butter Believer, Natural Living Monday at Natural Living Mamma, Clever Chicks Blog Hop at the Chicken Chick, Scratch Cookin' Tuesday at Granny's Vital Vittles, Family Table Tuesday at the Polivka Family, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways at Frugally Sustainable, Party Wave Wednesday at Holistic Squid, Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop, Natural Living Link-Up at Jill's Home Remedies, Thank Your Body Thursday at Thank Your Body, Simple Lives Thursday at GNOWFGLINS, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Fresh Bites Friday at Real Food Whole Health.