One of the easiest ways to manage your weight is to abandon the concept of dieting altogether. Denying yourself of certain foods for extended periods of time teaches you to ignore the subtle messages of your body and damages the relationship between food, your body, and the environment. The relationships you maintain with yourself, other people, and especially the food you eat play an enormous role in the maintenance of your health. It is much easier to maintain a healthy weight if you focus on building a healthy relationship with food and forget about dieting. Understanding how plants and animals are raised, where they come from, and the unique qualities they possess is an excellent means of understanding how and why your body is responding to those foods in the way that it does. Building a healthy relationship with food also strengthens your relationship with the environment, slows you down, and makes digestion comfortable and calm.
Avoiding certain foods is extraordinarily difficult even when eating without restriction. Biochemical pathways that govern behavior drive us to seek out and consume certain substances for the respective good feeling they produce thereafter. Food cravings certainly intensify when the food is forbidden, just as we become more tempted to push a button when we are told that we cannot push the button. There are two usual outcomes which occur on a restricted diet: either you end up binging on the food you’re craving (immediately proceeded by feelings of guilt, shame, or disgust), or the binge occurs after the diet is over. Food restriction is generally not a good long-term weight loss strategy because it creates additional pressure by demanding superhuman restraint and it reinforces negative self-talk pathways associated with food which end up making you feel worse about eating altogether. The end result of this can be a net gain of weight in addition to feelings of frustration or self-deprecation.
Ignorance is Bliss
The other issue is that most diets are designed strictly for weight loss and not for weight maintenance or education. If a diet is created with the idea of losing a certain amount of weight by a certain date, what happens after that date? The motivation to continue the diet ends because there is no longer an event to look good for and ultimately no intention to continue the diet. Diets, when followed, are usually temporarily effective for many people but do not encourage an understanding of why weight loss is occurring. This is a missed opportunity because if you understand why your body loses weight, then your ability to select foods that are both satisfying and metabolically agreeable strengthens dramatically. The result is an improved ability to maintain healthy weight and overall health.
Building a healthy relationship with food offers the ability to learn more about your body’s particular needs especially as circumstances change. If you’re under a period of stress and require an increased amount of carbohydrates but you rather decide to start the keto diet (allows limited carbohydrate), then you would likely be doing yourself a huge disservice. Additionally, if you are focused entirely on weight loss, then you have no reason to tune-in to the impulses, emotions, and perceptions that are experienced during digestion— the body’s subtle messages. An improved relationship with food can help you recognize when a food is agreeing and when it is disagreeing, both of which often go unnoticed by the average person. Over time, this information builds a personalized database of circumstantially based information you can use when selecting food in the future, no matter what the circumstance may be. In other words, you’ll better understand when to eat certain foods and when to avoid them.
One of the most effective and easiest strategies for weight loss that is also consistent with primal habits and physiology is eating less often. Whether it is fasting for a day or intermittently, it is common sense that giving the organs time to rest and repair provides benefit, particularly for the already hardworking gut, liver, and kidneys. There is plenty of research highlighting the benefits of eating less and fasting altogether, such as significantly reduced inflammation. This research should finally put to bed the conviction and fallacy that we need to eat constantly. It is simply not true. But like everything else, calorie restriction is not for everyone and should be approached cautiously and guided by the advice of a medical professional.
All foods come primarily from plants and animals, both of which are a product of the environment in which they were raised. As a Naturopath, I assure you that each plant is unique in its own way, with varying compounds and healing properties being just the tip of the iceberg, and we all know that animals have their own personalities, preferences, and natural food sources. Understanding how each plant and animal affects your body can help you understand why it may be problematic or beneficial. The importance of sourcing food from respectable farms provides more benefit than weight loss, thus it is important to keep in mind where your meal was sourced.
It is true that many animals are raised under offensive conditions, but many animals are also raised under the best of conditions, on a free-range farm in the sunshine consuming their preferred foods. Focus on buying high-quality foods from farms that demonstrate respect for their crops or livestock. Most local farms operate in this manner. True respect for both plants and animals often results in admiration and appreciation for the foods we eat, how they develop, and the effort that is required to make them available to us. This in turn encourages a wiser perspective around food consumption, namely the recognition that food is primarily nourishing medicine that has sustained humanity for millennia. If food is used to alleviate boredom or satisfy gluttony, the result is weight gain and exhausted organs. It also places additional burden on the world food supply, resulting in more food adulteration, processing, and strange laboratory creations. Ultimately, respect for food builds greater respect for yourself and encourages a deeper and more sustainable connection to the environment. As we nourish the environment, so too does the environment nourish us.
90% is Still an A
90% of the time, your eating habits should be excellent. The highest dietary ideal for virtually every person without a particular disease would consist of 90% or more of unadulterated foods raised in their preferred environments under their preferred conditions. For plants, this means the plant was raised where it naturally flourishes without a scheduled chemical bath. It is also known that when plants are grown outside of their natural habitat, they lack certain compounds which, under preferred growing conditions, lend to their healing properties and flavor profiles. Imagine raising a citrus fruit in the dead of winter— something is bound to be missing in the fruit’s flavor or nutrient profile! For animals, this means the animal was raised on a free-range farm by kind humans, was not injected with anything, and was allowed to eat its natural diet and socialize with other animals. Plant labels to look for would then include “100% organic,” and labels on meat, dairy, and eggs include preferably both “pasture-raised” and “free-range,” indicating that the animals were not confined to small cages and were allowed to feed on plants and insects. This is important because the animal is kept emotionally and physically healthier throughout, resulting in a more balanced and more dense nutritional profile.
Keep it Simple
Despite the seemingly endless complexity surrounding food and health, there are only a few simple principles that, if honored, can result in effortless weight maintenance, comfortable digestion, and improved health. For the average person without a unique medical circumstance, there is no good reason to be following a “diet” other than one that emphasizes a healthy relationship with food because from this relationship the ultimate diet is born, your own unique diet guided by the wisdom of your own body. Ultimately, the relationships we have with the world and all of its products define the relationship we have with ourselves. The best rule of thumb is to remember that if something as fundamental as eating seems complicated, then you are likely taking the wrong approach.