You know it. I know it. We all know it. What you put in your mouth literally impacts every function in your body - sleep, stress, immune function, fertility/virility, physical energy, mental energy, spiritual connection. Then why is eating (only) what our bodies need so hard? Why, after all the programs and science and people telling us precisely what to do, is it seemingly the oasis in the desert that we never reach?
Depends on who you ask. But, having studied this subject for well over a decade, I've come up with my own beliefs on the subject.
Listening to Our Bodies
What crazy person made this up? Who actually can listen to their body and not indulge in that fourth burger of the week or reach for Ben and Jerry's after a long day of work? Well, around the world and even here at home in the U.S., there are a lot of people that do it - they actually don't know any other way. And listening to your body is the only real way to ensure that you’ll eat healthy, feel better and look better, too.
For those that struggle with this concept (which is most people who try to "diet" and fail - which is 95% of "dieters"), it's like asking them to ignore a feeling that's akin to the sound of their first born baby crying. It's elusive, and you might as well ask them to run a marathon with no training - catastrophic failure is inevitable. But it's simply true - when you read into the underlying culture of the Mediterranean Diet, or have been lucky enough to observe it first hand, you see that it's really people who simply, from birth and through death, are in touch with what their body is telling them. We've lost that as a general culture Stateside, as have many countries around the world. Instead of exhausting the analysis of "why" or "how" we got here, we need to start simply helping each other and move forward.
Happiness = Reality - Expectation
I heard Elon Musk say this recently. And it's true in my experience – your happiness is equal to your reality minus your expectation. To start listening to your body, stop buying a "program" or a "diet", or anything that tells you that you need to follow a strict set of eating habits. Because when you buy, you're really buying an expectation - of what your weight will be, what you'll look like, or what you'll feel like. Signing up for something that lasts 30, 60, or 90 days and promises you'll be forever changed - that's just an expectation that will lead to unhappiness.
Instead, spend your valuable time and money on relationships - with people who support you, who encourage you to be more in touch with you. So when you're at work, it’s that water-cooler friend who wants to get the salad at lunch and talk about ideas or fun experiences or cool hobbies, not that loathing friend who convinces you it's cool to gut-bomb a bucket of fried chicken and cover up your lethargy with a 20-ounce coffee loaded with sugar. Or when you're picking up your kids from school or soccer, the other mom or dad who doesn't tell you how they ate nothing but parsley and ginger for the last 25 days straight on a "cleanse" and whose metabolism already put them in the top 0.1% of genetically gifted humans, but rather the person with a (small but jolly) belly who tells you how much they enjoyed that single glass of red wine and little piece of chocolate they had, because they savored every bite of it while talking about the meaning of life with their neighbor – and maybe invites you over to join the next time. Eating healthy is a long game, not a short game - and it's a lot easier with the right people.
It's the People (Shocker):
Shortcuts don't work with changing eating habits. Staying in touch with what you want, while surrounding yourself with people and places who change your reality in the same direction, that will get you started though. Surround yourself with neighbors and community and people like they do in the villages of southern France, coastal Italy or Greece, or other Blue Zones like in Loma Linda, Costa Rica, and Okinawa. Have real relationships, with real people, who really care about your total health. Ones you can trust, be honest like a kid with - then your reality will always be wilder and better than your expectations. And, eating better becomes the by-product of the best part of your day - the people.