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Insights from a food anthropologist

How food has the power to empower

The most wonderful thing happened just over one year ago, when my desire to help a client turned out to be a fantastic personal expedition, expanding my limits in nutrition, health, will-power, and self-discipline.

Let me give you a little background before I tell you about the incredible one-year long journey. My education is that of a hard-core scientist, molecular genetics to be more specific. However, for many reasons, in 2015 my work life expanded from being a university researcher and teacher with a passion for health to that of a full-time health coach who also does science.

My amazing year began because of a normal health coaching consultation, when a client shared that she was thinking of taking gluten out of her diet. After our talk and while thinking how best to support her through this diet change, I decided to take gluten out of my own diet for two weeks. In truth, I never expected that not eating foods containing wheat or its evolutionary relatives such as barley, rye and kamut, would turn out to be a surprisingly enriching learning experience.

Even though my client decided not to remove gluten from her diet after all, I prolonged my experiment from two weeks to 30 days. Throughout the gluten-free month, I learnt a lot about food, food limits and different cooking styles. And perhaps more importantly, I just loved the feeling of empowerment that I got by sticking to doing what I said to myself I would. Taken together, this motivated me expand the experiment by one more month… and so began my incredible one-year long journey of twelve consecutive 30-day food and drink limitations.

The twelve 30-day challenges started in the beginning of May 2016 with 1) gluten-free, followed by 2) no coffee, 3) ovo-lacto vegetarian (no animal flesh), 4) whole foods, 5) no dairy, 6) alcohol free, 7) the ketogenic diet (75% daily caloric intake as fat), 8) gluten and dairy free, 9) macrobiotic (mostly whole grains based), 10) paleolithic diet (no products of agriculture), 11) vegan (no animal products), and 12) intermittent fasting (8 hours feasting/16 hours fasting). Altogether, the experience was fantastic… and I have no doubt that I am currently a better health coach as well as a better human because of it.

As a scientist, I kept a log regular during the challenges in a file entitled TheFoodAnthropologist.doc, where I wrote how I felt as well as summarizing the scientific literature about each diet or eating style. In the end, there were over one hundred pages written, which have been compiled into a book which I published on Amazon last month. So far, The Food Anthropologist … a one-year journey through food challenges, is getting great reviews!

I often get asked whether there was a logic or a reason for the order of the limitations, and although I am glad that it was as it was, each challenge was chosen purely based on how I felt the month before or on personal criteria, such as travel plans. Also, as months went by, the accumulation of successfully completing of each challenge gave me the strength to try more difficult diets, such as the ketogenic diet.

Many ask me which of the twelve months I liked best, but the answer is not linear. In truth, each challenge had its own valuable lessons and they were all important for the entire process and to my growing curve. And although the book is about my own experiences, I fully believe that it has the capacity to inspire and motivate all those that read it.

We can’t control everything, but we control what we eat. That’s why food is the perfect venue for personal change. It is what we do as part of our routines that we can build on… and no doubt that everything is inter-connected. The lessons learnt throughout the challenges were invaluable. And, as a welcome bonus, I lost some unwanted pounds that had stubbornly accumulated in my mid-section over the last decade… without imposing limits on how much I ate. 

You  can read more about how my journey through twelve food challenges translates into lessons for life at http://a.co/7W90SkM (Amazon). 

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