I’ve been obsessed with natural health since I was given my first book on healing with plants, at age 15. I was instantly fascinated and it’s only grown since then.
I’ve raised both my children using natural remedies as our first choice for medicine. I qualified as a professional medical herbalist in 2011, graduating from the Waikato Centre for Herbal Medicine in New Zealand.
I’ve worked in research, manufacturing, clinic, retail and writing. I’m a self-confessed plant geek and I actually study for fun. Favorite topics are herbs, nutrition, biochemistry and phytopharmacology. I genuinely enjoy helping people and my particular interest is in supporting new mothers with their postpartum recovery.
You can find me at www.facebook.com/NaturalAnswerPostNatal
The Key To Health Is In Your Routine
Someone once said to me that when you make food choices based on flavor instead of health benefits, you’re letting 1% of your body decide what the other 99% needs. The 1% is your taste buds, and the 99% is the rest of your body.
I liked this because it really got me thinking and gave me a whole new perspective on the topic of diets. It made me realize how much of our eating is controlled by habit and our own psychology. So often our food choices are based on routine – we simply eat the same things we’ve always eaten.
Our emotions also drive our decisions because we associate certain foods with comfort. We like familiarity, and there’s nothing more familiar than the food our parents used to cook for us.
Creating a New Routine
After practicing naturopathic medicine for a decade, and watching people struggle to make lasting changes to their diets, I can say with certainty that knowledge alone is not enough. I can teach someone everything I know about food and nutrition.
But if they aren’t ready to change their mindset and create new routines, it’s likely their enthusiasm will fade after a few days and they’ll drift back towards their old eating habits.
In the health industry, this aspect of treatment is called compliance. It’s the extent to which a patient follows the practitioner’s instructions. It’s a well-known fact that not everyone will follow the advice they’re given.
Even when someone knows it’s important, even when they trust and respect their practitioner, sometimes they just have resistance. Some people simply leave out the parts of the treatment protocol that they don’t like or don’t want to do. Some people are enthusiastic about the idea of positive change but are mentally or emotionally unequipped to act on it.
My technique for countering non-compliance is to encourage small, gradual, permanent changes, rather than overhauling every aspect of someone’s diet and routine. A large and sudden change can be overwhelming and even frightening for someone who’s being asked to step outside their comfort zone and stay there.
Fall Off the Wagon with Forgiveness
Often people do really well for a few days or a week, but eventually their cravings can’t be ignored and they give in.
The guilt that comes with slipping up can make the situation much worse than it needs to be. Sometimes it only takes one small failure for the scales to tip and the overwhelm to take over. At this point, some people give up entirely.
It’s so important to be gentle and forgiving with yourself. Just acknowledge you didn’t get it quite right, then move on with a focus to doing it better next time.
The gradual approach I advocate gives people time to adjust. Integrating change into your life one piece at a time and remain comfortable through most of the process. You have time to learn about new food and nutrition in your own time and from multiple sources.
Try to experiment with flavors and new food preparation techniques. Find foods you genuinely like and the process becomes a journey of discovery rather than a course of treatment.
Save the Hardest for Last
There’s often one or two sticking points for people, and I always suggest that these be the last to go. I had one patient who was addicted to fizzy drinks. She had changed most of her diet and was eating only certified organic food by the time she finally gave up the fizz.
She would cook up brown rice and vegetables as her main meal then she would wash it all down with a huge glass of fizz! It was such an odd contrast.
She knew without me telling her that the fizzy had to go because it really was a glaring contradiction by this point.
Eventually she let it go by her own choice, and because everything else in her lifestyle and diet choices was supporting her to take this final step, she never went back.
The Simple Diet Is The Best Diet
As much as I learn about nutrition – the intricacies and complexities – the basics remain the same. And a healthy diet is very basic. I had it distilled down for me once, and it looked like this:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Cold pressed vegetable oils
- Pure water
If you eat only these things, you’ll be perfectly healthy! If they’re certified organic or homegrown, so much the better. And if you’re a meat eater, you can include fish, poultry, eggs, and lean meats, as well as a moderate amount of dairy.
Of course not many people eat like this, and we’re constantly surrounded by other options. Every store we enter presents us with the possibility of a quick bite to eat. It takes willpower to say no to all the convenience foods available.
All the delicious snacks that are full of hidden preservatives, colors, flavors, salt, sugar and bad fats.
But taste isn’t everything when it comes to food choices. Actually, taste should be secondary to health. What happens when we make this mental shift is that healthy things genuinely start to taste good.
I can tell you in absolute good faith that salads are my favorite meal. Yes, they’re quite possibly the healthiest thing you can eat. But I also thoroughly enjoy the taste of a fresh, carefully-planned, well-seasoned salad.
The way I feel afterwards is the best part. I have energy and I’m ready for action, not heading for sleep. I feel light and clean on the inside, rather than heavy and greasy.
I’m completely guilt-free and I know I’ve just done my body the biggest favor I could. It’s a feeling worth chasing.
Take Away Message
I’m making the right choices for the 99% of my body that depends on good nutrition. And at the same time, I’m teaching the 1%, my taste buds, that healthy can be tasty as well. When you have 100% of your body asking you to make good food choices, health comes easily. This is when you’re tuned in to what your body is really asking for.