I assume that you, whoever you are, have spent most of your life eating a great deal of processed and packaged food, lots of sweetened foods, candy and straight up sugar, tons of vegetable oils in the form of French fries and chips, plenty of caffeine and chocolate, and processed meats like store-bought bacon and sausage.
If this is the case, your body has been under tremendous strain and is tragically undernourished. Sure you may have cleaned up your diet and have been doing much better, eating whole foods, more fresh fruits and vegetables, etc., but the foundation upon which nearly all of us are built is structurally weak. I know hardly a soul, especially of my generation, that didn’t grow up eating mostly crap.
To recover, the following things need to happen, but don’t get overwhelmed feeling like they all have to be done at once. That is not the point. The point is to slowly begin to incorporate these things into your lifestyle. A goal requires work, and few of us have the patience and determination to accomplish goals set up in a burdensome way. So don’t think of your diet as a goal, but a series of habits rather that you get used to over time. If you are going to make goals, make your goal improvement, which keeps you moving forward no matter what “mistakes” you make. If you set out to be perfect, you are delusional and setting yourself up for guaranteed failure – or extreme freakism if you do succeed. Notice that I don’t use the word “never” in the following recommendations. This is a lifelong nourishment program. It is part of the “sustainable, self-nurturing lifestyle” that I encourage my clients to cultivate. So here it comes…
1) Prepare more of your food from scratch from whole, unadulterated foods. This doesn’t have to consume your whole life, but there’s no way around this first step.
2) Eat full, balanced meals based on fat and protein with a small amount of complex carbohydrates*, at regular intervals (every 3-5 hours), and never skip meals, especially breakfast which should be eaten within 1 hour of waking.
3) Along the same lines, rarely eat a carbohydrate, fat, or protein alone. Combine the three together methodically for stability.
4) Use the stability of this eating style to virtually eradicate sugar (including nearly all fruit and natural sweeteners), refined grain, caffeine, alcohol, and other addictive stimulants from your life. Don’t get all phobic about it. A couple exceptions per month aren’t going to kill you. This is surprisingly easy with strict adherence to steps 2 and 3, which should not be underestimated. At the very least, try not to eat these foods two and three days in a row, allowing ample recovery time.
5) Eat more raw foods, particularly fat. Raw butter is worth your troubles and money to obtain. Think of it as a delicious supplement. Shoot for ¼ pound (1 stick) per day. Raw coconut oil in lesser amounts is great too, as is avocado. Meat, fish, and eggs are also excellent raw and perfectly safe to eat, especially when following step 6.
6) Buy high-quality, properly-raised food. Grassfed and pastured meat, eggs, and dairy can be purchased from small local farmers doing it right. Organic produce can be purchased from local farmers’ markets during summer and most supermarkets in winter. Wild-caught seafood can be found anywhere.
I could go on for a while, but this is a good start. Experimenting with short fasts, eating bone broth soups, eating fermented foods, taking a long break from grains, etc. could have all been mentioned, but don’t overwhelm yourself with all that just yet. Start simply. Start realistically.
Sample day that incorporates principles 1-6…
Wake up 7am
When You Must Compromise
When (not if!) the occasional sugar, fruit, sweetener, caffeine, or alcohol is consumed, at least make sure that it is not ingested alone on an empty stomach. Everyone knows that alcohol on an empty stomach has a more pronounced effect on your biochemistry. The same goes for sugar. Consume these only after plenty of complimentary fat and protein-rich foods have been ingested (i.e. – have sugar, fruit, and alcohol with or after a full meal and not before). This prevents the overly dramatic rise and fall of blood sugar levels – the primary reason for eating balanced meals at regular intervals as noted in steps 2-3.
As a final note this is not a panacea, it’s a start that can significantly benefit most people who share a common problem (erratic blood sugar and imbalanced major hormone levels). Serious health conditions including digestive disorders may require a different emphasis, such as the consumption of primarily raw foods, simple easily-digested carbohydrates, and other healing dietary approaches.
* Common complex carbohydrates to be eaten with every meal and snack are corn, beans, peas, lentils, potatoes, turnips, sweet potatoes, celery root, nuts and seeds, and all grains (natural sourdough fermentation ideal). They are stressed because their absorption rate is slower which keeps blood sugar levels more balanced, helping to overcome sugar and stimulant cravings. However, there is one catch worth noting. These are by far the most difficult to digest foods. If you have problems digesting complex carbohydrates, it may be more important that you take the opposite approach, eating only simple carbohydrates from raw fruit, honey, vegetable juices, and fermented dairy. For some only the raw honey is tolerable, which is the most easily digested carbohydrate food. In addition, those who are able to eat the complex carbohydrates, once significantly recovered (no cravings, ideal body composition achieved, etc.), can once again return to what are truly the healthiest of all carbohydrates – raw honey, raw vegetable juice, and raw fruit (but be careful!).