You’ve decide to begin eating healthy and your first step is to begin making changes to the food you buy and eat. First you throw out all of the packaged and processed foods, because they have so little nutritional value. They are full of additives, preservative and other chemicals that are bad for your body. The next things to go are the various weekly fast food meals, because you know how unhealthy they really are! You switch grains from regular wheat to whole wheat and sugar from processed white sugar to Sucanat, because they are supposed to be healthier. You add more fresh fruits and vegetables because they are really good for you. You start learning more about healthy fats and begin to add them to your diet.
As you begin to make changes, however, you come across information that says that wheat is bad to eat unless it has been sprouted or soaked. So then you make the change and only used soaked or sprouted wheat for your recipes. Until the day you read information complete with studies about why gluten is bad for your health. You then make the decision to go gluten free. But only weeks later you find an article that claims that all grains are bad for your health and because they cause cancer and obesity, you give up all grains completely!
You then find out that regular, store bought produce contains too many pesticides, so it’s best to buy organic. You must avoid GMOs because of how dangerous they are for your health. And you discover that you shouldn’t eat cruciferous vegetables because they can negatively affect the thyroid. Then you have to learn about healthy fats. For awhile it was all about extra virgin olive oil. But then there were concerns that although healthy, it doesn’t contain enough omega 3’s. And since fat is really not the enemy, we need to be eating much more of it. And we should be eating lots of butter and lard, never forgetting how important virgin coconut oil is! Nuts have to always be soaked and dried, but you have to be careful because nut allergies are really a problem for so many. And don’t even get started on the dangers of meat! You can’t buy conventional store bought meat because of the steroids, hormones and antibiotics. It can only be grass fed and pasture raised animals that have never been fed any GMO soy or corn. Cow’s milk is good for you until you discover that it’s bad and can make you sick. And you should never eat any sugar, ever because it is so downright dangerous for your health!
You’ve started on a journey to eat better, but now you find that you have become obsessed with every meal and every bite! You have become afraid of food because there is so much conflicting information to back up the claims that particular foods are bad for your health and will cause chronic illness. So planning and preparing meals becomes stressful and overwhelming as you try to make sense of all of the food rules out there. You just don’t know what to eat anymore because so many foods are considered dangerous for your health, and you find that your food options have dwindled to a very short list of foods that haven’t been added to the “dangerous” list yet.
If you are feeling overwhelmed about which foods to eat, then you may be suffering from an addiction to eating the healthiest food possible. Orthorexia is the name for this unhealthy obsession. Many people avoid getting to this point, but those who end up struggling with Orthorexia ultimately end up with health issues as a result. This is because of the chronic stress that they carry as they worry about whether or not they are eating food that will ultimately end up making them sick. Many also suffer from nutritional deficiencies due to diets that lack a well rounded variety of nutrient rich foods.
Do you find yourself overwhelmed too much about the foods you are eating? If so, then remember these simple guidelines:
- Whole, real, fresh foods should be your main focus. If it works for your body and it’s a whole food, then you should include it as at least 80% of your diet, or more. Whole, real foods would include properly prepared grains, nuts, seeds, meat, dairy, fruits, healthy fats, vegetables and natural sweeteners.
- It is best to limit packaged, processed and fast food to no more than 20% of your diet, or less. These foods have been processed so fully that most of the nutrient content has been processed out. If you consume a large percentage of your diet as packaged and processed foods, then you will most likely end up malnourished, since you cannot get the nutrition you need from these foods. But you can still eat a little without feeling guilty, as long as it doesn’t cause problems for your body.
- You don’t have to be perfect! So you had a day of less than perfect food choices. Are you going to sit there, feel guilty and stress yourself out about it, or are you going to let it go and make the decision to make better choices at the next meal? Creating a lot of stress over how you are thinking about food ultimately causes more health issues than one day of imperfect eating. It is okay to allow yourself to be less than perfect.
- Think more about the way your grandparents and great grandparents ate. These generations did far more cooking from scratch and did not rely on boxed meals and fast food! If you have computer access, then you have access to millions of recipes that can help you to cook whole foods from scratch. Cooking doesn’t have to be difficult or take a lot of time, so look for recipes that will work well for you and your schedule.
- Listen to your body. If you do not tolerate a food, then avoid it, even if it is bacon or chocolate! If you suspect that you may be intolerant of a specific food, remove it from your diet for two weeks. If your symptoms subside, and then return when you add it back in, you may want to avoid that food permanently because it doesn’t agree with your body.
You can eat a healthy diet, and still remain stress free if you follow the guidelines above. Allow yourself to relax and if you feel yourself getting overwhelmed about food, remind yourself that the stress you are creating by worrying about the foods you are eating is more detrimental to your health than eating a few less than healthy foods.