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FOOD FREEDOM, HEALTH, AND HAPPINESS

Sunday is our market day. My daughter was euphoric to munch on fresh green olives from the olive stand. But then we offered her the sourdough bread from the bread man. And by the time we got the apples and strawberries in the trolley, she just didn’t know what to devour first. A bit here and a bit there. Crikey it got more intense when we got home! A bit of banana in one hand and some halloumi cheese in the other. Oh, how I love that kids just know what their little bodies need AND they eat without stress. I can wholeheartedly say that I model this behaviour BUT I know for many women (and some men) food is a source of anxiety, stress, and confusion so it got me thinking… 

Food freedom, health, and happiness…. Where is it that they intersect? Is it possible that all 3 can co-exist and how?

Let me back up a bit. First, you may be thinking ‘what is this ‘food freedom’ bizzo’ that she’s referring to? Well, google it and you will find it an actually defined term now, but in my own words it’s:

having peace and balance where food is concerned and 

a state in which eating is NOT a source of anxiety or stress, but simply one of many essential, but enjoyable activities that make up the rhythm of daily life.

It’s a very hot topic right now and marries snugly with ‘intuitive eating.’ Again, you can google this, but in my own words intuitive eating is the ability to tune in and listen to one’s own appetite before deciding a) whether to eat or not b) how much to eat and c) what to eat. 

If the body is saying it’s starving and it feels like red meat then we should be guided by that, according to intuitive eating. For the record, I am BIG on intuitive eating and I am constantly reminding clients to actually listen to what their body is saying to them. 

Intuitive eating sounds ridiculously simple and very primal, but it’s been lost amongst the chatter of the dieting industry. Concepts like:

-eat 5-6 small meals a day….

-intermittent fast to look younger and lose weight

-cut the carbs

-eat fewer calories than you burn….

Make it difficult to eat intuitively because there’s simply too much ‘noise’ where eating and food are concerned. Not to mention the many gadgets we attach to ourselves these days to measure everything from sleep patterns to macronutrient intake to perceived stress levels.

In order to get back to intuitive eating, we really need to ‘unplug’ from these devices (in my opinion) and shut off from the mixed messaging of the dieting industry, which comes at us via tv/radio advertising, social media, billboards, magazines, and influencer marketing. The latter is somewhat challenging because dieting advice is everywhere but we can ALL take steps to reduce its hold on us by detoxing our social media feeds (pardon the pun), swapping magazines for a good book and turning down the radio in between songs (to name just a few ideas. Oh and for the record I don’t even wear a basic wristwatch OR measure my km when I go for a run.) 

Switching off to the noise of the dieting industry would go a long way towards a life of ‘food freedom’ too. But many experts who specialize in food freedom say we need to go further than that and ditch goals related to health and weight loss forever and definitely never consult a nutritionist again. Now, I LOVE the concept of food freedom, and when I’m working with clients on a health journey their mental wellbeing is ALWAYS at the forefront of my mind…. So as someone who promotes healthy eating, am I PART of the problem? It’s definitely something I’ve wrestled with over the last few months as I’ve dived more and more into the world of food freedom. But something always niggles at me in the background and that is…. Are we supposed to just ‘stop’ promoting healthy lifestyle practices? What about those with chronic diseases who need to eat better to stop their progression? Do we ignore the obesity crisis and its emotional, financial, and social consequences? Are we NOT supposed to help that person who just wants to be able to run after their kids without being out of breath in 5 seconds? My gut says absolutely not, so I’ve decided I’m not packing up and switching careers after all. But I have decided where these concepts intersect and how ‘food freedom’ and ‘healthy eating’ (or health and happiness as I call it) are able to co-exist and that is….

In the land of whole foods! When we base our nutrition around delicious, fresh, whole foods as unadulterated as possible (i.e. as close to nature as possible), food freedom and intuitive eating and health and happiness are all achievable. Actually, not only are they achievable, they are the norm when whole food living is applied consistently. When we consume simple, real foods from a variety of food groups (meats, cheeses, olives, legumes, vegetables, real chocolate, fruits, good dense bread, yoghurt, butter, olive oil, coconut oil, vinegar, garlic, spices, herbs, stocks, etc.) we CAN eat intuitively and we CAN eat without making every meal a math equation. It’s when we base our diets around processed foods including ‘diet snacks’ and ‘low-calorie packets of empty nutrition’ that we literally lose the ability to listen to our own bodies AND we stress about each and every meal. The food industry MADE things this way because keeping us trapped in a cycle of dieting is extremely profitable after all.

So there you have it, folks. My absolute number 1 piece of advice continues to reign supremely important and that is ‘eat wholefoods mostly’ and the rest will take care of itself. 

P.S. If you want to get started on a wholefoods lifestyle, check out our Back 2 Basics course.

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