I believe that food freedom (which I define as a relationship with food that nourishes the body, mind, and soul) is our natural state.
However, due to all of the noise out there, we’ve collectively picked up a bunch of untrue beliefs that have left us confused and therefore seeking to “achieve” healthy eating in ways that, frankly, make us crazy.
If we want to change our lives, we need to release the beliefs that are keeping us stuck. And if food freedom is a goal, one of the most important beliefs to let go of is the idea that there is an ideal way to eat.
“But wait!” I can hear you thinking. “There’s tons of research about nutrition out there. Surely we’ve learned something about the best way to eat!”
[Alternatively, if you have a nutrition regimen that you’ve read a lot about and believe deeply in, like paleo or keto or plant-based, you’re likely thinking, “You’re wrong here, Annette. Research clearly shows that _____________ (insert your preferred nutrition ideology) is the best way to eat.”]
If that’s the case, I honor your response – and I invite you to take a deep breath and stay with me.
Nutrition experts across the board would like us to believe that there is a best way to eat. Of course, each expert defines “the best way” according to their own bias.
The paleo experts are adamant about the “fact” that grains are harmful.
The vegan experts are SURE that a plant-based diet is the royal road to a long, healthy life.
The keto experts are singing the praises of a high-fat diet. (“Blessed be coconut oil!)
The Mediterranean-diet experts are like, “Hey, look at the Greeks! They’re doing well!”
And ALL of them have research to back up their claims. Every. single. one.
At the same time, these experts aren’t stupid. They recognize that all of the nutrition noise out there has resulted in a confused American public. So, in 2015, the world’s top nutrition experts decided to meet. Their goal was simple: craft a single, clear message on healthy eating.
Guess what happened?
According to Dr. David Katz, “Ninety minutes into the meeting, we were still trying to agree what a hell a vegetable was.”
In the end, they managed to come up with a vague consensus statement. To be fair, it does contain some great points about the importance of sustainability, food literacy, and the best way for nutrition studies to be reported to the public – but it’s certainly not a document that makes you think “Now I know exactly what a healthy diet looks like!”
So if even the most well-educated, well-known, well-respected nutrition experts can’t come to an agreement about what constitutes a healthy diet, where does that leave us?
In my view: with an invitation to accept that there is no one best way to eat.
Instead, the “best” way to eat is the way that works for each of our individual bodies.
And how do we figure out what works best for our bodies? Simple: we listen to our bodies.
Our bodies know more about what foods work for us than any nutrition expert does. If we are willing to tune in, listen, and then act according to the information we receive – with curiosity, not rigidity – eventually we’ll figure out what kind of diet works best for us.
This doesn’t mean that we need to throw out everything we know about nutrition. All of the research out there, despite its conflicting messages, still has value – as long as we see each claim for what it is: a suggestion.
For example: lately there’s a lot of buzz about bulletproof coffee. What if, instead of taking the “expert” claims as definitely, undoubtedly true for everyone, we took them as a suggestion of something to try (if we’d like to)?
Instead of “Bulletproof coffee is amazing and everyone should drink it,” try “It seems that bulletproof coffee makes some people feel great.”
If you’re curious to find out if you’re one of those people, then try it and see how your body responds. If your body seems to like it, awesome, and if not, awesome. Either way you’ve gathered valuable information.
The great news is that your body is downright EAGER to tell you what works, because it wants to be fueled in a way that makes it feel energized, vibrant, and alive.
Do you see how this approach feels so much freer? How it allows us to engage with nutrition with open-minded curiosity instead of tight control? How it invites us into a loving, accepting, and trusting relationship with our bodies?
The belief that there is an ideal way to eat is a myth that blocks our alignment with food freedom. I invite you to consider trading it for: “My body knows the best way to eat for ME.”
Yes, it’s radical. And it may feel scary.
But I encourage you to try it anyway, because we must change our beliefs to change our lives, and food freedom awaits…