Living with less is not just about having less things in your house.
As I have moved toward a life of living with less over the past few years, this has permeated into other areas of my life. Little did I know it would do so in the area of nutrition and diet, a nice surprise to continuing on the quest and how it can gel in your life.
I’ve been a conscientious, albeit not perfect, eater for many years for many reasons (another few blog posts about eating and body image emerging). I recognize now that my childhood was fraught with being “allowed” to eat certain things, “fat is bad,” needing to finish the plate, and having strict rules around meal times, snacking, and eating meals as a family. Some of this is culturally driven as well as based in information which was available in the media at the time, but some is about family dynamics and years of established, potentially dysfunctional, patterns.
The quest to continually move toward living a more simplistic and smarter life that works for me has been less painful than predicted when I realized that the connection to the minimalistic life and what we feed our gut, bodies, and minds has to fit. We can’t just choose one area of life for simplicity. Minimalism isn’t just about spending money. Or owning less stuff. It’s much more. Compartmentalizing rarely works successfully for anyone because our mind is just not framed to operate that way.
Despite knowing what’s healthy and what is nutrient-dense from my years as a nurse practitioner and now a fitness professional focusing on functional aging and wellness, I started investigating labels again. The concerns about trans fats, genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), and artificial ingredients and preservatives are all potentially inflammatory to our bodies and contribute to dissease. I wanted to know what was actually in the foods and drinks that made my patients sick and was causing such symptoms as joint pains, headaches, fatigue, gastrointestinal maladies, and many other unresolved symptoms that were at least partially related to the so-called fuels people call food.
We know that the ingredients in foods and the quantities we eat will affect our gut health, our brain health, our moods, our energy levels, and our metabolism. I don’t think we give food enough credit for being the culprit or the healer with what ails us. Testing how foods make you feel by the method of exclusion from the diet will make you realize that food is medicine. It contains compounds and sugar and substances bound to interact with every cell and organ system in your body. Why not listen to the body and all the physical and cognitive complaints to institute some small changes?
Eating mostly foods which are real and unadulterated and which grow on real plants instead of inside man-made plants yields some amazing benefits. If you have ever experienced someone’s joy of discontinuing a medication or you watch their pride and sense of accomplishment skyrocket through their hard work of clean living, you will understand. These are the moments I live for in medicine. And just imagine the benefits from feeding your DNA only good fuel which tends to protect you from cancer, heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and arthritis, just to mention a few…your pocket book and your future will thank you.
Also, you have to ask yourself why you are eating what you’re eating. And how much. And what specific foods? And if you’re eating to curb hunger or eating to curb an emotion? Are you eating because you’re bored? Frustrated? Tired? Stressed? Feeling good? Are you choosing foods that are grab-and-go snacks? Or are you intentionally taking the time to prepare the greens, yellows, oranges, and reds to be your “meal masterpiece?” The commitment to intentionally aim for the perimeter of the store will also save you valuable time. Imagine not having to go down the middle isles as much as you currently are. These are other issues to ponder as you hone down the nitty-gritty about food and about focusing on taking only what you need, and no more.
The other reason that eating “leaner” (less junk, less crap, less processed, less meat products) and smarter is for environmental reasons. I am no tree hugger and am not advocating veganism although that may work for some people, but manufacturing wears down the environment. The more boxes and containers we make, the more trash we make. The more trash we accumulate, the more precious land is consumed via landfills which impacts greenhouse gasses. Yes, recycling is an option, but recycling makes waste and uses fossil fuels to break down what we’re recycling.
Does it sound like you can’t win? That we’re doomed any way we go? That minimalism or living smarter won’t solve all the problems?
I don’t think so. I think if we consciously choose real food, if we grow food, and if we choose foods that are not packaged to the hilt, and if we make food the fuel that it is, then we all win. Our health wins. Our healthcare system wins. Our planet wins.
As part of my quest to blog daily for 30 days, this is #3 of 30. Hope it resonates with someone and helps ONE person.
For the experienced bloggers, I’d love if you please post your constructive feedback. I am learning.