Nutrition: The Key to Wellness

In my introductory post for my new Wellness Journey, I mentioned the three pillars of wellness (in addition to the foundational spiritual element) that hold up the structure of health: 

1) Nutrition
2) Movement
3) Environment

I'm going to jump right in with Nutrition today and share the basics that have transformed my life. I have left two decades of chronic pain and illness behind me... and I have no intention of going back. 

Before I get into the guidelines that I use for my personal plan, I have a few very important points to go over...

  • I am not a doctor or a professional wellness expert. Please do not use my words or recommendations to replace sound medical advice. Blog posts are necessarily broad and cannot replace personal care by a wellness professional.
  • This is a journey of wellness NOT perfection. Progress is not measured by the end of the journey but by the small victories... the private healthy choices... the one decision you made in a day that honored your goals. 
  • It's not a race. I have been on this journey for 4 years and I am still struggling and still falling and rising. This is not a one-time diet that I can "fail" at but a lifetime of little choices. Until my final hour, there will always be another moment to choose to be a little healthier and a little holier. I'm not better than you are... I'm walking with you.
  • Every journey is different. God designed our bodies to function according to certain physical laws but we all have different strengths, weaknesses, sensitivities, and preferences. My goal here is not to make you exactly like me... but to help you be a better you. If what I write doesn't resonate or fit with your life... you have no obligation to read or follow.
  • Every good choice is a victory. If you have been sick for a long time, are overwhelmed by your life circumstances, or are pregnant or postpartum... please go gently. This is not a competition.  We will not be counting failures.
  • Remember your purpose. Resolutions fail because the purpose is less compelling than the comfort of staying where we're at. Find your purpose... find your strength. My purpose is HERE.
  • There will be some affiliate links in these posts... but I will not link to any product that I have not personally used and find worthy of a recommendation. If I have not used it but have a good reason to link, I will indicate that in the post. 

Now... let's get healthy!


NUTRITION

I put this first because it must be first. Nutrition is the fuel that runs our bodies... our brains... our hormones... everything. If you exercise every day but stuff your body full of garbage, you are setting yourself up for current or future struggles. If you exercise daily, eliminate garbage, but do not meet your body's fundamental nutritional needs, you are still setting yourself up for future problems, particularly if you have had multiple pregnancies or illnesses. I know this intellectually but also through experience... I am living it. Nine pregnancies and two decades battling chronic illness. A gal gets depleted. 

Our bodies are incredible.... AMAZING... beautiful... and we were designed to function optimally with nutritious food, but the typical American diet does not take those needs seriously. Consequently, we live in a first world country that is plagued with disease... much of which is avoidable It is common knowledge that much disease (and symptoms of unavoidable disease) can be eliminated by eating a nutrient-dense, garbage-free diet and living a healthy lifestyle. Modern medicine is marvelous... but no doctor or surgery or medication can replace God's plan for normal, healing nutrition and movement. 

The following information contains the basic skeleton of my personal nutrition plan. The blog format necessitates the exclusion of many details but this is a basic overview.... 


TRANSFORMING MY HEALTH THROUGH NUTRITION 

{Current habit and goals with friendly suggestions for my readers}

  1. CUT OUT GARBAGE
  2. INCREASE REAL NUTRITION
  3. SHOP THE PERIMETER
  4. THE FEWER INGREDIENTS, THE BETTER
  5. EAT NUTRITIONALLY DENSE FOODS
  6. EMBRACE THE FAT
  7. CAREFUL SUPPLEMENTING
  8. NEVER STOP LEARNING {FIND A GOOD SUPPORT SYSTEM}

1. CUT OUT GARBAGE

The human body is incredible. The balance of hormones and systems is finely tuned and designed to function with seasonal, real food. It is extremely resilient and can survive and thrive for a long time on inferior nutrition or periods of fasting.... through days, seasons, and even decades. But if we use garbage "food" to fuel the body on a regular basis, we will eventually damage the beautiful machine and we'll certainly experience ill effects before then. 

The good news is that the body also has a remarkable ability to heal. If you're like me and have abused your own body nutritionally for most of your life, then it might take a longer period of hard work... but every small step is worth it! I'm on my fourth year (and second pregnancy) of gluten-free, clean eating... and I'm not even tempted to go back. I cannot overstate the positive affect that those changes have made on my life.

Once upon a time, I told my husband I thought that I would die if I had another baby and I truly believed it. But in between that pregnancy and the next, I changed my diet and consequently, my life. And I didn't die. Not even close.
When I was 35, I told him that I would surely be in a wheelchair by the time I was 40. I am now 39... and thriving. 

LET'S BE HONEST... The trial of going without chemically enhanced lattes and Oreo cookies is a first world problem. You don't have to have them. And the obligations of your vocation may be calling you to let them go. If you eat junk regularly and also complain about IBS, fatigue, diabetes, joint pain, headaches, etc... then it may be time to start thinking about the stress you've been putting on your body all these years and the investment you want to make for the future.

The good news is that now is a GREAT time to begin to make changes regardless of the challenges you face in life. There is always a small change you can make toward health.


Things to consider eliminating immediately...

  • CORN SYRUP
    Should not even be used in moderation. Read more "5 Reasons High Fructose Corn Syrup Will Kill You"
  • WHEAT/GLUTEN
    Wheat is not inherently evil... but the way that the majority of flour is produced in the last 50 years renders it a nutritionally empty source of calories, and increasing numbers of people are developing sensitivities. Why? Good question. Read more HERE. If you do not have an intolerance, you will still benefit nutritionally from replacing most or all of your bread and pasta with vegetables and nutritionally dense carbs. You will also eliminate a huge source of extra pounds! The elimination of gluten changed my life
  • PACKAGED FOODS
    There are exceptions to the this but by and large, if a food is packaged, it generally needs non-food chemicals to keep it from rotting, breaking, separating, or to enhance its denatured flavor.
  • PACKAGED FOODS LABELED 'GLUTEN FREE'
    Make no mistake... The majority is junk food. Nutritionally empty. Just eat real food instead. Have you ever heard anyone say "I gained weight on a gluten-free diet"? Yep, me too... lots of times. Well, it makes sense if they are simply replacing their empty carbs with more empty carbs. 
  • ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS
    Most simply are not healthy to consume. Use natural sweeteners instead.
  • SUGAR
    I know... I know... All things in moderation, right? But the American idea of "moderation" and the body's idea of moderation seem to be at odds. Modern science recognizes that sugar is a source of inflammation in the body... and that inflammation is a common cause of preventable disease. So... consider less damaging alternatives (honey, real maple syrup, coconut sugar) and also making even those splurges rare since they tend to increase more sweet cravings. read more here
  • ALL SODA  
    This is a no-brainer. We know this. Regular is terrible for you. Diet is just as bad for you.

2. INCREASE REAL NUTRITION

After first cutting out garbage, it can initially seem difficult to find nutritious replacements. We are used to eating from boxes and bags and have been desensitized to the long list of ingredients on labels. The following tips will help you navigate... 

3. SHOP THE PERIMETER

Most real foods will be found in the produce and refrigerated sections of a grocery store. Avoiding processed, nutrient-deficient foods generally means eliminating many of the middle aisles. Shop fresh.

4. THE FEWER INGREDIENTS, THE BETTER

One-ingredient foods are the best option. If you're buying chicken, you want chicken... not chicken with a list of hard to spell chemicals listed after. If you're buying broccoli, you want broccoli... not broccoli, colorants, and preservatives. When buying from a can or a box, go for the one that has the fewest and most recognizable ingredients. For example, a simple can of kidney beans usually contains some form of sugar. Put back the ones that list corn syrup and chemicals... and keep looking until you find the healthiest, fewest ingredients added to your beans.

5. EAT NUTRITIONALLY DENSE FOODS

Long term health does not count calories but weighs nutrition. The best path to weight loss is a body that has the proper fuel when it needs it. If you overeat regularly, calories will add up, but I've got to tell you... it's a lot harder to gain extra weight when you're doubling up on real food than if you're doubling up on the pasta. Make the calories count and your appetite will more likely regulate itself. You will remember what it's like to be truly hungry. There won't be bloating to confuse or guilt you. You can just eat.

Also, not all whole foods are created equal. If you are short on nutrients (almost all of us are), then you might want to make your pile of dark leafy greens significantly larger than your pile of rice. 

6. EMBRACE THE FAT

It is time to leave the diet fads and pseudo-science of the 1980's behind. Dump the margarine... Embrace the full-fat grass-fed butter. Why? Because margarine is chemically-laden garbage food and your brain and body NEED healthy fats to stay healthy. Every cell in your body is made up of fats... you have a fundamental biologic need for fat. 

I have noticed in my own diet that when I eat more healthy fats, my cravings are reduced, I have more energy, less brain fog, and have no trouble with weight gain. When I skimp on the fats, I end up eating more of everything else and struggling with energy. 

WHAT FATTY OILS TO GET RID OF COMPLETELY....

vegetable oil
canola oil
cottonseed oil
transfats
soybean oil
hydrogenated oil

WHAT OILS TO INCREASE ...

coconut oil
cold olive oil
grapeseed oil
organic butter
ghee (clarified butter)

Here is a great overview of what fats you should and shouldn't be eating and how you should or shouldn't be using them. FATS & OILS

MY FAVORITE WAYS TO GET MORE FAT IN MY DIET...

avocados
nuts
full fat coconut milk
organic full fat butter
organic bacon... because... bacon.

7. CONSIDER CAREFUL SUPPLEMENTING

Before saying another word about supplements, I must reiterate:

A NOURISHING DIET IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANY SUPPLEMENT.  PILLS WILL NOT SAVE YOU FROM BAD FOOD CHOICES. Supplements only become a need when our diet is inadequate. Having said that...

I am a supplement convert. I never "believed" in the idea and thought that I could just get what I needed through food. I was wrong. Countless years of nutrient deprivation from poor eating, malabsorption, and ignorance left me seriously depleted of nutrients. And unfortunately (due to chronic issues and perhaps age), it isn't just correcting itself by eating a steak and a hearty salad periodically. My age and body abuse have left me struggling and for the first time, I'm leaning on good supplements to get through my days.

It is VERY important to note that the vitamin and supplement industry is basically unregulated. That means that your Walmart multi-vitamins could very well contain Chinese sawdust... and mold. When testing has been done on OTC supplements, supplements have regularly been found to falsely advertise content and quantities. What to do? 

Do your research. Pay more money for supplements that you can source. Don't pop a pill just because it's cheap. You'll pay out the nose for medications to treat disease... why would you skimp on your preventative care?

MY MOST VALUABLE SUPPLEMENTS ...

PROBIOTICS
After many years of indiscriminate antibiotic use and chronic digestive illness, my gut flora balance is toast. The absolute BEST way to get probiotics into a body is to eat fermented foods. I'm working on that but I fall way short. So good probiotic supplements are my lifeline and this brand is the most effective for me. I get no kickbacks for saying that. I pay full price for these because they are that important to my routine. LIVE PROBIOTICS (scroll down the linked page for a good video on why to take probiotics)

IRON
I struggle with anemia. The kind where you are tired beyond any description of tired that you have felt before. It goes to your very bones and makes you ask "WHAT is so wrong with me that I can't even walk across the house??" And I know that anemia to varying degrees is quite common in moms, especially with regular pregnancies.

Regular OTC iron supplements were making me nauseas and causing typical side affects. After doing a bunch of research, I found a great resource that I have been using for 2 years now. Gluten and soy free. No side affects. They are small tablets instead of horse pills. I have to take multiple a day but it's worth it. And absolutely worth the extra that I pay. FLORADIX Iron Supplements.

CHLOROPHYLL
During pregnancy, my regular iron supplements and good eating are not quite enough. I started asking pregnancy professionals and researching online and came up with these CHLOROPHYLL supplements which have made a significant difference for me.

FISH OIL
Another product that is worth every penny for me. I discovered these supplements when my teeth started to deteriorate from the fallout of malabsorbtion/malnutrition. My body began to draw its mineral needs from my teeth during my last pregnancy and the impact was rapid and alarming. These supplements dramatically reduced swelling, bleeding, and pain within days of starting. All symptoms would resume within 2 days of neglecting to take them. After a month of research, I was so grateful to hit on a solution the first time: BUTTER OIL/FERMENTED COD LIVER OIL

ADDITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS
I am often trying new things as I find good sources and have recently discovered that this company provides many nice nutrition supplements that help meet my needs and energy. I haven't tried all that they offer but have come to appreciate several items. More info HERE. Feel free to contact me with questions or if you'd like to chat about options. (Yes, I am a rep... because I rely on the products, love to share them, and the wholesale discount makes a whole lot of sense in my life right now!)

8. NEVER STOP LEARNING {FIND GOOD SUPPORT}

I anticipate many questions from this post since so many details simply won't fit! I will do my best to get to those as I am able. In the meantime, I will leave you will some of my favorite resources for recipes and wellness. Wondering how to cook a meal with real food? These recipe resources are a great place to start and have helped me out more times than I can count. These links should also lead you to more excellent information on overall wellness...

Against All Grain
Wellness Mama
Dr. Axe

And don't forget...

Listen to your body. This is a journey of wellness NOT perfection. Every good choice is a victory. Remember your purpose... Thanks be to God!

COMING SOON...

MOVEMENT: THE SECOND PILLAR OF WELLNESS



Posted on January 11, 2016 and filed under fitness, motherhood, nutrition, wellness, Womanhood.