Recently I’ve been re-reading the ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People‘, a landmark text for self-development by Dr Stephen Covey.
In his lifetime, Covey emphasised that he was not the original thinker behind these principles. Drawing both from psychological research and the recorded wisdom of philosophers throughout the ages, Covey claimed that he was merely synthesising the insights of great thinkers before him.
What I love about these principles is that, true to Covey’s claim, they truly are universally applicable. Whether you’re a family maker or the CEO of a large company, his advice applies to anyone seeking a congruent approach to success, whatever your values are.
This got me thinking…What are the universal principles that apply to nutrition? If you spend even five minutes on the internet, you’ll hear conflicting views from all sides of the nutrition table. My friend shared this great post which sums up our current confusion perfectly:
If you know my thoughts around the problems with dieting, then you’ll understand I’m loathe to ever hand out prescriptive nutrition advice. I don’t believe there is a ‘one size fits all’ approach to nutrition or even any such thing as a ‘perfect diet’.
However, I do believe in guiding principles…flexible concepts that act as a compass to guide our health more so than a rigid set of rules. And the more I work in the non-diet space, the more I realise that people still value nutritional expertise and want solid help for their health goals.
After much reflection, here are 7 habits that I think help people become happier, healthier and more at peace with food:
1) Share Your Food & Cook With Love. Throughout history, humans ate together as tribes and meals were an important time for people to connect, feel safe and be nurtured. Slow food traditions, like those enjoyed by the French, Italians and South Americans for centuries, also create pockets of breathing space in the day to relax or unwind. Whilst it’s not often feasible to eat in great company for every meal, I do believe that sharing food regularly in a spirit of hospitality and connection is a part of having a good relationship with food and eating mindfully.
2) Less human intervention, more Mother Nature. Let me preface this point by saying that you do not need to be scared of eating any food that comes from a jar or is processed. As someone who once refused to eat anything non-organic or ‘unnatural’ (and spent up to 4 hours a day preparing food), I can tell you that this is not the path to peace and happiness, regardless of the potential physical benefits.
However, the truth is it’s hard to beat the nutrient properties of food that’s less processed. Science isn’t yet as smart as Mother Nature, so wherever you can – and where it brings you joy, pleasure and self-care (rather than guilt, obligation or food obsession), eating food in its more natural state tends to offer us superior nourishment.
3) Eat Mindfully. The way in which we eat today is often antithetical to mindfulness. We scroll through Facebook over breakfast. Drink coffee on the run. Drive with one hand on the wheel and the other scoffing food. Then we finish our day by eating dinner in front of the television!
Mindful Eating has been shown to be effective in reducing binge episodes and emotional eating. Other research indicates that Mindful Eating may alleviate depression, stress and certain inflammatory markers. Mindful Eating has also been associated with lower caloric intake, healthier snack choices and a natural gravitation towards more nourishing foods. I believe it’s absolutely fundamental to having a positive relationship with food and you can READ MORE ABOUT MINDFUL EATING HERE…
4) Plenty of Plants. With the exception of the traditional diet based on blood and milk within Maasai people, every longevity study I’ve ever read advocates eating plenty of plant-based foods for disease prevention and a long, healthy life.
From a non-diet perspective, this doesn’t mean that we need to stress about eating mountains of salads or living off green smoothies. When I work with clients, I encourage people to add in extra veggies to the meal patterns they like to follow. You can check out some of my COOKING TIPS TO MAKE VEGGIES TASTE GOOD HERE…
5) Ferment A Little. Almost every culture throughout human history adopts some form of fermentation. Ranging from Japanese miso through to kiviak (small whole fermented birds, considered a delicacy amongst the Inuit people of Greenland!), humans have fermented for taste, health and necessity for centuries. With ever-increasing research emphasising the importance of gut health, I recommend incorporating a range of fermented foods into your diet. You could consider: sourdough, kefir, yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, fermented spreads, fermented veggies (garlic and pickles are super easy!) amongst other many delicious options.
6) Eat With The Seasons. Not only is it more affordable, it can be more nutritious to eat seasonal, fresh-picked produce as well.
7) Pleasure. Just like each culture has its own fermented food, different countries incorporate their own distinct cuisine flavours as well. Thai cuisine utilises lemongrass, galangal and kafir in unique combinations, whereas Vietnamese use star anise and different ingredients such as the fishy herb (and yes – it really does smell fishy!). In fact, can you think of one culture that doesn’t make an effort to flavour their food? Enjoying food is an integral part of learning how to eat intuitively, feel satisfied and understand your fullness signals.
If a flexible, self-kind way of approaching your health appeals to you, INQUIRE HEREabout my health & body confidence coaching services.