The following is a class by John Allen Mollenhauer, founder of NutrientRich.com @ The Entheos Academy on how to easily transition from unhealthy eating to healthful eating. Watch the introductory video here.
The Top 10 Big Ideas
Standard American DietWe eat the standard modern diet (SAD) – most of us were raised eating up 80-90% or more animal products and refined foods loaded with added salt, oil and sugar, all of which are micronutrient poor, overly concentrated, and overly stimulating and only 10—20% produce – vegetables, fruit, beans (legumes and pulses), seeds, nuts, and intact whole grains which are micronutrient rich. Most of us were brought up this way, with the “token vegetable on the side.” ?This of course causes us to gain weight and get unhealthy over time, prompting stage big idea #2.
Eating Less or “Dieting”
We experience negative results, think they are “normal” when they’re actually just common yet abnormal, and then attempt to “eat less” of the SAD otherwise known as “dieting.” This means eating less of the very nutrient poor foods that are not meeting your micronutrient needs to begin with, while simultaneously toxifying your body with refined and added ingredients that give rise to addictions – like salt, oil and sugar.To compound the issue of eating less than we need and want (low cal), we also manipulate the calorie containing nutrients in our diets by eating low-to-no fat and low-to-no carb diets. These tactics may help you lose weight in the short term, but they further compromise your health on top of that dynamic “unduo,” of low nutrient density and high toxicity. Both will undo you. All of this will leave you feeling like you’re hungry all the time, while reinforcing cravings and overeating.This is the stage so many people stay at, merely riding the fence of eating “better,” as compared to their previous usual diet, while still eating predominantly nutrient-poor foods at the same time. This is a weight gain diet, posing as a weight loss diet and it’s guaranteed to keep you stuck in a vicious cycle of eating foods that don’t serve you.
Go Back to Start, Don’t Pass GoWe get so frustrated at this stage and may go back to #1, because that “stuckness” gives way to the freedom we naturally want, of “just eating” what is available to us, when we want it and as much as we want. The world is my oyster dammit!At this stage, where the person has very little awareness and context around food and nutrition, many just don’t want to deal with learning more, feeling like they have to monitor themselves, restrict themselves, eat “special” etc and simply head back for the pleasure of just eating. ??The problem with that move is that it takes you back, back not only to nutrient-poor foods as the core of our diet, but also back to eating foodstuffs that are downright nutrient barren, and compromising your body (the machinery). Both nutrient poor and nutrient barren foods will undermine your health, happiness and performance over time, over even a short time despite their ability to make you feel good as you eat.
Fad DietingYou may go through this process (1-3) a few times. This makes sense, given the strategy up until this point doesn’t work. It’s nutrient poor. ??Whole industries (not just the diet industry) are built around the vicious cycle of eating nutrient poor foods, and it is great for business. What could be better for the business ecosystem than never solving the underlying problem that keeps people consuming what they don’t need, more food than they actually need and in an almost addictive fashion? Nothing actually, and that’s just the way the market likes it. That is, if you are on the wrong side of the fence and not one of new and emerging natural or organic food companies that are enabling people to transition to healthy eating and get free of that vicious cycle.This is precarious time at this stage, in the sense that we’re being told that we need to eat more vegetables and fruit etc, but at a time when our taste buds are geared for super stimulating, calorie concentrated foods like chicken, fish and steak 2-3 times per day, sugar, cereals, bagels and butter, pretzels, pasta, cake… and our taste buds simply have not yet had the time to adjust; to get their feet on the ground.We don’t yet like the foods that love us and the take-your-vitamins, eat-some-vegetables-on the-side strategies, and the like, always fail. You must be eating healthy to be healthy with a nourished, detoxified, immune stabilized and strengthened body that is optimized (nutritionally speaking) for performance. Until this happens your dysfunctions will guide your choices, because what is right, feels wrong and what’s wrong feels right. ??The taste bud adjustment period is the only really tough time you’ll have in a true transition from unhealthy eating to healthy eating, not because healthy foods aren’t great tasting, but because you’ll experience some withdrawal symptoms from naturally nutrient poor foods, and the manufactured foods you’ve been eating, which have all the nutrients stripped out and only the pleasure inducing chemicals left in. Though a little less intensive, it’s a little like getting off drugs and it’s no wonder why people capitulate at this stage and go backwards. We have to be careful not to associate the pain of withdrawal from unhealthy foods, to the emerging pleasure of health-promoting foods.
Going VegetarianEventually, we start to “get” that we just don’t need another diet and we do need to stop the insanity. We come to terms that we need to start eating more plant based nutrient rich foods, because plants and their process of formation (photosynthesis) are where all nutrients originally come from. But instead of going all the way and understanding what it means to eat more plant based nutrient rich, we go vegetarian, vegan, paleo, gluten-free, eat non-GMO etc, all of which may be very smart things to do as part of a healthy eating style; it’s just that none of these definitions of eating stand alone as a definition of eating healthy. ?The result may be thinking that you’re eating healthy, but in actuality you may be eating a healthier version of the SAD Standard American Diet; only now without the genetically modified organisms, wheat protein and meat, yet potentially still loaded with meat, refined and added salt, oil and sugar depending on your definition.Basically we end up doing the same thing we’ve always done, eating “healthier” but without enough change to give the shift any major health and sustainability momentum. This is the “wash-your-vegan-pastry-down-with-some-veggies” phase, or eat-lots-of-meat-with-small amount-of-vegetables-on-the-side-with-supplements so-you-make-up-for-what-you’re-not getting-in-your-food phase; and the promises of healthy eating are just not fully realized. ??Many dietary tribes are based on what they don’t eat, and these communities are valuable. Dietary tribes like any entity or group, want and need a cause to rally around with clear lines in the sand. The challenge is that we live in a fast paced 2014 and it can be (not always) hard to live with lines in the sand and with ideologies that are inflexible, which in some cases are not really proven healthy or don’t promote psychological or social wellness.
Back to Step #1. Failure to ThriveWe may again go back to #1 or the simple point of #5 albeit now with some major improvements. ??Ex-vegans, start eating meat again because they may feel better, or require more essential fats in their diet; paleo people and those generally eating high-animal protein / low plant food diets who often suffer from constipation, clogged arteries (thought they may not know it) due to all the saturated fat, cholesterol and limited fiber intake and more rapid aging due to such low amounts of cell protective phytochemicals and the accelerated growth due to excessive animal protein with its high biological value (not such a good thing), all start eating more whole food, plant based nutrient rich foods.?? As well, those with prolonged weight problems because they merely cut the gluten out of their diet yet are still dogging the muffins and pizzas, cake mixes etc realize that they aren’t even dieting or eating healthy. They are just doing something potentially better but with little to no measureable impact.Note: There are many people eating more whole food, plant based nutrient rich vegan diets, and even more plant based nutrient rich “paleo” diets, both of which may be gluten-free and non GMO, or not, (among countless other dietary configurations) who are thriving because they are steering clear of untrue dogmas or the typical dietary patterns in their dietary tribe. So this is not an in-depth inquisition on any particular tribe, it’s just pointing out that the transition from unhealthy eating to healthy eating is more about moving away from predominantly nutrient poor food to more plant based nutrient rich foods. Common dietary tribes rarely explain this, with some notable exceptions.
Transitioning to Nutrient Rich
Eventually we get smarter and realize more and more of what it means to eat healthy. In this process, we become more inclusionary, and less exclusionary but now with knowledge of the principles, best practices and some strategy. We no longer define the way we eat, by what we don’t eat; rather, we define the way we eat by the primary quality standard of any diet – is it nutrient rich, or nutrient poor…? Is the food I’m eating giving my body what it needs, not overloading it with significant amounts of what it doesn’t and is the food I’m eating as close to its natural state as possible? Can I enjoy what I’m eating and eat freely?In this phase, we discover the full breadth and depth of eating a great tasting health-promoting eating style, and realize that it’s not about nutrients alone, and more a lifestyle complete with nutritional education, values, causes, and a very big open mind to understanding all the attributes of healthy eating, not just one or two; and, beginning to put them together to formulate an approach to eating you can actually live with, well.This can trip some people up because it’s like “where do I belong?”