"It's Not A Diet"

"It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle." I hear this phrase a lot. It's thrown around quite a bit in online health communities. And despite my mental eye roll every time I hear it, I find myself using it as well. Because, in my core, I believe it, and it's how I try to live. That fact that it's become a cliche doesn't rob it of any inherent truth.
When I first decided to ditch the Standard American Diet, I went all in. I started following a very restrictive diet with no cheat days or meals. And that's what a lot of people seem to do when first diving into the whole world of real food. And that's perfectly okay! Good, even. I think it's what I needed at the time to see the results I wanted. But I don't eat that way anymore, because honestly, I would go crazy. 
And the phrase "It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle" has slowly, unintentionally morphed into a sort of health motto for me. But there can be some misconceptions surrounding it. So I thought I'd clear some things up..

When I say this phrase, this is what I mean:
  • It's not temporary. The way I eat goes hand in hand with the way I live. The word diet implies a set of rules for a set period of time. But I don't plan on stopping anytime soon. 
  • Boundaries aren't inherently oppressive. There is freedom in choosing foods that I know will energize and nourish me, not make me feel like crap. I think one of my favorite articles ever, "Restricted Diet Is Not Restricting", puts it best: "Self-discipline is freedom, not limitation. When I say I follow a grain-free, dairy-free, sugar-free diet, I don’t consider myself limited. I consider myself FREE of the effects of these substances on my health." And can I get an amen?  
  • Food is not a moral issue. I think food can involve moral quandaries (the ethical treatment of animals in factory farming, or whether or not using herbicides on the soil means we're being good stewards of the earth, for example), but choosing Cheetos over a bowl of cherries does not make you a bad person. You're not inferior, nor superior, simply because of what you had for dinner. 
  • Failure isn't possible. Because failure implies there was something to lose in the first place. There is no "falling off the bandwagon". I cannot "fail" at putting food in my body. 
  • I'll never "make it". There is no perfect way of eating, no peak balance of biohacking and epigenetics, no detox program that'll bring you a state of perfect health. That doesn't mean we shouldn't strive to be the healthiest we can be, constantly learning, growing, and adapting, but contentedness is often overlooked. 
  • I prefer the 80/20 rule over "All-Or-Nothing". This will look different for everyone, some people thrive on very set boundaries about what they eat, some don't. But I've tried to develop the attitude that says I won't beat myself up for any food choice. Did I have Halo Top ice cream for dinner? Cool. I'll probably have a breakfast salad the next morning. And not because I'm "punishing" myself for having a treat, but because I know getting some good fat and protein in the morning will set my energy off right for the day. It's about balance, whatever that looks like for you. No guilt, no shame, no impossibly high standards. 
  • It's more than physical. All the organically-grown kale and unrefined coconut oil in the world isn't gonna fix your relationships or strengthen your character. Food is incredibly powerful, but it's only one chapter in the book of overall good health. What good is physical health if you don't have loving, supportive people in your life? What's the point of a good, healthy meal if you eat it in anger? "Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred." (Proverbs 15:17)
  • Know your body. I know that I can no longer stomach fast food. I know that my body doesn't thrive on a hardcore Keto diet. I know that eating late at night will cause my blood sugar to be high the next morning. I know that my palate has changed over the past few years so much that eating any sort of processed candy will actually just taste like chemicals to me. And I also know that ice cream makes me indescribably happy. Over time, I've learned all these things about myself and my body. And I'm still learning, constantly. It's a process, but that's kinda half the fun. 
  • It's about more than what I eat. It's about what I wear. It's about how I interact with nature, how I choose to spend my money, what brands of cosmetics I use, my overall mindset. 
  • Sustainability is key. I'm on a 3 week sugar detox at the moment, and one of the things I'm abstaining from is fruit. Now does that mean I'm never going to eat an orange again? No, duh. That would be silly, and not at all sustainable. Now there are definitely some foods that are always a "no" for me, there are things I restrict completely. But there are some things I give more wiggle room. Why do you think so many people quit their New Years health resolutions after a month? They often just set unrealistic goals for themselves. Don't think just about how you want to eat next week, but for the rest of your life. 
  • I love food. I really do. It's like one of my favorite things ever. And that means I respect it. I respect it enough to appreciate and utilize what it can do for my body, while simultaneously acknowledging that it's no more than a God-given tool, providing joy and sustenance, not the world. 

What I'm not saying:
  • That diets are bad. I'm not trying to demonize the word in any sense. Dieting can be a valuable tool. And in cases of autoimmune and other chronic disorders, interventional, therapeutic diets are sometimes very necessary. 
K, that's all I have to say for now. If anyone has any thoughts on the phrase "it's not a diet...", I'd love to hear them! I feel like there's a lot more to be said, and a lot of room for nuance on these issues. But I will leave it at this for now. 

Hope you all have a fantastic weekend! 


How to Support Your Local Farmers

There aren't many careers I respect more than that of a farmer. I'm a fan of the old "If you ate today, thank a farmer" saying. But, sadly, I don't feel as if they're given the respect or recognition they often deserve. We're a culture so disconnected from our food and food sources that we tend not to give a second thought to where our food comes from or who actually grew it.
But buying and eating locally is one step we can take to remedy that.

Why should we eat local?
In the words of Joel Salatin, "You, as a food buyer, have the distinct privilege of proactively participating in shaping the world your children will inherit."
I dunno about you, but that hits me pretty hard. We not only have a privilege, but I feel a responsibility to care about our food choices and make them wisely. And it goes beyond just that. Here's a few more reasons why you might wanna consider supporting farmers in your local area:

  • Shake the hands that grow your food. That's a concept that's pretty foreign to us, even though a century ago the hands that grew our food weren't hard to find. They were the hands of your friend, your neighbor, even your own. But there's something special we lost when we turned toward industrialized processes for making our food. There's a large gap, a disconnect between the soil and our plate. There's no relationship. And as creatures designed for community, that's a sad state to be in.  
  • Quality control.  Pick up an apple in the grocery store and ask it how it was grown- you won't get an answer. Go to your local farmer's market and I bet you'll find men and women more than willing to answer your questions about their food! They're proud of it, they put their sweat and heart into their work. And smaller productions require a higher level of transparency in their practices. So take advantage of that and get to know more about your food! What kind of diet did this chicken eat? Were these carrots treated with any herbicides or pesticides? How long ago was it harvested? And etc. 
  • Fresh, in season produce. Buying locally typically means eating more seasonally, something we're not accustomed to anymore. Centuries ago it wasn't easy to get a pineapple if you were in Canada in the dead of January. Just wan't gonna happen. But modern, industrialized food production has spoiled us a bit. I can think of nearly any fruit I want, stroll down to the grocery store, and know it'll be there, likely shipped in from somewhere in Latin America. And hey, I'm not complaining about that. But this idea of having anything we want, all the time, isn't exactly normal. We used to eat seasonally. Summer used to be a time when you just naturally ate more fruit. And when the cold rolled, the lack of available produce meant it was natural to gravitate towards soups, stews and the like. But if you're consuming what only can be produced around you seasonally, it really flips your perspective. 
  • Boost your local economy. Simple as that, if you're buying local it means you're investing in your town, your city, your people. Support your local community and help the farms around you thrive. 
  • Eat cleaner. While there's no guarantee your local farmers are practicing sustainable agriculture, there's a much higher likelihood they are. And again, when the man who grew those tomatoes is standing right in front of you, all you have to do is ask! And to be fair, the USDA Organic certification process isn't the easiest one, and lots of small farmers simply don't have the time or money to invest in it. But them not having that little green sticker doesn't mean everything. I'd rather eat an apple with no fancy labels from I farmer I trust than an imported, organic certified apple from the supermarket. 
  • Support a healthy environment. Lower-scale agriculture isn't just better for us, it's better for the planet too. Smaller farms tend have more diversity overall, which is great for the earth Monoculture is one of the most damaging things we do to our soil. And think about this, less distribution/shorter transportation means less pollution and less energy wasted. 

How to eat local
So I've convinced you to eat more locally. That's great! But now what? Buying food that isn't in your supermarket can be kinda scary for the first time. So here's some ways to get started when you don't know where to turn:
  • Your local health food store. Larger chains like Whole Foods or MOM's Organic Market will often carry local produce and animal products. Just read the labels! All in the comfort of that familiar grocery store setting.
  • Shop at farmer's markets. Summertime is prime time for farmer's market. Held in parking lots all across America, they're such a great way to ease yourself into your local agriculture community. And they're also just one of my favorite weekend activities. 
  • Join a CSA. Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA is an alternative agricultural model that directly links farmers to consumers. It's typically a long-term commitment, you pay for the season and receive a box of in-season produce (or animal products) weekly or bi-weekly. From Local Harvest, "There is an important concept woven into the CSA model... That is the notion of shared risk... The result is a feeling of "we're in this together"... Many times, the idea of shared risk is part of what creates a sense of community among members, and between members and the farmers. If a hailstorm takes out all the peppers, everyone is disappointed together, and together cheer on the winter squash and broccoli. Most CSA farmers feel a great sense of responsibility to their members, and when certain crops are scarce, they make sure the CSA gets served first." CSA's are about more than just buying locally, it's about cultivating relationships within your local community. 
For local farmer's markets, co-ops, and CSA's in your area, check out this link. 

Another great thing about buying locally is that it kinda forces you to eat real, whole foods. You're not likely to find bags of chips at a farmer's market. There's the occasional processed product, jam or homemade baked goods, but for the most part shopping from local farmers means cutting out all that junk as well. Added bonus!

Let me know what you think about farmer's markets! Are they your favorite summer weekend activity, or do you feel totally out of place there? 

Til next time,
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