I love to eat. How about you? I know…. Most people probably wouldn’t be advertising that fact. In our society, food has really gotten a bum rap… NEVER eat this, ALWAYS eat that, you must eat this particular way if you want to be healthy…. Does any of this sound familiar? Several years ago, I overheard one of my fellow trainers say, “It’s food, not a religion. If you want a banana, eat a banana!” to a client at the gym where I worked.
Outwardly I didn’t show I’d heard her, but inside I was cheering wildly. Evidently, this client had been told that bananas were “bad” because they had too much sugar in them and she told this trainer they “weren’t allowed” on her diet.
As a Personal Trainer and Health Coach, I worked with way too many clients who had an unhealthy relationship with food. They often had the good food/bad food mentality, and when they ate something they considered “bad” they considered themselves to be bad as well.
That broke my heart, mainly because they thought that way about themselves but also because often, since they couldn’t “be good” all the time, they just gave up on trying to be healthy at all. A healthy diet doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition.
The truth is, food, REAL food, is just food. It’s not good or bad….it just IS. That said, there are some foods that have a higher nutritional value than others and some that we should limit to maintain our health, but when we look at food in the bigger context, being able to enjoy healthy, wholesome meals can be not just good for our bodies, but good for our souls as well.
There are also some foods that seem to be particularly healthy for those of us who live with chronic pain, and I thought I would explore some of those over the next few weeks. I’m not a Registered Dietician, so I won’t be recommending any specific diet, or telling you what you should eat. That’s entirely up to you. Everyone is different and has to find what works for them. I’ll just give you the facts and let you decide.
First up on our food “tour”….. You guessed it!
What do I mean by real food? I think Michael Pollan says it best in his book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. He says, “Don’t eat anything your Great-Grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” Our grocery store shelves are filled with items that are, as Pollan calls them, “food-like substances.” What started out as food has been ground up, stripped of nutrients, had nutrients sprayed back onto them, and shaped into what passes for food for us today. Scary, huh?
When I talk about real food, I’m talking about food that is in its most natural state, unprocessed or minimally processed, and is recognizable as food no matter where you’re from. This, of course, includes fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, meat, dairy products such as milk, cheese, and butter, and various nuts, seeds and grains.
Before I go any further, let me just say that I know when we’re dealing with a chronic illness, it can be hard to find the energy to prepare foods from scratch, and that sometimes we have to depend on convenience foods to get dinner on the table. That’s okay – we do what we have to do! The goal is just to eat as healthfully as we can as often as we can.
Why It Might Be Helpful for Fibromyalgia
Even though scientists are now able to reproduce vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients naturally contained in food, we still don’t completely understand the mechanism that makes foods work synergistically in our bodies, and no matter how hard we try, we can’t replicate that synergy in a lab. What that means is that though we may be getting the same nutrients from the added vitamins and minerals in fortified food or in supplement form, they may not be working as effectively in our bodies as whole foods.
Some Tips for Finding Real Food at the Supermarket
- Shop the perimeter of the store. This is where the fresh produce, meats, and dairy are usually located. The frozen food section is often located on the outside aisles too. Frozen fruits and vegetables have the same (or very close to) nutrients as fresh, and it’s a convenient way to get those fruits and veggies in each day.
- Look for whole grains; the less processed, the better; ie, steel-cut or old-fashioned rolled oats are less processed than instant oatmeal.
- Look for foods that have fewer ingredients, and ones that you can actually recognize and pronounce, on the nutrition label.
I don’t know about you, but I can definitely tell a difference in my energy levels when I’m eating fresh, real food consistently, and I never feel guilty when I enjoy that occasional treat. :o)
Do you have any tips for making sure you’re eating real food? Please share!
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