Last week, HEAL celebrated it’s 3rd birthday. Well, it’s 3rd birthday of being a full on biz. It’s actually been 5 1/2 years since I took the plunge to go to nutrition school. Wowza - how time flies! So, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on what some major learnings are that I’ve had in the last 5+ years.
I remember when I was in nutrition school and I was so excited by all the emerging health food products and trendy ‘superfoods’. I *needed* goji berries and camu powder in my smoothies, and my trail mix would *not* be the same without the antioxidant rich dried mulberries. I say this in jest, but also kind of seriously. Focusing too much on these products can make health feel complicated and expensive.
Over time I realized the need to simplify healthy eating, particularly for my clients. It’s not to say I don’t use some of these said superfoods (right now I’m loving matcha and collagen), but at the end of the day, these ingredients take things to the next level, but are not always required to feel healthy. Most of the time, if you aim for half your plate to be veggies, you cut out the majority of your sugar intake and you make sure you have protein at breakfast, you'll feel really good.
As a follow up to this idea of keeping healthy eating simple, I’ve also shifted a lot of my meals and recipes to be ‘time friendly’. This has been out of necessity being pretty busy, but also for my meal planning peeps. Crockpots and one pan meals have become more of a staple for me in the last year personally and I’m making sure quick, simple recipes make up the majority of the meals in our weekly meal planning program.
This comes from a case study on myself and I should really do a separate blog on it, but here’s the shortened version.
Late in 2015 I kept wondering if I was being ‘glutened’ - my made up word for accidentally eating gluten. Mornings after eating out at restaurants or even sometimes at home, I’d feel super hungover, even if I only had one glass of wine (or no glasses at all!). I’d have this brain fog and well, just a hangover. I also felt ‘puffy’ or ‘inflamed’, but I couldn’t pinpoint it to something specific.
I went to my health coach (yes I have one too!) and she ran food sensitivity testing on me. It was hugely eye opening as I was very sensitive to dairy, eggs and cane sugar. I knew about the dairy, and had let it slip back in more than before, but definitely didn’t know about the eggs or cane sugar. Interestingly, there is research to show that Celiacs have a higher incidence of other food sensitivities to specific foods (eggs, dairy and sugar being some of them).
I cut those foods out which interestingly resulted in a pretty immediate 5lb weight-loss out of nowhere. I think of it as “inflammation” weight and partly just losing the puffiness. The other huge result though was that hangover feeling completely went away, unless of course I really did drink too many glasses of wine.
Since then, I've been trained in running the sensitivity tests and have started running them for almost all of my clients. The results have been incredible. I’ve had clients who use to have chronic migraines completely stop getting them (read about that here). I’ve had clients lose weight (while on vacation drinking more alcohol than they normally would), just because they removed the couple of foods they were sensitive to. I've also had clients whose IBS and digestive symptoms resolve when they figure out their food sensitivities.
The thing with IgG food sensitivities (which is what we test) is that the symptoms are so broad and can show up up to 4 days after you ingest the food. That makes it pretty tough to ‘self diagnose’ and unless you’re going to do a full on elimination diet, you won’t figure it out easily. You can click here to chat more about food sensitivities.
Whenever I am speaking to a group of people, whether it’s in lunch & learns or in other ways, I close off with the message that YOU know your body best. If it feels like something is off or wrong, chances are it is. If you’ve been to the doctor or a health care practitioner and they’ve told you “it’s just something you will have to live with”, or “it’s just in your head”, keep looking for answers.
Part two to this thought is just how many people go through life thinking their various symptoms are NORMAL. I’ve written a number of blog posts on this (here’s one: 5 Symptoms You Thought Were Normal, But Aren’t…And What They Mean). For me, here are a few things that I thought were normal before becoming a nutritionist:
And the list goes on. My point here is these are all symptoms and your body trying to tell you something. Listen to the signs and realize that it isn’t something that you have to deal with long term. (If you want to chat with me about it - click here for a free session).
How many times have you read an article telling you _______ food causes cancer and then two days later that same food CURES cancer?! Ok, maybe not that extreme, but you get it. Nutrition studies are very difficult because they aren’t typically randomly controlled trials (you can read more about this here).
Coffee is the perfect example of this. For some people, coffee in moderate amounts is absolutely fine; but, for other people, coffee causes them to feel jittery, anxious and affects their sleep. It’s tough to give one definitive recommendation on a food.
Similarly, I’ve had clients who thrive on smoothies feel awful having oatmeal for breakfast, or others thrive on oatmeal but not on smoothies. The entire premise of holistic nutrition is that there is no one size fits all approach. Rather, every individual is different. That’s why some people feel amazing on a vegetarian diet, while others feel exhausted significantly worse.
It's not allllll for nothing, but self care really helps. Stress is a huge factor and no amount of green smoothies or salads leads to 100% health when you’re lacking the self care or have extra emotional baggage that hasn’t been dealt with. The self care area is definitely where I am guilty and tend to have to work extra hard on.
I’ve recently decided that I actually don’t like the word stress because I think it’s overused in an entirely negative way. Stress can be positive and help you perform better when it's for a short time. I think maybe a more productive way of talking about stress is via self care, because self care helps to neutralize stress. So, after that bout of stress that maybe made you perform a bit better, make sure you take time to recover - however you prefer do that.
My favourite ways lately:
Well, that was a lot! Are ya still with me? I’d love to hear what you’ve learned over the last little while when it comes to your health. Does anything in particular resonate with you? Write your thoughts in the comments below, and feel free to share this post with friends and family!