A few weeks ago, I was discussing healthy eating, and someone said it was impossible unless you are rich. The individual mentioned a conspiracy between pharmaceutical companies, doctors, and our industrialized food supply.
I won’t disagree by saying he isn’t speaking some truth. My brain was spinning, and I had a dozen ideas on how to dissect my rebuttal. I could talk about bulk cooking, meal planning, how research can be manipulated, and how the media misunderstands or just plain misinforms the public about research results. I could discuss the nutritional difference between frozen vegetables and fresh. Oh, I could go on and on.
I decided that I would write a detailed nutritional analysis for this individual. I would gather my facts and figures, break down macronutrient, vitamin, and mineral content. I would develop charts and graphs…it would be very impressive and I would prove that you don’t have to be rich to have a healthful diet.
Then I realized that I was really missing the point. This individual’s concerns were less about the world, and more about herself. Stay with me on this, because it’s really important that you and I realize and remember what holds us back from trying to be our best selves.
Designed To Fail?
When I reflect at my years in the fitness business and the thousands of clients I’ve had the pleasure to serve, I see patterns of behavior. And one of the most common patterns can be seen in how many of us set ourselves up to fail at fitness.
This behavior comes from a mindset that there are too many things outside our control that limit our lives. In fitness, I’ve heard many, many variations on the following…
“Everything causes cancer, so why should I even try.”
“I have bad genes, and I’ll never be able to change my body.”
“I can’t afford fresh fruits and vegetables.”
The devious thing about thoughts like that is that they are all based on a nugget of truth. There are environmental factors outside our control, just as there are individuals whose genetics can drastically affect their lives. So a good fitness coach knows how to take these factors into account when coaching clients through change. And sometimes, this coaching requires a hard dose of truth…so get ready, cause here comes a truth bomb:
Healthy food doesn’t have to always be fresh.
Or all-natural, free range, cage-free, etc, etc., etc.
Right now, it would be pretty easy for anyone to think that there are only a few foods out there that we really should be eating. One reason we might think that is that food manufacturers are not just good at making food, they are also good at marketing. And unfortunately, I believe some fitness and nutrition gurus are as much to blame by viciously separating foods into different categories of “good” and “bad.” How have we gotten to this place?
Enough With Extremes!
On one side we have the grocery stores and food companies devoting big money to promote their “healthy” food aisles and products. Are these products all healthy? Heck no. I can walk you through the “natural health” section of any grocery store and fill up your cart with hundreds of products that are nothing more than highly processed junk food, much of which has no nutritional value and costs you twice as much as “regular” junk food.
On the other side, we have elite gurus shaming regular consumers and mongering fear. “Is that chicken organic and free-range? If it isn’t, it will do more harm than good to you AND the environment.” “Gluten is the devil, and eating GMO’s will kill you tomorrow!” In other words, these gurus are preaching one path and one truth to health. I don’t know about you, but to me, this sounds like a leader of a religious cult.
Think, Think, Think.
Instead, I encourage you to think about your nutrition as a continuum. This continuum is a line beginning where you are now and ending at a point representing YOUR goal or ideal of healthy eating. Please see my latest fantastic piece of artwork 🙂
The truth is there are a lot of points not depicted on the image. If where you are now is eating zero vegetables and doing zero exercise, and you visualize an ideal lifestyle as that of a vegan cross fitter who is shredded, you need to realize that there is a long distance between reality and your ideal, and many states of health along the way.
Let’s consider the nutritional value of fresh, frozen or canned vegetables. Let’s not because it doesn’t really matter to me if it doesn’t matter to you or halts your progress.
For example, I have a friend who likes canned green beans, however, he told me he didn’t think they were as good for him as fresh so he doesn’t eat them often. He doesn’t eat salads, or really any other vegetables. Consequently, he doesn’t eat ANY vegetables at all.
After my hand stopped stinging from the slap on the face I gave him, I said, “Eat as many canned green beans as you like!” His response was telling: “But aren’t I supposed to eat the rainbow?”
Can you see the fault in his logic here?
My job is to help people become better versions of themselves. As good as they can be depending on where they start, where they want to go all with the time, effort, and resources they are willing or able to spend.
For some, it’s eating one serving of vegetables a day or increasing their protein intake. For others it’s making it to the gym two days a week or getting seven thousand steps a day. I’m in the business of helping people improve. But improvement is not a “thing” it is a process. So what improvement means is relevant to each individual, and the process of improvement will change over time.
In other words, I can’t fool myself into thinking I’m trying to create a world of perfect people. I’m trying to help each of my clients become better every day, and in small increments.
But, if you want to do the leg work to provide me with compelling evidence and real research to the contrary, feel free to do so. I would love to see a compelling reason to ONLY eat fresh vegetables and organic sugar and meat. I can’t wait to see your charts and graphs!