There are phases that people typically go through while learning to eat right and take control of their health. For me, the first step was choosing the fast food restaurant that makes those sandwiches fresh, right in front of you. I also switched from cola to the clear lemon and lime flavored sodas, because I decided to obey my thirst, as the old slogan went. Then, after multiple kidney infections, I finally gave up soda completely, switching to store bought fruit juices. I loved seeing my favorite snack food bar begin to appear at convenience stores. After all, what could be better than whole grains sweetened with brown rice syrup, marketed via a picture of a guy climbing a cliff?
The more I learn, the more I realize how simple achieving good health can be for most people. I have achieved a level of health that few people in this world will ever realize.
We tend to make things too complicated, and we tend to look to replace our bad habits with less harmful bad habits. We tend to use the word “healthy” when “healthier” would be more appropriate.
Here are the common pitfalls we health nuts often fall into that keep us from experiencing a level of health and vitality that we preach about and dream of.
1. Relying on Supplements
Some supplements are great. There are people who cannot get enough nutrition from food. There are people who live nowhere near a farmer’s market and cannot grow their own food. There are people who are very sick and need the targeted nutrition supplements can offer.
In my experience, people tend to turn to supplements and tinctures for a quick fix. I know the tricks. I know what can stop a migraine in its tracks. I know what to do if I am experiencing nausea. If I were to have acid indigestion, I know exactly how to alleviate it naturally and immediately. If I were suffering from insomnia, I know what I could take that will knock me out, without the side effects of prescription drugs. And I can stop a cold or flu from happening quicker than other people even realize they’re coming down with something.
But none of these “cures” get to the root of the problem. And natural remedies that do not address the cause have a very important and overlooked side effect—they mask symptoms, allowing us to continue living our toxic lifestyles. This is not a good choice in the long run.
The foundation of health comes from the food you eat. Supplements should be used to supplement your diet, not to replace your diet.
2. Too Much Organic Junk Food
Just because it’s labeled organic, or vegan, or natural, does not mean it’s healthy. “Healthier” would be a better word for it. But the convenience of prepackaged food certainly has its allure and I understand how hard it is to let go of those all natural cheese doodles when the conventional ones were your favorite snack food.
Refined food, prepackaged food, “snack” food should be severely limited. I used to have a pantry full of organic chips, all natural snack bars, organic soda, and sugar free, vegan something-or-others. Now my pantry contains healthier staples such as dry beans, brown rice, lentils, and quinoa. There was a direct correlation to my health and well being and the elimination of processed foods.
I still eat junk food occasionally. If I go to a movie, I like to sneak in the organic chips and sugar cane juice sweetened chocolates (and fruit). The difference is, my pantry is not stocked with them. They are a special occasion treat. A rarity. And one that feels less and less worth it every time I indulge.
3. Too Much Eating Out
This is a tough one to get over. I loved going out to eat. I loved being waited on, relaxing, enjoying myself, have a good conversation, not having to cook. And these days, there are plenty of healthier restaurants to choose from. There is a problem though. Even the healthiest restaurants still produce food that is not good for you. I know of one restaurant, out of the thousands I have dined at, where I could eat regularly and still feel as healthy as I do now. And only about a third of their menu was what I would call truly healthy.
I realized that I was going out and eating at restaurants, in large part, to get some wind-down time. It was the only way I could have a simple, casual conversation with whichever woman I was dating. It was the only time I took for myself that forced me to slow down and enjoy life. In every other moment of my existence, I was rushing.
And then I realized that the more I took time to cook, to slow down, to take time for myself (and now, my family) the better the meal. I became a really good cook. Now restaurants, even t he healthiest and best reviewed, generally disappoint me.
Restaurants, for a myriad of reasons, cannot prepare healthy nutritious meals as well as you can at home. The fact is, health food restaurants should be a treat. And conventional restaurants should be avoided.
4. Too Much Sugar
Typically, sugar is the last thing a health nut is willing to give up. Sugar cane juice, brown rice syrup, agave nectar, and every other natural sweetener that comes to mind, save stevia, have something in common; they are refined sugars. And refined sugars feed and/or promote viruses, bacteria, Candida and other fungi, and virtually all other parasites that affect us. They also contribute to cancer, diabetes, and all the other ailments that sugar can be attributed to promoting (which is almost every ailment we humans suffer from).
Sugar Is Sugar!
If you suffer from allergies, or if you’re battling that one last health issue that has been plaguing you since before you give up soda, try eliminating all the refined sugars from your diet for one week. Most are shocked to find that agave nectar was that one last thing making it impossible to get rid of those seasonal allergies, or the one thing they had to eliminate to finally heal their damaged knee they hurt in football 13 years ago (believe it or not, this is common; injuries do not heal well until sugar is given up).
5. Too Much Juicing
The juices and the smoothies with the juice fall under the same category as sugar. When you juice fruits, and the sweeter vegetables, you loose a lot of nutrition. This includes fiber that helps slow the absorption of sugar. In effect, you are refining your own produce, turning it into simple sugars, when you juice.
Juicing regularly has its place. Juicing produce with very little sugar is a nice way to get a lot of nutrition into your body at once (it’s just not so pleasant to my palate). Also, there are people who are so sick that they cannot digest whole foods. Furthermore, when detoxifying, juicing can be a way to get in nutrition easily without making your body work for it while it is overburdened with the release of toxins.
I do juice occasionally. I do ginger and turmeric shots at least a few times a week. I also juice kale, carrots, beets, and granny smith apples a couple of times a month. I love juice. The difference is, it’s not a staple (unless I am detoxifying). Whole, unadulterated produce is my staple.
6. Too Little Produce
In my experience, this is the last step one takes to regaining their health and living a life full of vitality without aches and pains. Fresh, raw, and organic (whenever possible) produce is the key to health. Eighty percent of my diet is raw produce. I eat many more vegetables than fruit. I make myself a large salad almost every single day, containing a minimum of 10 different vegetables. I get a variety of produce, as opposed to sticking to just a few. I eat like a rabbit when I am snacking. For instance, I open the fridge and I pull out a stalk of kale.
I do not let a lack of organic food stop me. I prefer organic whenever possible. After all, I am the chief editor of a publication called Organic Lifestyle Magazine. But it surprises people to find out that I would sooner buy conventional raw produce than organic frozen produce, provided the food is not genetically modified. This means I avoid the following conventional produce at all costs: sweet corn, potatoes, Hawaiian papaya, alfalfa, and soy (sprouts, beans). Other than that, you’re safe from GMOs with produce.
And I am not saying don’t buy organic. Let me stress that. Buy organic whenever possible! Just don’t let a lack of organic produce turn you towards the less beneficial packaged foods.
It may seem like I have a very limited diet. I don’t. I eat very well, and anyone who comes to my home eats very well, too. Everyone is always blown away at how good, unusual, and healthy my meals are. It takes time, though. I take time to prepare my food. And it took time to get good at cooking (and often, not cooking, as in preparing raw dishes). It also took time to become reasonably quick at it.
There are few shortcuts in life that work, and this holds true for health as well. It takes time, patience, dedication, and discipline. I promise you this: it’s an investment that is well worth it. Health is a hobby for me. Other people live and breathe football, or reality television, or the nightlife. I learned, some time ago, to make family, health, food, and learning my passions. They all coincide nicely. I continue to simplify my life, to let go of the noise, the distractions, and the stuff that doesn’t really matter, so that I can keep my focus on those four passions.
*Image of “supplements“via Shutterstock