Where to start?

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Last Monday’s post explored the lies we believe about food when we don’t know all we ‘could’ know about reading food labels. This past week I’ve had the pleasure of training our next cohort of fantastic Intentional Health coaches. Their training includes teaching them how to read food labels and what the eating a balanced diet might look like, so that this can be re-taught to people in their community.

Together we explore how natural ingredients release energy slowly and provide nutrients that are good and healthy for our mind and body. We also learn about how over-processed food can; contain excessive fats, sugars and salts, lack essential nutrients, be highly addictive and often requires our body to work extra hard to manage. Eating these foods regularly can lead to poor general health, mood swings and can even contribute to conditions such as type 2 diabetes.

Whilst teaching these activities I was reminded about how important it is, yet how difficult it is to both become aware of, and do something about these new truths, especially when they challenge our foundational beliefs about what is, and what is not, healthy.

The problem is that the longer the food industry can lead us to believe that what they are selling is helpful and healthy for us, the more money they earn and the more damage is done to our health and wellbeing as our perceptions, decisions and our eating habits remain unchanged.

One of the ways to avoid over-processed and nutrient-less, calorie-dense food, is to eat a balanced diet and cook from scratch with wholesome natural ingredients as often as possible. For some of us just knowing where to start or how to fit this into our already overwhelmed and busy lives is a huge challenge in itself!

It caused quite a stir during the training for the new Intentional Health coaches who felt just as deeply challenged and uncomfortable, especially when at first there seems to be so much new information and not many obvious alternatives!  They too realised that, just like me, they had been deceived into making choices thinking that they think are relatively healthy options, only to find out that they had actually been often eating foods that were packed with fats and sugars.

When any of us are faced with these kind of confronting truths it can bring an array of challenging circumstances and realisations, during which we probably have one of 3 fundamental choices to make.

Either we can;

  1. Ignore the new information – leading to no change
  2. Take on board all of the information at once - and most likely get overwhelmed – possibly leading to drastic short term but unsustainable change, crash and burn-out or
  3. Take on board the information and filter it to decide how much we can realistically action right now –leading to focusing on taking action in one area, one step at a time, and more likely resulting in longer lasting change.

For example...

Recognising that pretty much every breakfast cereal other than Weetabix and porridge contains more than 5 grams of added sugar per 100 grams can leave you feeling at a loss as to what to have yourself, or give the kids, for breakfast – adding to that the fact that you’ve just learned the NHS Eat-well guide states we should have at least 5 fruit or veg portions per day …and we are left wondering 'how on earth'? and 'where do I start'?

We could decide to do nothing – carry on as we were,

We could go cold turkey and change everything – read every food label and never have anything with sugary cereals ever again and only eat fresh fruit and veg – which unless you are a certain type of “all or nothing” personality; probably won’t be a realistic or sustainable step – especially for the kids (or grown ups!) who have only ever had crunchy nut cornflakes and Frosted wheat flakes!

Or, we could try introducing Weetabix with a handful of strawberry’s, or porridge and a few raisins a few times a week as a healthier alternative, - slowly and intentionally cutting down on the sugary cereals and snacks and adding one more of our 5 a day each day than we had last week. Even if we aim for 5 and have 3 that is progress if we've only ever had none or one because we have never been aware of the nutrients that food group can offer.

If you've given up other habits overnight, rather than slowly transitioning one step a time, then by all means go for a drastic change. But for the rest of us, focusing only on one step at a time – trying to get one more fruit/veg into the diet this week and one less sugary food might be enough of a challenge.

One thing to think about when making any response to new information, is what has worked for us in the past in other areas of our life and start with that!

where ever we start – not worrying about what anyone else is doing or thinks, and focusing only on whatever has worked for you in the past– and knowing that doing something is always going to be better than ignoring the information is probably going to be our best option.

Uncomfortable as it may seem, new information can help us be intentional now, and prevent us from ending up somewhere we might not be realising we are heading if we bury our head in the sand.

What one area might you want to be more intentional about this week?