Jack, Have a Strawberry

A few weeks ago, I was playing with my nephew Jack. We were putting out fires left and right, saving people from burning buildings, and running around the house non-stop with our engines. We’d tend to one emergency, drive back to the firehouse (the one we made out of blocks), then Jack would immediately yell “Fire!” He was literally non-stop. It was so much fun. When our firefighting took us through the kitchen, my sister-in-law would get Jack to pause for a millisecond, “Jack, have a strawberry,” she’d say and Jack would quickly devour a strawberry and we were back to saving the world.

Photo 102--Strawberry

Lindsey was, very simply, feeding Jack. She has the awareness that Jack needs to eat, even when he’s busy running the fire department. She has the awareness that food is nourishment that we live on and that part of loving Jack is feeding him. For most of us, as children, food is nourishment. It’s “good”. For many parents, for their children, food is also nourishment. In this way of thinking, food is the vital commodity that we lovingly eat and lovingly feed one another.

At some point, for many of us, there comes a time in our lives when food changes from being thought of as nourishment, and “good”, to something else. There’s a key shift. Food becomes the thing which made us fat or might make us fat. At this point, food becomes “bad”. Food shifts from something to enjoy, to sometime to avoid. Food shifts from friend to foe. And the sense of food as being nourishment evaporates. I’ve seen it completely fade away in some people. For them, food is only that enemy to battle with. The notion that food is nourishing has completely escaped them.

I see this in many of my wellness clients when they first come to me. Some of them have a goal of “losing weight” (technically being leaner). So they are almost universally surprised when I deliver to them and describe to them their personalized Goot’s Diets. As a simple summary, I don’t tell people what not to eat. And I don’t tell them to limit how much they eat.

Why would I do this? Because it doesn’t work. People have been adopting and following restriction-based diets for decades. People are now fatter (they have more bodyfat) than ever. Unless it occurred in pre-history and we’re not aware of it (which is unlikely), today’s people are the fattest people that have ever existed, and the United States is right were we like to be: ahead of the rest. We’re also ahead on diets. Go to your local bookstore and you’ll see an endless stream of diet books. We’re on more diets than ever, but we’re still getting fatter each year. Something’s not right here.

Oft-quoted Albert Einstein (Was he wicked smart or something?) said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” It seems to the untrained eye that new diets are continually emerging. Many people keep thinking that this next one will do the trick. The problem is the next diet is really a mirage. It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s the same diet, with a different package. It’s simply another restriction-based diet. The diet promotor is ready at the microphone to tell you: “Cut fat. Cut carbs. Watch your portions. You’ve got to watch your portions.” Medical professionals hammer this home too and they have for decades. America’s problem is we eat too much, they say. And we eat the wrong things, they tell us. All we have to do is cut out the X (the food enemy du jour). Let’s consult back with Mr. Einstein. As he has informed us, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is just plain crazy.

I meet clients who have battled with their “weight” for 40 years. They’ve tried literally dozens of diets. Each one promising the perfect combination of restriction. And it hasn’t worked. They’ve come to me, most often through a direct referral from someone else I’ve coached. We have a conversation about the inclusion-based, nourishment-based approach to eating that I teach. It sounds good to them and they sign up to work with me. Then I deliver to them and describe to them their personalized Goot’s Diets. Again, I don’t tell them to restrict anything. Instead, I tell them what types of foods to eat and minimum amounts to meet. I treat them like Jack. I teach them how to nourish themselves. Their Goot’s Diets are entirely about feeding themselves nourishing food. It’s about meeting their minimums, not avoiding food. For example, each person gets a minimum vegetable intake each day. Many of these clients, the ones who’ve battled with their “weight” for 10, 20, 30, even 40 years, the ones who’ve tried dozens of diets, the ones who were referred by a friend or a family member who has worked with me and experienced the results—they freak out. They sort of get it. They see that restriction-based diets have not worked for them so far. They have decades of evidence. But the still want to do that. They still want to be told what to avoid and how to limit their portions. Even though that has never worked, and even though they come referred to me by someone who has used my inclusion-based, nourishment-based way of eating with great success, they’re leery. Parts of them are sure restriction must be the answer. Societal programming is strong. We have decades of evidence of what does not work, but millions of people are still hoodwinked and can’t see that there has to be a better way. There has to be a way that works.

Some people are convinced that restriction-based diets do work because they did one once and they lost a bunch of bodyfat in 10 weeks or so. Of course, they gained it all back. They figure they simply need to do it again. This is like a group of engineers who build a bridge. For 10 weeks, cars pass over the bridge well, then one day the bridge collapses. They decide to build the bridge again the same way because it worked well for 10 weeks. That would never happen with bridge-building, but that’s what many people do with restriction-based diets. A diet that works for 10 weeks is no more effective than a bridge that works for 10 weeks.

Excess bodyfat is one effect of a malfunctioning metabolism, a metabolism that is beautifully designed to preserve muscle and burn fat, for our whole lives, just like it did for our ancestors for almost all of human civilization and just like it does for all other animals. Only present-day humans have metabolisms gone wrong. What creates a malfunctioning metabolism? In short, lack of sleep; lack of rest; stress (in all forms) including insufficiently fulfilling relationships, doing work you can’t stand, and unresolved inner turmoil; lack of exercise or other movement (like a physically active job or physically active hobby); and, wait for it: malnutrition. Yes, malnutrition.

This guy’s quoting Einstein on insanity and here he’s telling me that malnutrition is the reason for my messed-up metabolism and my “love handles”? That’s right, most fat people are malnourished. Most are eating diets that are startlingly low in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. These nutrients are essential for maintenance of an optimally functioning body. We know this for Jack, but many people lose this sense for themselves when food shifts from a source of nourishment to the cause of their fatness.

So it’s quite possible that you are living your life malnourished and then telling yourself not to eat. Ironic, right? And you wonder why you can’t stop eating. Perhaps your body knows you need nutrients? That’s exactly the case.

Instead of restricting yourself, find the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat and treat yourself—to nutrients! Hint: All whole, natural, real food is nutrient-dense. Only with the advent of food products (a.k.a. processed food) did we gain the option of eating stuff (not quite food) that will keep us alive, but will not keep us well. A simple shift to eating real food (vegetables, meat, fruit, nuts, and seeds are a great place to start) along with a mindset shift to one of nourishing yourself is what you need. It’s really that simple.

Bring food back to its rightful place in your life as a delicious source of life-giving nourishment. Just like my sister-in-law said to Jack, “Have a strawberry,” I recommend you adopt similar self-talk. “Olivia, have a strawberry. Have some salmon.” “Mark, try the asparagus. Enjoy some cashews.” It sure beats the alternative: “Watch out for the bad stuff. Be careful. Don’t screw up. You always screw up.” Has that ever worked? Stop building that bridge. It’s bound to collapse again.

And take a similar approach to the rest of your life. Seek nourishment. Nourish yourself daily. What nourishes you? What work nourishes you? What other activities nourish you? The best time to start nourishing yourself is now. Have fun with it. A well-nourished person is a happy-healthy person and one effect of being a happy-healthy person is naturally being lean. How does happy, healthy, and natural lean sound to you?

Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.

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