Hi there! I wanted to write a quick post on my general philosophy of why eating whole foods is so important. While I am not a vegan, I follow a plant based, whole foods diet. I hope to share with you why following a whole-foods diet is so important for the continued health of your body!
My philosophy really breaks down to a few key points that I have picked up on over the years and try to live by:
- Eat whole foods in their natural form
- Cook your own food
- Eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re full
So why whole foods? Why plant based? Simply put, because the most nutrients are in natural, whole, unadulterated, unprocessed foods. I firmly believe that your body is a very smart machine, and it is constantly trying to fix itself, be healthy, and be fit. Your body has a natural equilibrium that it tries to return to. Homeostasis is the property of a system in which variables are regulated so that internal conditions remain stable and relatively constant. Examples include your blood sugar, your body temperature, even the cleanliness of your house/apartment (at least for me, my apartment will get to a certain level of ‘dirty’ which will kick start my cleaning into gear, and then the apartment will stay clean for a certain amount of time until it reaches that same dirty level yet again…and so it goes, gradually fluctuating above and below but always around a constant point of cleanliness)! Your body is a homeostatic machine that is trying to remain in a healthy state.
Humans evolved as hunter-gatherers. There were times of feast, and times of famine. It makes sense that humans who could store more fat in times of famine would survive, pass their genes on, and proliferate (thanks, Darwin!). Humans who were able to effectively store nutrients when they were scarce had significantly better chances of survival. How does that tie to today’s world? Well, it means basically all of the typical diet advice you have heard your whole life is wrong. Counting and cutting calories? That sends your body into famine, or starvation, mode. This means that every. single. calorie. that you eat will be hoarded by your body, since it doesn’t know when it will get its next meal.
How does this tie to processed foods? Your body likely cannot recognize the nutrients in processed foods in the same way as it can with natural, whole foods. Whole foods contain a plethora of micronutrients and enzymes that are all there to help your body incorporate the nutrients more effectively. Processed foods completely lack these, and thus, even if the label says that it is healthy for you, your body will have difficulty actually using these nutrients. What does this equate to? A body that is consuming calories but doesn’t believe it is getting any nutrients. Enter famine mode again. Even if you are not eating tons and tons of food, if it is processed your body will hold on to every single bit in an effort to extract all of the nutrients that it can.
On the other hand, if you are eating a variety and abundance of whole foods in their natural state, your body will sense that it is in a ‘feast’ time. It doesn’t need to hoard calories and nutrients like in the famine mode, because your body knows that it will be getting nutrient-dense meals regularly. You don’t need to count calories or restrict yourself when eating whole foods. The fiber in the food you eat will signal to your body when you’ve had enough to eat. Your body is smart. It wants to remain healthy, and if it knows that there are plenty of nutrients available to it, it will not hoard them. Rather, it will take exactly what it needs and release everything else.
Following this principle is how I have achieved a healthy weight and have been able to consistently stay at the same weight without effort. Sure, I try to exercise sometimes, but even on the weeks I’m not at the gym, my weight rarely fluctuates more than a few pounds. My skin has cleared up, my energy levels have stabilized, and I don’t crave junk. Eating should not be hard. Many of the modern health problems we have (obesity, diabetes, etc) have modern causes. These problems arising from malnutrition were not abundant in the ‘olden times’ because people only had one option: to eat whole foods.
We have been so conditioned to having three large meals a day, to snack throughout the day, to grab a ‘quick fix’ from the convenience store…and to thinking that these packaged foods are what is natural. We have been conditioned to think that eating whole foods and cooking at home is unnatural and weird. In reality, it is unnatural to have a generation of people who don’t know how to cook. We are the first generation that has grown up eating fast food and processed foods. We are an experiment, the first generation consuming a new, untested, processed diet. And personally, from the results of this experiment so far – increased obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc. – I feel confident in my choice to opt out of processed foods.
If you go back to the basics and cook your meals from whole foods, your body will reset. If you listen to it, you may find that you can actually tell when you are hungry and when you are not, rather than just eating ‘on the clock’.
I hope that some of this can help you on your journey to a healthy, happy, and vibrant life! It surely has helped me 🙂