I’m coming off a very inspiring week. I was sitting in front of the computer with earphones on for much of each day, drowning out the sound of everything else going on around me. I wouldn’t normally tout this sort of antisocial, sedentary behavior, but as I was lucky enough to be listening to a 5 day online conference on the future of nutrition, I’d say this was an exception to the rule. From Monday through Friday I was the beneficiary of powerful and achievable life lessons, compelling insights and an explosion of plain, simple and tangible truths.
The Future of Nutrition Conference was organized by the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, founded by Marc David, a nationally recognized teacher, speaker and author who has made it his life’s mission to share his many decades worth of research and experience on eating, thinking and living healthfully.
Throughout the week, attendees listened to over 50 established and respected doctors, nutritionists, scientists, healthy living advocates and ambitious entrepreneurs speak one-on-one with David, who, with his easy-going and relatable attitude, made the whole experience extremely enjoyable. All the experts spoke in great detail about how the right attitude and the most beneficial nutrients intertwine to create a healthy, happy, meaningful life.
As you might imagine, the conversations bubbled over with scientific evidence, potent information and interesting ideas — waaaaay too much stuff for any one blog post. But amidst all the talk of the benefits of veganism, the advantages of vegetarianism and the wonders of the paleo diet, there were many relevant, down to earth, agreed-upon insights that really moved me; they made perfect sense and were brilliant in their simplicity. My hope is that my family – and yours – can abide by many of these ideals.
- “What we put in our body is information for every function of our body.” I know that. You know that. But how well do we actually live it? Functional nutritionist Andrea Nakayama made clear how important it is to really live by the notion that what we put into our bodies is absolutely connected to our health and happiness.
- There is no one-size-fits-all diet, as we are all physiologically different and have different biological challenges. But the experts agree that our bodies should be full of colorful and green leafy vegetables, fruits such as berries, beans, healthy grains (although some really push for a gluten-free diet), lean sources of protein and healthy fats. Those categories should be the cornerstone of everyone’s diet.
- If you choose to eat fish, it should be only certain wild varieties (like Alaskan salmon) and if you eat dairy and meat, it should be from grass fed animals, with a third party organic certification, in order to avoid pesticides, antibiotics and hormones.
- Avoid refined sugar and processed foods as much as possible. This is important for everyone – adults and children alike. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride spoke specifically about children and how these products are literally addictive and extremely toxic to children’s bodies, leading to many serious physical and behavioral problems.
- From Heather White, executive director of the Environmental Working Group – an organization that I love – came some important daily tidbits: Become a label reader and buy foods with the fewest ingredients; buy organic as much as possible – refer to EWG’s dirty dozen list for produce that should be purchased organic; avoid plastics and instead use stainless steel, glass and bamboo; buy a water filter for your tap water in order to clean it of many contaminants.
- From Darya Rose, a neuroscientist and food writer, a few simple ideas: Focus on health, not weight. Eat a healthy breakfast. Pack your own lunch. Create a happy relationship with food, not a stressful one; do this by making little healthy changes in your diet and by understanding that there is a balance and you don’t have to be impeccable all the time.
- “If you’re standing on a thumbtack, don’t take aspirin, get off the thumbtack!” Seems obvious, right? But, says Robyn O’Brein, tireless healthy food warrior, speaker and author, many people don’t realize that they’re taking aspirin when it comes to eating, dealing with symptoms rather than the source of the problems. But if you really want to change the way you feel, then you need to change the things that you eat. Take a hard look at your diet, speak to an expert if need be, and start eating more healthfully. Get off the thumbtack.
- Dr. David Katz, founding director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, said many things that resonated with me. His basic premise? Life is more fun if you’re healthy. You can “add years to your life and life to your years” if you happily and properly prioritize your health. On that note, he spoke about how taste buds can become accustomed to anything you offer them and that you can “rehabilitate them” by swapping in healthier versions of the current foods that you eat (say, a tomato sauce with much less sugar than the one you’re currently buying). He also spoke about families. How to teach kids about healthy living? Just live it in your own home. Create an environment that is full of healthy foods and ideas and regularly serve yourself and your kids tasty, healthy whole foods – like many of those mentioned in this blog. Children will benefit enormously, emotionally and physically, from these actions. In creating this type of home, you will be implicitly giving your children the tools for lifelong health.
- Advocating for healthy eating is not a moral argument and it’s not about being a good or bad person. It’s also not about being a perfect person, by any stretch. Many of the experts spoke about doing one’s best and knowing that indulgences, if they are right for you, can be part of life. But overall, it’s very important to look at your own body and health, to know that you really are what you eat, and to try and create an overall eating plan that consists of delicious, healthy foods. Take good care of yourself and the people you love and life will be a lot tastier…