8 Diet rules

First up, let’s get clear on something.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to good health.

I know it seems kind of silly to start off a list of rules by debunking the very myth that are any in the first place, but as soon as we start writing a list of do’s and don’ts, we inevitably set ourselves up for failure, disappointment and guilt. No thanks!

The ‘new’ way to approach diet and nutrition has very little to do with what you’re eating, and very much to do with what’s eating you! I call it mindful eating — and at its soul, it’s about recognising that having a ‘healthy’ diet and having a healthy relationship with food are two very different things.

Today, I ask that you focus on the latter — and by golly gosh are you about to find yourself in an ‘a-ha!’ moment (or eight!)

Screen-Shot-2014-08-22-at-9.08.10-PMEat with intention

Do you eat because you’re hungry? To fuel your body with energy? To nourish your body with nutrients? Or, because the clock says it’s mealtime? Having a clear intention behind a) why you’re eating and b) what you’re eating, shines a revolutionary light on mealtimes. Once you realise how much mindless eating you do and commit to adding intention to every meal, it changes the entire experience. 

Screen-Shot-2014-08-22-at-9.08.20-PMDitch the dietary labels

Vegan, paleo, vegetarian, pescatarian, fruitarian, high-protein, low-carb — the list goes on and on. I have a male friend who has felt a pull towards a mostly plant-based diet.

“I’m vegetarian now,” he confided in me over dinner the other night, “but I’m still going to eat meat if a friend lovingly prepares it for me”.

“So you’re not vegetarian,” I replied.

“Yeah I guess not, but then, what am I?”

What he is, in fact, is a highly-evolved human being. Why must we define ourselves by one dietary label? Doesn’t it make more sense to take the principles from each diet that resonate with us as individuals? If eating a mostly plant-based diet works for you the majority of the time, shouldn’t it be okay to want to have a piece of meat once a week/fortnight/month and it not mean that you’ve failed?

Which, leads to my next point:

Screen-Shot-2014-08-22-at-9.08.26-PMTrust your body’s natural intuition

Nobody knows your body better than you. There isn’t one diet for everybody. What works for me isn’t necessarily going to work for you. And what works for you right now might not work in a few weeks time.

So how the hell do we know what to eat? Well, listen to your body — it won’t lead you astray. Deep down you know whether dairy makes you feel like lethargic, if gluten leads to bloating and if coffee and you just don’t get along.

Screen-Shot-2014-08-22-at-9.08.32-PMSlow down

Most of us inhale our food like we’re competing in some sort of eating competition. Slowing down and savouring each mouthful not only amps up the pleasure of eating, but it also allows you to digest your food properly so you’re able to recognise when you’re full.

Screen-Shot-2014-08-22-at-9.08.47-PMHealthy gut, healthy mind

There are mountains of scientific research that point to the health of our gut affecting everything from our brain to our immune system. In fact, it was Hippocrates who, 2000 years ago, said: “All disease begins in the gut.”

This is why gut health is the first place most physicians will begin when looking to improve a client’s health. I suggest starting off with small amounts of fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha and kimchi. We need to be able to trust our gut, but how are we meant to listen to it if it’s not working properly?

Screen-Shot-2014-08-22-at-9.08.53-PMFor everything you remove from your diet, add something in

The scariest connotation made when people use the word diet, is deprivation. In fact, improving your diet should be quite the opposite. As soon as we feel deprived, we’re setting ourselves up for failure we will inevitably binge. If you remove processed, sugar-laden chocolate from your diet, try replacing it with raw and homemade, cacao-rich chocolate full of nourishing good fats.

If you reach for the lolly jar at 3pm every afternoon, have a new snack at the ready. My favourite is green apple slices spread with natural almond or peanut butter — yum! Shift the focus from what you can’t eat, to all of the nutrient-dense foods that you can.

Screen-Shot-2014-08-22-at-9.09.00-PMDitch the guilt

Guilt is a food group all on its own, and is the only one I advocate everyone remove from their diet. If two people are eating the same tub of icecream, but one approaches it with shame, guilt and judgement while the other enjoys every mouthful, savouring the sweetness and being captivated by the creaminess, who do you think is going to come out of the situation better off?

They’ve both eaten it — that bit can’t be changed — but the stressed out one has raised their cortisol levels from the stress of the experience, which, if raised often enough, can put the body into fat storage mode. The other has immersed them self in the joy of the experience and then moved on. If you’re going to indulge, commit to the experience and enjoy every mouthful.

Screen-Shot-2014-08-22-at-9.09.11-PMBeing present means switching off from technology

Many of us sit down to eat, not sure if we really want to be there at all. We have a fork in one hand and our phones in the other while watching The Block and thinking about tomorrow’s 9am meeting. I’m guilty of eating lunch at my desk while replying to emails, or Instagramming a meal while I’m still eating it. I have now set myself clear boundaries when it comes to eating and technology.

I can take a photo of my meal, but then it’s phone away until the meal is finished. Same goes for eating at the computer. It takes a maximum of 15 minutes to eat lunch. I can always afford 15 minutes away from my desk, no matter how busy I am. Taking the time to sit down and be present with your food is the first and perhaps most important step to eating mindfully.

Once we let go of our search for the ‘perfect diet’ and choose to focus on all of the nutrient-dense foods we can eat rather than those over-processed junk foods that we can’t, we find our relationship with food begin to improve with little to no effort required.

In fact, it was the catalyst behind creating my 7-Day Inspired Eating Guides.  They give people access to a whole week’s worth of meals and recipes, so they don’t have to stress about what they’re eating. I’ve taken care of that bit — all they have to do is focus on nourishing their bodies with easy-to-prepare, nutrient-dense dishes and enjoying the experience. Sounds blissful, don’t you think?

Have you figured out what works or what doesn’t, when it comes to your diet? Or perhaps you’re still learning? Share your experience with us in the comments below!


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Jordanna Levin is a holistic wellness coach and conscious cook whose focus is to heal people’s ‘complicated’ relationship with food. She believes food should inspire and nourish, not be a source of stress and anxiety. Through her coaching programs, cooking workshops and popular healthy food blog she’s creating a new movement of mindful and inspired eating.