I am a junkie when it comes to books, documentaries, webinars about healthy eating. This has its pros and cons.I know an awful lot about the topic but…
I sometimes loose my perspective and get sucked into extremes.
A few months ago I was watching a particular series of talks given by someone who had leveraged nutrition to heal themselves after being diagnosed with cancer and being told by the medical community that there was nothing they could do. Compelling stuff! But…
I was watching these talks in the WORST possible way. I wasn’t watching them so much as dipping into them – multitasking and tuning in to random parts.
There was a section on the antioxidant properties of particular plants. The focus shifted to this one plant that was off the charts for antioxidants – my ears really perked up.
I am going to be fully honest here and tell the whole dirty truth. I had just been reading about the power of antioxidants in slowing the visible effects of aging on your face. This was sparked by a photo I had seen of myself that made me look 107. In other words I was milking this man’s inspirational cancer survival story for tidbits for my vanity.
This plant – Amla – doesn’t have fruit you can buy at the grocery store and toss into your smoothie. But you can get it in powder form online. My fingers marched straight over to Amazon and ordered a supply.
He did warn that Amla has a very strong flavor and smell.
But you know – the siren call of the fountain of youth. Super healthy too. So I started regularly adding it to my green smoothie each morning.
Granted, it made what had been a very pleasurable experience into a borderline-revolting one.
It took me ages to get my pre-amla green smoothie routine just right but I have figured out the perfect balance to make my green smoothies delicious – in flavor, texture. Yum. They are perfect.
They WERE perfect until I started adding this amla powder.
The first thing that hits you when you bring it close to your face is the sharp smell. The taste isn’t too strong at first but it builds up at the back of your throat. Best approach was to chug back the smoothie as fast as possible and chase it with a glass of water. The whole process works best with maximum facial contortions.
It took me longer than it should have to stop and say – What the hell was I doing??
I was being totally vulnerable to a magic bullet solution.
Allowing one thing to put everything else out of whack.
If a little bit of something is good for you – it must follow that a lot of it is even better for you. In this case antioxidants. And if that extra-super quantity can be delivered in one punishing dose, it must be even better. I’ll invest 5 minutes of suffering to get all those benefits.
I ditched everything I know to be true at the drop of a hat. This is powder, that I ordered online, without even stopping to do the due diligence on whether the claims even had any science behind them. This was so not a whole food – I wouldn’t recognize an alma plant if I was standing in the middle of a field of them.
But the claims were so alluring.
I don’t think I caused myself harm with my Alma powder nonsense but unfortunately the same cannot be said for all supplements. (And I did this for a few months before I snapped out of it.)
Avoid the temptation to think that if a little of something is good for you – a lot must be better. There are so many studies showing that when something proves itself to be a disease fighter when delivered in its whole food package – it can have the OPPOSITE effect when isolated, synthetically reproduced and taken in high doses.
Think of the food that you put into your body like a symphony. It is beautiful when all the instruments are playing their parts TOGETHER. Imagine what it would be like if the piccolo was hooked up to an amplifier blasted out its own melody at a different temp than all the other instruments.
But what about supplements for deficiencies? It’s not always about vanity, right?
First – get very clear on whether you have a deficiency.
It is important to look beyond articles and marketing that assures you that you need more of something like Omega 3’s, Vitamin K etc… A huge amount of this material is produced and/or funded by the companies selling the supplements. It is a multiple billion dollar industry.
Sometimes there is such a fear driven groundswell about a topic that it feels like it must be the truth. Take Omega 3 for example. Unless you are living under a rock – you have no doubt heard about the important role it plays in preventing disease, how important it is for your brain and even the role it can play in stopping the deterioration of your vision. Doesn’t this feel like a fact set in stone!?
Here’s what the National Institute of Health concluded after an extensive survey of the legit scientific studies on the topic:
For most other conditions for which omega-3 supplements have been studied, the evidence is inconclusive or doesn’t indicate that omega-3s are beneficial.
You can read the article here (and then read all the cited articles they studied):
Think of how many products are marketing to you because they are a good source of Omega 3.
Before you spend your hard-earned money on an omega 3 supplement – make sure you need it. Do the same due diligence for other supplements, powders, vitamins etc that you are considering taking or already take.
Second – if you do have real evidence that you have a deficiency in something – look to whole foods first as a source.
And when you are considering leveraging teh incredible power of whole foods – remember our symphony. Don’t waste your time getting sucked into the notion that you have to hyper-focus on very particular whole foods. Do not ditch everything and swear allegiance to a diet composed solely of blueberries.
If you CONSISTENTLY eat a diet that has a VARIETY of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, seeds and nuts – you are going to be conducting a beautiful symphony inside your body.*
Cynical note – if someone tells you differently, ask yourself if the solution will require you to buy a specific product.
Think about the word ‘supplement’. It means ‘something that completes or enhances something else when added to it.’
It doesn’t mean ‘instead of’ or ‘better than’.
I 100% totally get how appealing magic bullet solutions are! Shift the focus away from the ‘magic’ part and think of it more like a ‘bullet’. I know that sounds alarmist and maybe a little extreme. But I think alarm is totally appropriate when you look at what is happening to our collective health WITH all these supplements available to us. They aren’t working. They are shifting focus away from the less glamorous true solution – a consistent diet of whole food. It’s clean, simple and extremely effective.
Clean and simple does not necessarily mean easy. Or mean a lack of effort.
When something feels too good to be true because it requires NO EFFORT – it is.
Uncomplicated and straight forward is not the same as EASY or EFFORTLESS. Avoid the temptation to make it more complicated (and more difficult). Keep it simple and be prepared to invest some effort into it – and you will get results beyond your wildest dreams.
Magic bullets are a product of reductionist science and the pharmaceutical approach. If something seems too good to be true because it requires no effort on your part AND it requires you to buy a specific tool – ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS.
My Reboot with Real Foods Program is designed around getting you on clean and simple track – so you can feel and look amazing – optimize your health, drop the pounds. You get the tools, structure and daily support you need to find your way on this rewarding path.
This program will fill up in the New Year. If you want to book one of the spots then please book a call with me so we can make sure it is a good fit. BOOK A CALL
*The only supplement that I take is Vitamin B12. I love flavoring things with nutritional yeast, which is fortified with B12, but the rest of my food choices don’t naturally provide it. If you are opting out of eating meat and dairy then may wish to take a B12 supplement. But it isn’t an emergency. A B12 deficiency isn’t a sudden onset condition. You can easily check your levels through your doctor’s office and make an informed choice.