Using Instinct To Create Your Ideal Diet
Every single one of us is born with this wonderful, life-saving, innate engine. It’s called Instinct.
Our instincts will get us out of a dangerous situation. They will lead us to our loved ones. They will tell us when to bail out of a job and when to get some sleep.
But our instincts can also tell us about the foods that would most serve our health and the ones that won’t.
Let’s back it up for a minute.
What our instincts are not are a set of moralistic codes, popularity contests or a set of strict rules to live by. What do I mean by this?
Simply put: Do NOT choose your diet based on some system of morality. It won’t work. Do NOT choose your foods based on the most popular and current diet fad. It won’t work. And, please, don NOT choose your diet by restricting, denying or controlling yourself in some way. It. Won’t. Work.
So, how to we get in touch with our instincts in order to see, with clear eyes, what would work best for us?
The first thing we can do is get our bodies back to basics by cleaning the slate for a short period of time. We do this by temporarily eliminating typically aggravating and allergenic foods. This allows the body to reset itself and come back to homeostasis.
During an Elimination Diet, we would eliminate wheat (gluten), dairy, refined sugar, soy, corn, alcohol and caffeine. It’s a month out of your life. And it allows you to move into that instinctual place and find out what makes your body tick.
Getting back to nutritional homeostasis also allows you to kick your cravings to the curb. I can’t emphasize enough how critical this is to finding out what your ideal diet looks like.
If your cravings are running the show it is virtually impossible to know, on an instinctual level, what your body most needs to perform optimally.
Our cravings evolve from one of three places:
1) They arise from a nutritional deficiency in which the body is trying to get more of that nutrient. For example, people who crave chocolate are very often deficient in magnesium; something that dark chocolate is rich in.
2) Our cravings come from a need for emotional comfort. People who crave crunchy, salty foods often use them as an attempt to quell anxiety. Carby foods, like bread, pasta and muffins, are cravings that indicate a general need for comfort. Learn to be with discomfort in love and presence rather than put a food bandaid on it.
3) Finally, food cravings can come from an imbalance in our gut ecology. People who crave sugar and carbs are craving them because, after years of eating them, their gut bacteria has shifted. The balance has been tipped in favour of sugar-digesting microbes. And just so you know…those aren’t the microbes you want leading the charge in your gut. They lead to disbiosis, candida overgrowth and food allergies. And they literally start telling your brain to eat more of the sugary stuff and less of the good stuff. Sounds a bit creepy to me.
Once the gut has had a chance to come into balance again, then you can start to work with your instinctual nutritional blueprint. So, where do we start?
We always start with hunger.
In our world of plenty, most of us don’t allow ourselves to actually sit in our hunger. We don’t like the feeling of emptiness, and yet it’s only from this place that we can know and listen to what our bodies are telling us.
Are you craving fruit? You might you need some more antioxidants in your diet. So eat the fruit.
Have you been a vegan or vegetarian for years and, after coming back to homeostasis, find yourself craving meat or, god forbid, fat (cue the sarcasm)? Can you put aside your moralistic values and simply feed your body the foods it wants and needs?
Do you find that, after years of not eating breakfast, that you suddenly want a hearty breakfast? Or, do you find the inverse? Maybe breakfast has just been something you’ve been eating when you haven’t actually wanted anything until later in the morning.
Perhaps you’ve always reached for a sandwich at lunch because, hey, that’s just what we do in this part of the world. When in fact, maybe your body is wanting some salmon and avocados for lunch.
Listen to your hunger and remove your moralistic programming around food. We can impose and we should impose a moral code onto how we raise farmed animals. Factory farming is horrific and, whether you’re a vegetarian or a meat-eater, none of us should support feedlots. And there are plenty of grass-fed options for meat-eaters.
But that has nothing to do with what your body may or may not need to thrive. It has nothing to do with your biological blueprint.
That’s like saying I don’t like the Conservative Party, therefore I’m not going to vote. It doesn’t make any sense.
When I wake up in the morning I check in with myself and find out what I’m hungry for. Even though, as a Holistic Nutritionist, I know that eating a hearty breakfast of protein and fat is a really ideal way to start the day, I just can’t do. I want a thick, fresh fruit smoothie with maybe some yogurt in it. It’s what my body craves. So I give it that.
If it were up to me, I would eat red meat every single night for dinner. With a healthy amount of fat. We’re told to limit our red meat intake by the industry. Even though every single study done on meat and even red meat has been observational and not causal. But that’s another story.
My body wants the iron. It needs the iron. It wants the fat. It craves the protein. It needs the zinc. The selenium. The B12. As someone with an autoimmune disease, it needs these nutrients more than the average guy. And grass-fed red meat is teaming with energy-giving nutrients that nourish the body and literally build the brain. And my instincts remind me of this all the time.
When we learn to trust our instincts and then act on those instincts, we tell our bodies and minds, “I’m listening. I hear what you need and I’m going to give it to you.” When we do that, our bodies and minds will talk to us more and more.
And, as a bonus, instinct is the gateway to intuition. When we work off of instinct and act, our intuition says, “Oh, she’ll listen to me. She’s been listening to my cousin instinct. It’s safe to talk to her.”
Begin the dialogue with yourself. Clear the slate and begin the conversation. Listen to what your instincts are telling you about the foods that your body needs. You’re worth that conversation. Vibrant health is your birthright.
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