Here on the blog, this month is devoted to introducing you to the Core Four – my Four Pillars of Health – and the first is to Eat Nourishing Foods.
If you’ve been following along with the evolution of Stupid Easy Paleo, you’ll remember that I’m rebranding later this year. In fact, some changes have already begun! You’ll notice that the main site menu is now split into Food, Body, and Mind with great articles and resources nested under each one.
My Four Pillars of Health – the holistic philosophy I take in guiding my clients and community on their journeys to wellness – will be upfront and center. Because y’all, it’s not just about food. (Though that does matter.)
And it’s certainly not about eating strict paleo for the rest of your life. No. It’s about finding your personalized nutrition plan that lets you enjoy the foods that help you feel good every day…and do it from a place of ease and self-kindness.
As a way to introduce you to my coaching philosophy and the vibe of the brand in the months and years to come, I’ll be taking you through the pillars one by one.
The Origin of the Core Four
Originally, the Core Four came about when I developed my Harder to Kill Challenge in 2015.
My community was telling me how much you craved balance. How, sure, food and exercise were on your radar, but you were still feeling off-kilter. That you’d buckle down so hard about diet that you’d get super stressed out. Or that you’d start a new fitness routine and have to trade sleep for hitting the gym at 5 am.
You told me that when you’d do the newest diet challenge with super strict rules – a completely artificial construct – you’d do okay. But then real life would happen and these challenges didn’t teach you how to navigate the grey areas of life.
Cue frustration. Shame. Guilt. Falling off the wagon a hundred times. Wondering what is wrong with you. Rinse and repeat.
So I reflected on and researched the aspects of health that lead to balance, the things that helped me take my own wellness back. And those four foundational guides became the framework for the Harder to Kill Challenge.
The idea is not to do one thing perfectly – like eat the most “clean,” perfect diet – but rather to take care of yourself in all four areas. Essentially, it’s about being a generalist and looking after your physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual health.
Of the hundreds and hundreds of people I’ve coached in the Harder to Kill Challenge since 2015, an overwhelming majority come to the program focusing really hard on one or two pillars at the expense of the others…and still feeling less-than-good as a result. One of my favorite quotes is, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
So the Challenge is where we shine a light on what you don’t know. (Not surprisingly, the unofficial motto is Learn, Explore, Grow.)
My Four Pillars of Health – what I lovingly call the Core Four – are:
Eat nourishing foods
Strengthen your body
Recharge your energy
Get your mindset right
Oh, and my upcoming book (HarperOne, May 2019) dives into these pillars in depth!
But I want to give you a taste so you have a better idea of how the Core Four influence everything that I do starting with…
Eat Nourishing Foods
What you put in your piehole matters, and for many people, changing what they eat has an enormous impact on how they feel. For this reason, I call food the gateway drug to wellness.
We all have to eat. It’s tangible; you can taste, touch, see, and smell it. It’s cultural and social and brings us together. So when I created the Core Four, I started with food.
However, I’ll reiterate: It’s not the only thing that matters for your health.
You could have the most perfect diet with the best macro split and eat everything organic but still be suffering from health problems…
…especially if you’re stressed out, underslept, burning the candle at both ends, lonely, and / or sedentary.
(This is not a judgment, by the way. I have been there, truly. After my divorce in 2004, for example, I subsisted mostly on MetRx Big 100 Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough protein bars, coffee, and a bottle of wine a night for almost a year. I speak from a place of deep compassion because I felt pretty damn hopeless to change, and I didn’t know what I didn’t fkn know. Plus, I still have blind spots and things I’m learning about.)
The framework around Eat Nourishing Foods has a few key points. It matters:
What you eat,
How you eat it,
When you eat it, and
Why you eat it. (Your context, goals, bioindividuality, etc.)
Okay, okay…I know the big elephant in the room is, “Oh gawd, here she goes with the strict paleo lecture.”
I’m going to stop you right there. Lovingly.
This first pillar, Eat Nourishing Foods, is not about only eating strict paleo. Is paleo one on-ramp to understanding the best nourishing plan for you? Yes. However, it’s not the only one. (Another reason why I’m rebranding.) And it’s not realistic to be strict forever.
And on a related note, paleo has evolved so much in the last decade that it no longer represents just one single yes/no list of foods. Most fellow experts in the community agree that eating foods that work for you is way more important than adhering to dogma. So all we’re left is a label to describe a loose collection of best practices in the end anyway.
My nutritional therapy training has even furthered my approach…that real, whole, properly-prepared nutrient dense foods tailored to the individual is the best way to move health forward when it comes to what we eat.
There is no one list of foods that works for everyone.
There is no exact ratio of macronutrients that works for everyone.
And even in an individual, there is no one single way that is guaranteed to work for a lifetime. (Age, health status, physical activity, genetics, pregnancy, menopause, etc…these are just a few of the factors that can shift nutrition within the same person.)
We need to all have a little moment here and let that really sink in. And it’s about time we stop asking, “Is XYZ food paleo?” and starting asking, “Is XYZ food right for me?”
Here comes fierce love Steph: There is no quick fix. This stuff takes time and effort. I’m interested in helping and guiding people who are ready to do the work it takes to figure it out. If you’re here to lose 10 pounds in the next 7 days, I’m not the right nutrition expert for you.
And as I mentioned above, the what of Eat Nourishing Foods is not the whole picture.
The Other Things That Matter
Secondly, it has to do with how you eat. Are you eating when you’re stressed, on the run, in your car, or distracted? Barely chewing? Those all impact health, particularly digestion. And if you can’t digest, you’re not getting the nourishment out of what you’re eating.
Third, it’s about when you eat. Now, there’s definitely some variability here in what’s optimal for everyone. But too often, I find folks who are brand new to addressing their food want to get too fancy, too fast. They’re just starting out yet pressuring themselves to follow every special protocol under the sun. Another guiding principle I follow is, “Know the rules so you can break the rules.” Establish a really strong base of the most fundamental things before you get fancy.
And lastly, it’s about why you eat what you eat. What are your goals? Your health challenges? Your preferences? Known or as-yet-unknown food sensitivities? Take into account what you value, how much brain space you have free to devote to thinking about food (hint: obsessing over healthy eating is not a great use of that precious time and energy), your family / living situation, and more.
Takeaways About the Eat Nourishing Foods Pillar
Figuring this stuff out isn’t something you accomplish in a week or a even a month. (That’s why the Harder to Kill Challenge provides a framework for continual exploration and adjustment.) And even when you think you have it figured out, it’s unlikely you can just eat the same 20 foods with the same habits for the rest of your life.
Because, change. It’s an inevitability yet something we fight so hard against because, well, it’s hardwired.
So learning the skills of eating nourishing foods helps you reassess, adjust course, and continue living life feeling good in your body, able to do the things you want to do.
Expect to see lots more about this part of the Core Four going forward on the website.
And if you’re ready for more balance in your life, check out the Harder to Kill Challenge.
What aspect of Eat Nourishing Foods do you struggle with the most? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll talk it out!
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