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  • Eat Nourishing Foods – Pillar of Health #1

    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.

    Eat Nourishing Foods - Pillar of Health #1 | StupidEasyPaleo.com

    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.)

    Eat Nourishing Foods - Pillar of Health #1 | StupidEasyPaleo.com

    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.

    Eat Nourishing Foods - Pillar of Health #1 | StupidEasyPaleo.com

    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.

    Eat Nourishing Foods - Pillar of Health #1 | StupidEasyPaleo.com

    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.

    Up next…Pillar #2: Strengthen Your Body. Or skip ahead to #3: Recharge Your Energy and #4: Get Your Mindset Right.

    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!

    Pin this article for later.

    Eat Nourishing Foods - Pillar of Health #1 | StupidEasyPaleo.com

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    14 thoughts on “Eat Nourishing Foods – Pillar of Health #1

    1. I look forward to hearing more about this, especially in context with the other three pillars. I have been dealing with Type 2 diabetes (with various degrees of “success”) since I was diagnosed in 1996 and go through periods where I’m all about eating the foods that make my body feel good, in reasonable amounts, and passing straight by those that done, and then there are times (like the last 12-14 months) when I still know the foods that make me feel the best but run around eating stupid, flour-y, sugar-y foods anyway. It’s not a lack of knowledge, or a lack of “plans” – there are certainly plenty of those available, it’s just not feeling like doing what I know will make me feel better. So frustrating!

      1. Thank you for sharing your experiences, Denise. May I ask what your “why” is, a purpose or reason that you can really viscerally keep coming back to?

        1. Hi Steph,

          My “why” is the desire to do everything in my power to avoid the nasty complications of T2D (stroke, heart attack, nerve damage), but sometimes even that isn’t enough to get me to skip the flour, sugar, and fat. I guess it’s the short term versus long term problem: long term I *know* that I don’t want to die from a heart attack, but short term that scone (or cake or cookie or whatever) looks, smells, and tastes wonderful.

          1. Sometimes the cake is worth it and that’s ok. You don’t have to be perfect to stay healthy <3

    2. For me, at least for the last 8 years, it’s been learning avot Paleo, then fighting to exit the dogma of it all. So the whole What you eat?, has probably always been my problem. I continue to work towards how to support my body as I, take care of my marriage, take care of my kids, homeschool, workout and take care of myself. Learning to be more mindful in all areas is my work in progress.

      1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Joanne. Dogma can really become a trap and it sounds like you have quite a level head on your shoulders and are doing the best you can.

    3. Hey Steph,
      I struggle with knowing which foods are best for me and taking the time to eat. What I mean is I often eat on the run.

      1. Hi Becca…totally know that feeling. Figuring out the right foods for oneself can take time and tinkering. A 30 day elimination plan can help you kickstart this process. From there, it’s slowing down and checking in with your body so that you can begin to listen to its cues. In the end, it’s not as much “knowing” which foods are best as it is “feeling” which ones are. If you’re out of practice with listening to your body, that’s okay. You can begin to listen again at any time. Making a commitment to sit down to a table and eat may be the first simple step.

    4. I tend to fluctuate between restricting my carbs or calories to eating what ever the heck I want 🙂 It’s a work in progress.

    5. Right now I’m working on the WHY. My why has changed since I’ve been on my better health journey and I’ve just started balancing all the necessary areas of me with the outer portions of my life. It’s fascinating work!

      These pilars, these blogs, your writings are a refreshing balance of grace and rock hard truth. I’m eager for more! Thanks for using your voice for people like me who struggle with words.

      1. Hi Amanda…thank you for sharing the pieces you’re working on. I love that you’re turning some attention to those tougher topics.

        Thank you for your very kind words…more to come <3

    6. I too fall into similar issues as an above poster.
      By the end of 8th grade/beginning of high school I was diagnosed with hypopituitarism and then that later led to T2DM in college – which especially at first was like going through the stages of grief with denial, anger, etc. When the science behind it clicked and I was able to understand that even if I had done everything perfectly that it could have still developed I was able to accept it more.
      I’ve “always” known all the side effects that could further happen, then studied them since being in pharmacy school, which acutely leads to the “oh no – I gotta make all these changes, but I don’t have time” panic feeling. I still struggle to always pick the best options to eat due to “lack of time”, what’s around/close/free at school, what’s cheap, or reverting to old eating habits and emotional eating.

      I’m working more on making at least slightly better habits over summer while not in school. Even more than avoiding medical complications, I know I’d feel better and probably do better mentally if I didn’t revert to the SAD or emotional eating. I’m also continually reminding me that it’s about balance, but my balance just includes less of the “junk” food.

      1. Thank you for sharing your story, Sarah. I think you voiced a lot of concerns that many people have…how to best eat for their health and / or to manage a condition when your environment seems to conspire against you. I appreciate you stopping by.

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