How to be the healthiest person you know.

July 15, 2015 0 Comments

This is a topic I am quite passionate about. I am fortunate in the sense that I feel I managed to “get out” before I was too far “in”. Being a very naïve yet zealous student, I ate up all the health information I could. I would read blog after blog, searching for the healthiest diet plan and the best way to live. I was, and still am, battling with my own personal health concerns. I would say I was justified in trying it all (however extreme) to mitigate my ailments to feel better. When you’re not feeling your best, you’re desperate.

But here in lies the problem.

The places I was accessing this information was not from qualified health professionals. It was from bloggers with a personal experience and/or opinion – that’s it.

I want to make it clear that I’m not against sharing your personal experience or opinion with others. But again, here in lies the problem.

As the reader, we easily tune out of being “open minded” about the article and reading ABOUT the experience, and suddenly take on the opinion as gospel, believing that THE only way to POSSIBLY achieve health would be to superimpose that diet into our OWN lifestyles.

This IS the problem.

That way of eating worked great for the other person; I don’t discount that. I know this is cliché, but I stand by this next statement whole-heartedly… YOU ARE A DIFFERENT PERSON. You have a different body. Your makeup is unique and completely individual. I’m not sure why this is so hard for us to get our head around. Even after my study at university I still often find myself falling into this mind set. “Wow! They look so healthy! What do they eat? How many times a week do they exercise? I wish I had the time to do what they do, then I know my legs would look that good!”… Sound familiar?

We tend to get so caught up in what works for another person, that we begin to tune out of what works best for us. As soon as you begin to tune into what works well for you, I am telling you, you will never know a time that your health has been so good. Embrace mindfulness, let go of the guilt, and listen to what your body needs in accordance to your daily needs.

Let me give you a quick example. If you are training weights at the gym, you need carbohydrate - most importantly after the fact. Carbohydrate is essential for restoring glycogen levels that have been depleted during exercise as well as facilitating muscle repair. If you train like this, yet embark on a very rigid low carbohydrate diet because you read how a sexy yoga instructor eats this way, you are going to run into a wall of health problems because your diet is not meeting your physical needs. Yoga doesn’t necessitate a lot of carbohydrate post exercise. Weight lifting does. It won’t mean that you’re unhealthy if you add sweet potato, rice, or quinoa to your next meal. Your lifestyle requires a different eating plan, and their needs are very different to yours.

This comparative eating doesn’t occur only for macro-groups - as I’m sure you are well aware - it also circulates around differing opinions regarding food groups.

The big one at the moment being: to paleo or not to paleo.

This is a hard one, because at the end of the day, the bottom line influence of a paleo diet is to eat less processed foods, more fresh foods (i.e. vegetables and some fruit) and get back to traditional food preparation methods, which are much easier on our bodies than current fast meal preparations. Fundamentally, the paleo diet seems flawless. And it can be. Eating paleo doesn’t make you unhealthy. However, not eating paleo doesn’t make you unhealthy either.

Grains are an important food group. Cutting them out just because doesn’t make you healthier than the next person. Wholegrains are a great source of fibre, B vitamins, selenium, and many other vitamins and minerals. I think most people run into problems with grains when they use it as the foundation of their diet. Toast for breakfast, a muffin for morning tea, lasagna for lunch, crackers in the afternoon, and pasta for dinner. None of these foods are necessarily ‘bad’ - the problem is that this diet is made up of too many refined grains and not enough fresh fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, and protein. The balance is off.

So, where do you begin to tailor your diet so that it best suits you?

Being in clinic, one of the biggest lessons I learnt is the importance of being a “Naturopath of the real world”. (You know, the big grown up one that doesn’t exist in blog posts and retreats. The every day, rise and grind, got to pay the bills world where not everyone has time to spend hours a day, or even hours a week, in the kitchen preparing meals). In accordance with this, here are some basics that can get you started:

  1. Consider your daily energy needs. Are you an on-the-go mum? Do you sit down and work in an office? Are you involved in an intense physical program? Do you have a diagnosed health condition? How much energy (fuel) do you need from your food daily? Being aware of (and HONEST about) this is one of the greatest steps you can take towards achieving optimal health. If you know that you won’t be expending much energy in the day, you probably can drop your portion sizes a little, and go easy on the fat and carbohydrate content. If you have trained hard at the gym or been exercising intensively, you require a serve of carbohydrate at your next meal. If you are a student studying, or your job requires a lot of mental power on a daily basis, carbohydrate and fat are essential, but the quantity required is not that great. Be mindful of what your day-to-day life entails, and base your energy requirements off this. We all live very different, interesting lives, so it’s likely that you won’t find anyone that eats exactly the same diet as you.
  2. Never be shy about the amount of fibrous vegetables you can eat in a day. Adding more vegetables (think leafy greens, broccoli, celery, tomato, cauliflower, zucchini, squash, capsicum, carrot) is a great way to bulk out your meals, keep your body healthy, and stay fuller for longer.
  3. Get comfortable with macro-balancing your plate. This simply means being aware of each of the macronutrients (fats, carbohydrate, and protein) that you include in a meal. The easiest way to do this is to take your portion (or plate) size; ¼ of your meal needs to be protein, ¼ carbohydrate, and ½ fibrous (non-starchy) vegetables, with about 1-3tbsp of fat depending on your individual needs. Of course this model can change under many circumstances. View it as a guide and modify to suit you*.
  4. Be aware of the quality of your foods. Grains can be a part of a healthy balanced diet; however, it is the quality of the grains you choose that can push them over to not serving your health. For example, spelt or rye pasta is a much better option than regular white pasta. Basmati and brown rice is better than white rice. Sourdough, rye or sprouted bread is easier to digest and offers more nutrients than a loaf of processed white bread. Are you noticing the pattern here? The further the product gets from its original state (i.e. the more processed it becomes) the harder it is on our bodies, and less nutrients it offers.
  5. Let go of the guilt and try your best not to overthink it. Food is a wonderful part of the human experience. It offers joy, love, satisfaction, and warmth. Allow yourself to take pleasure in this facet of life without feeling overcome or defeated by it. Food is a source of nourishment for your body. Make a decision to fuel your body with wholesome and fresh foods, but also give yourself permission to relax and indulge in one of life’s greatest experiences. You know what is best for you, you just have to be kind to yourself and listen.

*There are many other considerations that go into developing an eating plan. If you feel completely overwhelmed by food, ‘what to eat’, and ‘what not to eat’, or you simply would like further guidance on this topic, please contact a qualified health professional to work with to develop an eating plan tailored to your needs and health goals.

NOTE: If you change your eating habits and notice that you are not thriving but have less energy, are more irritable, and are always tired, you might need to make a few adjustments to ensure that you are fueling your body sufficiently. (And when I say sufficient, I don’t necessarily mean quantity; sometimes it can be the type or balance of fuel… Maybe you need an extra tbsp. of fat with lunch to see you through until dinnertime. Maybe quinoa doesn’t work for you and rice is a better option… Keep exploring until you feel just right).

If you would like a consultation with Bella you can see her at the Endeavour Wellnation Clinic. For more info click here.


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