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Building a Healthy Lifestyle
How many times have you heard the phrase, “it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle” thrown around at the start of a new year when New Year’s Resolutions are the thing on everyone’s mind. Everyone is trying out new diets, making pledges to work out at the gym, signing up for weight loss challenges. We’ve all been taught to view our weight as the end-all, be-all of health.
But what if it’s more than that. What if our weight is a symptom, more than it is a cause? What if the cure is a real change in lifestyle, a shift from prepared foods full of chemical preservatives to one that is focused on the natural.
The Whole Foods Lifestyle – A Real Change, Not a Diet Fad
A whole foods diet, as we’ve discussed here, is completely complimentary with a homesteading lifestyle. It’s focused on minimally processed fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and limited meats. Some call it a ‘plant-forward’ lifestyle, but you don’t need to go vegetarian if you’re not inclined. Instead, focus on meats that are pasture-raised with no hormones or antibiotics. Get chicken eggs that are from healthy, free-range flocks given a rest in the wintertime.
And guess what? Most of that you can do at home yourself on your homestead. Even if you live in the middle of a big city, anyone can make the change and pursue a whole-food lifestyle.
Benefits of Whole Foods
One of the biggest benefits that you’ll find by switching to a whole foods lifestyle is that your intake of fruits and vegetables will go up, and this will naturally increase your fiber intake. We don’t think about it much, but fiber is a hugely important part of our diet. Fiber helps to keep us full longer, it helps to regulate blood sugar levels, maintain bowel health, and lower cholesterol!
All of that just from eating a salad, or mixed vegetables with dinner!
But you’ll also find that, once you establish a routine with it, that eating whole foods helps you plan your garden better and decreases your food bill. While on the surface cheap, prepared foods seem to be super cheap, they don’t fill you up as much as something else might.
Look at it this way, a bag of ramen noodles may be less than a dozen apples and some homemade peanut butter, but you’ll end up spending more in ramen noodles to keep you full than you would if you parceled out the costs of an apple and a tablespoon of peanut butter.
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Making the Change to Whole Foods
I never, ever recommend going into your kitchen and throwing out everything you own. Instead, I am a firm believer in phasing things out. This helps you figure out what you can reasonably do and what you’ll still want to buy from the store.
For example, I make my own tomato sauce in the fall when the surplus tomatoes from my garden are ready to harvest. However, I don’t try to do it if I run out during the rest of the year. Instead, we buy organic tomato sauce that has a label with ingredients I can read and that I recognize – tomatoes, garlic, onion, and citric acid.
You’re much more likely to give in and go back to what’s easy if you’ve gone to the extreme and made things difficult from the start. So phase things out. Don’t suddenly change your entire diet and switch to salads 100% of the time. That’s not sustainable. You’re not going to live like that for the rest of your life. Whole foods living is not a diet. It’s a lifestyle.
Tips for Living the Lifestyle
We have a few more simple tips for pulling together a whole foods lifestyle change in your life.
- Become a hunter-gatherer. Grow your own food, learn how to forage (even if it’s at the farmer’s market). Get to know local growers in your area if you don’t have the space or ability to garden for yourself. And if nothing else, buy the ingredients at your grocery store and make things yourself.
- Avoid anything that has ingredients you don’t recognize. You don’t need that stuff. Even foods preserved at home don’t have these chemicals in them. You’re better off with a jar of strawberry jam you did at home than chemically compounded syrup off the shelf.
- Get involved in crop and herd shares to fill in the spaces where you need help. Not everyone wants to butcher their own meat, but there are plenty of ranchers that will sell you half a cow. Not everyone can grow cucumbers, but I guarantee there’s a farmer within 50 miles that will keep you in a steady supply.
- Become mindful. Mindfulness is a tricky little thing. It can affect everything we do just by allowing ourselves to be more aware of it. When we start thinking about how we’re buying groceries, what we’re eating, and what we’re doing, we find ourselves more motivated to make change. We notice the things that don’t feel good and want to change them. And we notice the things that do feel good and can take a moment to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. Mindfulness is absolutely a part of a whole-foods lifestyle.