Flexitarian: the official definition is someone who eats primarily a plant based diet with occasional meat. According to The Independent, it’s been predicted to be the biggest health trend this year.
I don’t want to be part of a trend or a fad. As a health and wellness specialist, I’ve studied and read almost every book out there on diets, fads, programmes from a variety of different people. I’ve trained as a nutritional therapist to help formulate my own ideas to allow me to make informed decisions for my body. My biggest influence has been my own body – it’s the best educator. It tells you how it feels, if you are prepared to listen. Some say flexitarians are just cheating vegetarians but I don’t see it like that. I think it’s important to work with what suits your body.
I gave up sugar last year as I was certain it was causing an inflammatory reaction in my body, causing repeated lung infections. It worked for me. But I know it’s impossible to give up sugar totally – it’s in fruit, for example, and I eat fruit. I guess we should say we’ve given up ‘processed sugar’. It’s a totally different thing.
I love the words of Michael Pollan in his book Food Rules:
Not too much
That is simple, sound advice. Eat food – that means real food. It means food that looks like it did in its natural state, not too many of those foods that come in a ready-made packet or takeaway box.
Not too much – the rise of obesity has as much to do with portion control as it does with the food we eat and the exercise we don’t get. Time to think smaller plate size – you’d be amazed how easy it is to actually eat less.
Mostly plants – a plant based diet has been proven to be the most beneficial to our long term health. I recently attended a course at Harvard Medical School on lifestyle medicine and all the professors and MDs were saying the same thing. Based on their various different research papers, cutting down red meat in favour of more plant based foods has proven to have huge impacts on health.
Seems simple. That’s because at the heart of it – it is simple. There are lots of books and ‘gurus’ out there trying to complicate things, to sell you the perfect solution with their amazing diet plan. But if you really look at these plans – they are essentially all the same. Eat less processed food and exercise more. Notice how Pollan isn’t strict saying never eat meat. Importantly he says mostly, not only plants. I eat meat – in fact I had a lovely grilled sirloin steak last night. Will I have it again this week or next? No. But will I have it occasionally? Most definitely. I’m also a busy mum and business owner. Very, very occasionally I might eat a shop bought pizza rather than making it myself. Now I do check the labels and go for the ones with less salt and saturated fats and I do tend to eat the vegetarian options, rather than the ones with processed meats on top, but, I’ve done it. Am I going to beat myself up about it? No. Would I make a habit of it? No definitely not.
I’m not out to sell a plan or diet or detox. I’m here to let people know 1) how powerful the food that you eat is. It can be good for you or bad for you. It’s about the quality and the quantity. 2) Once you make a commitment to your health, you get prepared and organised it’s easy to make changes. I’ve done it myself. I thought I would never have time to make home- cooked meals with fresh ingredients regularly, but I did and I continue to despite my busy schedule. 3) I’d much rather educate people on the impact of food so that they make informed decisions about their own food preferences. Once the mindset has changed, you will just want to choose to eat differently. I’ve seen enough research and evidence that this really works.
It’s not about food being a reward or punishment. It’s not about points and whether I’ve been good or bad so I can eat this. It’s about balance, quality and moderation. Food is not just fuel. It’s information that tells your cells how to behave. That’s a seriously important job. It’s playing with my DNA. If I can help make those cells behave in a healthy, non-inflammatory way, then surely I want to do the best I can to help that along.
And if you think you really don’t have time to change your diet and lifestyle choices, have a read on this quote from my recent course at Harvard University:
“If you don’t have time to be sick, you must make time to be healthy”.
Definitely food for thought.
Jeannie Di Bon is a health and wellness expert, qualified nutritional therapist and Pilates instructor. She runs her own school of Pilates in Wimbledon, London.