If you’ve been hanging around here for a while, you probably have noticed I use the term “real food” quite often. If you are new to this whole real food thing, you’ve probably asking yourself “What’s this “real” food everyone talks about? Don’t I already eat it?” In short, probably not.
Although Bisquick and Hamburger Helper may seem like real food, if you actually took a moment to look at the ingredient list, you’ll find a very small percentage of ingredients that you’d actually call normal food. Don’t worry, a vast majority of us have been there and it’s nothing to be ashamed about! I used to eat the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” spray like it was no one’s business but I didn’t know any better.
But There Are So Many “Real” Food Lifestyles, How Do I Choose?…
Once you delve into the world of “real” food you’ll notice there are many variations of what “real” food means to a wide range of people. You may have heard of certain diets like Weston A. Price (WAPF), Paleo, Primal, GAPS, Low Carb, and of course the Vegan, Vegetarian and Raw Foodists. Take a look at the graph below to see what foods are used in what lifestyle.
When you start learning a little more about these “real food” lifestyles, the extremists claim their diet is the best and most traditional. It can get a little crazy, if you can imagine. However, if you take all comparisons out, and hit the root of the message of each lifestyle, the common denominator is “real food.” This food is usually in it’s most natural form and the bulk of it does not come from boxes, bags, or cans, genetic modification, and/or anything with antibiotics, pesticides, food additives and such. However there are junk versions of these healthy lifestyles so it’s imperative to read the labels of everything you are buying.
Is this to say that buying food from boxes, bags or cans is devastating to your health? The extremists may say yes, but I say absolutely not! Listen, I buy packaged breadcrumbs, organic crackers, and I enjoy eating dessert. I even go out to eat sometimes and I’m sure I’m eating GMO’s and things that are not up to my definition of “real” food. However, the pure stress of having the abide by “rules” outweighs the benefits of eating the food. It’s totally not worth it, at least not in my eyes.
And I’m speaking from personal experience. I became over-obsessive and overwhelmed with “real” food that it was doing more harm than good. I had to loosen the reigns a little and just enjoy life — not worry about every single thing I put into my mouth.
This is also NOT to say that if you are on the extremist side, your choice is wrong. If you are thriving and happy on that specific lifestyle, by all means, do it.
My point is most people do not thrive on restricted diets. Most people do not enjoy feeling like they are bound to chains of what they can and cannot eat. And I’m sure most people certainly do not feel good when the accidental but inevitable cheat happens. The feeling of guilt, hypocrisy, and discouragement is not something people should feel when they eat.
Listen to Your Body
Food is something that should make you feel nourished from the inside out; from the very core of your soul to the smile on your face. Food should bring families together and make memories. Food should be a positive experience.
If your lifestyle is doing the complete opposite, I highly encourage you to do some evaluating. Food should not be something that inhibits any form of negativity.
It’s important to hone in on what your body is telling you. Most people are used to feeling like crap and that is not the way one should feel! Again, speaking from personal experience. For almost 2 years I had extremely bad digestive issues (terrible cramps, diarrhea, constipation, gas) and unexplained chest pains but I thought it was normal to feel that way. Lo and behold, dairy was causing all these issues and once I removed them, I felt amazing.
If your body really does not do well with a certain food, cut it out or learn how to reverse the allergy/sensitivity (yes, it can be done!).
What Real Food Lifestyle Am I?
I am considered a mix of “Real Food” and “WAPF.”
I was introduced to the WAPF lifestyle in the beginning of my real food journey but I don’t consider myself a hard core fermenter (although I really would love to delve into that world). I am a member of the WAPF because I believe in what they are doing and support their cause. We are not scared of (and eat lots of) animal fats like butter, raw cream, raw whole milk, cheese and lard. I am not 100% anal about everything we eat. We love things like bacon, kombucha and are working towards including organ meats more regularly in our diet.
I base the bulk of our diet around whole, natural, organic (when possible) foods and cook from scratch. We limit our intake of boxed and processed foods and always try to eat the most fresh we can. I do my very best to buy non-GMO foods and making sure we stay away from industrialized oils.
I use the principals from each to sort of create a guideline to help us navigate through all the junk and keep us on a clean, healthy path.
Do The Best You Can
Listen, we are ALL human beings which means we are NOT perfect! I eat out on occasion, I buy organic crackers, tortilla chips and I even snag some dark chocolate covered almonds from the bulk bins every once in a while. I do however make it a point to revolve our meals around food I make from home, using quality ingredients. Most everything in life requires some sort of compromise. If you can find that happy-medium that works with your family, then do it.
Everyone should understand the importance of reading labels, staying away from industrialized fats like corn, soy, canola and vegetable (all of which have been genetically engineered), sourcing locally grown veggies (or growing my own), and buy the best quality meat when possible since that is the root of each lifestyle.
However, out of all things *real food,* I think the most important thing to take from whatever lifestyle diet you choose to follow is to find something that allows you to truly thrive and live life as stress-free as possible.