Dr Libby on food fads and fos­ter­ing a pos­tive mind­set


Good Health (Australia) - - Content -

When well­ness guru Dr Libby Weaver meets with Good

Health at a bustling café, it’s clear she prac­tises what she preaches. Shun­ning the cof­fee and sweet treats in the cab­i­net, she cheer­fully sips herbal tea, says she doesn’t be­lieve in ‘com­fort food’, and looks bright-eyed and re­laxed de­spite her jam-packed sched­ule.

But it hasn’t al­ways been as easy as she makes it look. In her 20s, she bat­tled her own se­ri­ous health is­sues while study­ing nu­tri­tion, an ex­pe­ri­ence that taught her a valu­able les­son in lis­ten­ing to her body’s needs. Not only that, it was a phase that high­lighted just how im­por­tant it is to not get too bogged down in a world full of con­flict­ing health ad­vice.

“We aren’t go­ing to be able to change the in­flux of in­for­ma­tion we now have on food, so I think we have to be more dis­cern­ing about what we take on,” she says. “Your own body is your best barom­e­ter, and we can’t be so at­tached to a [health trend or well­ness la­bel] that we miss the feed­back from it.”

This is one of the key mes­sages of her lat­est book, which takes its ti­tle from the

‘we have to be more dis­cern­ing. Your own body is your best barom­e­ter’

very ques­tion she gets asked the most, What Am I Sup­posed to Eat? It was the low-fat days, Libby be­lieves, that trig­gered a dra­matic change in the food sup­ply, led us down the path of nu­tri­tional con­fu­sion, and made us more dis­con­nected from real food than our grand­par­ents’ gen­er­a­tion ever was. “Be­fore the low-fat era, if you wanted an ap­ple pie, you baked it your­self,” ex­plains the nu­tri­tional bio­chemist. “Then the food in­dus­try got in­volved and there was an ap­ple pie in the frozen sec­tion of the su­per­mar­ket. Then there was a low-fat pie – and ev­ery­one knows this now – it was filled up with sugar, then salt to mask the sweet­ness. So through the low-fat era, peo­ple ate more salt and sugar than ever be­fore in the en­tirety of hu­man his­tory, and they be­lieved it was good for them.

“Nu­tri­tion in­for­ma­tion moves in about 30-year cy­cles; in the early 80s we started the low-fat era, and what came af­ter was the high-pro­tein era. This is noth­ing new, and it’s al­ways go­ing to keep hap­pen­ing.”

With all that in mind, Libby’s rule of thumb for those who are feel­ing bam­boo­zled by to­day’s abun­dance of diet ad­vice is simple: “The way to not get caught up in the fads is to re­mem­ber that when it comes to food, na­ture gets it right and hu­man in­ter­ven­tion can get it re­ally wrong.”

In What Am I Sup­posed to Eat?, the well­be­ing war­rior tack­les ev­ery­thing from mi­cronu­tri­ents to man­ag­ing sugar in­take, but she’s quick to say that hav­ing the right mind­set is the most im­por­tant well­ness tool of all.

Think nour­ish­ment

Most of us have be­rated our­selves for hav­ing a lack of willpower and a weak­ness for cho­co­late, but what if it was your

‘When it comes to food, na­ture gets it right’

a key ques­tion we should be ask­ing is ‘will this nour­ish me?’

per­cep­tion of eat­ing that was get­ting in the way? Ac­cord­ing to Libby, common traps in­clude hav­ing an ‘all or noth­ing’ ap­proach to food, and a ten­dency to fo­cus solely on what we ‘shouldn’t’ have.

“A lot of peo­ple end up mak­ing lousy food choices as they are very black and white; they al­ways think of it as this ‘wagon’ that they could fall off,” she says. “But there is no wagon to fall off, it’s just your life. If you eat some bis­cuits for af­ter­noon tea one day and think ‘I’ve ru­ined it’, you won’t go home and make great choices with that men­tal­ity.

“A bet­ter way to look at it is with cu­rios­ity. Think, ‘I ate three bis­cuits – what led me to do that? Was I hun­gry? Or did I eat them be­cause of an emo­tion?’ The minute we judge, we go blind and we get no in­sight. Whereas when we bring cu­rios­ity, we’re open to learn­ing some­thing, and from that, be­hav­iour can change.”

Other times, we’re fight­ing with mis­in­for­ma­tion and old-fash­ioned ideas that are sur­pris­ingly hard to shake. “The con­cept of calo­rie count­ing is all about re­stric­tion, and no one can sus­tain that,” says Libby. “Of­ten it comes from a place of fear; it’s not about well­be­ing and vi­tal­ity and want­ing to em­brace life, it’s ‘I’m not al­lowed to have that.’”

So how do we cut through all the noise? The holis­tic health ex­pert says a key ques­tion we should be ask­ing when it comes to what to put on our plate is, ‘will this nour­ish me?’.

“There’s free­dom in that mind­set shift,” she ex­plains. “It means you’re not avoid­ing a food be­cause it’s bad for you, you’re choos­ing to not eat some­thing be­cause it of­fers you noth­ing, and that comes from a more pos­i­tive place of

‘I’m look­ing af­ter my­self’”.

And if you’ve got a list as long as your arm of food you’ve la­belled as ‘bad’ or ‘naughty’, you might want to re­con­sider that too, she says.

“The words you use mat­ter. If you say to your­self that you’re eat­ing a ‘bad’ food, then you’re say­ing you’re be­hav­ing badly, or that you’re a bad per­son, and there’s no truth in that.

“Food isn’t healthy; peo­ple are, or they aren’t. Food is nu­tri­tious, or it isn’t. If you’re judg­ing your­self harshly then that of­ten leads you to make more poor qual­ity food choices.”

Look for hap­pi­ness

With al­most a dozen books to her name and the power to pull big crowds on her reg­u­lar speak­ing tours, Libby has a league of fans through­out the world who turn to her for guid­ance.

And when it comes to tak­ing her own ad­vice, she has some daily health rit­u­als she couldn’t be with­out. She used to create a vege-packed green smoothie ev­ery morn­ing, but when a hec­tic travel sched­ule started to make smoothie whizzing dif­fi­cult, she cre­ated her own green Bio Blends pow­der that she now takes with her wher­ever she goes. She’s long been a fan of tai chi and med­i­ta­tion soon af­ter wak­ing up, but these days, she fo­cuses on ‘spa­cious­ness’ in­stead.

“I no­ticed a long time ago that if I started the day by do­ing some­thing in si­lence, by my­self, then my day would be very dif­fer­ent than if I just got up and got go­ing. I just let my­self do what­ever I want for 20 min­utes each morn­ing; I might go for a walk or I might read. It gives me a sense of space be­cause I’m calm.”

And when you pare it back to the ba­sics, less stress and more hap­pi­ness is an­other one of Libby’s main mes­sages.

“It sounds silly, but I think joy gives us en­ergy,” she says. “When you talk to peo­ple who are dy­ing and you ask them what they are go­ing to miss, they tell you the most or­di­nary things, like the feel­ing of their dog’s fur un­der their fin­ger­tips, or the night sky. We’ve got all of that now, so I think part of joy is let­ting our­selves have what we al­ready have.

“As of­ten as I can, I shut the lid on my com­puter in the evenings and go out to watch the sun­set. It’s some­thing so simple, but it just blows my mind. It’s the lit­tle things.”

‘It sounds silly but I think joy gives us en­ergy’

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