The subject of nutrition is a big one. This introductory six-part series covers the basics. We encourage you to study more, and work with a mentor for in-depth nutrition training.
To stay alive and healthy, our bodies need carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Our bodies also need vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. All foods contain these essential nutrients, in some amount. If they didn’t, then people would starve to death while eating. But some foods contain more essential nutrients, and present them to the body the way the body was designed to receive them, while other foods are nutrient-poor, and the nutrients they do contain aren’t as accessible to the body. Just as with sleep and water, many of us get enough nutrients to stay alive, but not enough to be as healthy and happy as we can be.
The goal of proper nutrition from a Middleway Method perspective is to eat well so that we have the time and energy to take care of others. A lot of people are suffering from lack of energy and preventable diseases because, even when we have access to plenty of food, our bodies are not getting proper nutrition. When we are sick and tired because of poor nutrition, we don’t have what it takes to build a healthy world for future generations.
From a broader perspective, if we have access to an abundance of food, then we have choices about what we eat, and those choices affect others. Since economic pressure drives production, our food choices shape the food production industry. What we choose to eat now affects what others will have access to in the future. By eating well, we vote with our dollars to support an industries that can feed people well, worldwide.
Invariably when discussing nutrition, one of the first things on many people’s minds is weight loss. Sometimes, we need to lose weight because our health is in grave danger, but most often, we want to lose weight because there is a huge disparity between the body shapes that we see in the media and our own diverse body shapes. Comparing ourselves to others, we internalize negative self-images. Then, we may attempt to force our bodies to become like the unusually slender people that the media defines as beautiful.
Eating and weight gain are closely linked, and so we often blame food for making us look different than the idealized standard of beauty. We say calories are bad. We say carbohydrates are bad. We say fat is bad. But the truth is, those ideas are flawed. Calories, carbohydrates and fats are absolutely essential for a long and healthy life. It’s the quality of those calories, carbohydrates, and fats that makes the difference. The first step in developing healthy eating habits is to develop healthy ideas about food.
Middleway Method’s approach to nutrition is not oriented toward weight loss or weight gain, nor is it an attempt to use food or food restriction to manipulate or alter the body’s natural processes in any way. Instead, we seek to feed the body what it needs in the most natural, ordinary way possible. Our bodies are perfect natural systems. They work great when we feed them what they are designed to eat. By eating in a more nutritious way, your body shape may change, but only in the direction of being more healthy, vibrant, and alive. What will really change is how you feel, and how long you will live.
The Middleway Method guidelines for Essential Nutrition are outlined in Part 2 of this series. But before getting into the guidelines, we need to introduce something that we will use again and again throughout the Preliminary Practices: self-awareness. The best way to practice self-awareness is to relax in a quiet place for a few minutes. Relaxation and self-awareness are part of the Preliminary Practices, and there are many free relaxation and self-awareness resources available. There's a simple guided self-relaxation from us on SoundCloud.
Self-awareness is quite simple: Just pay attention to how you are feeling, in your body, right now. That is self-awareness. In the case of nutrition, pay attention to how the foods you eat affect the way you feel. For example, some people don’t like the way they feel after eating potatoes. Nutritionally, potatoes are excellent sources of carbohydrates, protein, and many nutrients. But that doesn’t matter if they make you feel sluggish. Other people have trouble digesting cow’s milk, or bell peppers, or soybeans, or whatever. It isn’t good for you if you don’t feel good after you eat it. The more you pay attention to how certain foods make you feel, the more refined you can make your diet.