Ten years ago this week, I began my formal studies in holistic nutrition. I say "formal" because for the previous three years, I had been digging in on my own to try and figure out what was going on in my body.
During this time, there weren't tens of thousands of food and health bloggers. There weren't podcasts or celebrity nutritionists. There weren't TED talks on the subject and there weren't thousands of Facebook groups you could pop into to ask your burning questions.
Mostly what we had were books. Big fat books and those we knew in real life who were also interested in nutrition.
As I began nutrition school, having read my text books in advance (because I'm like that), I thought I knew a lot. And a year later, when I graduated, I thought I knew it all.
I was only getting started.
In May of 2009, I offered my very first paid online product. It was a 3-day Green Smoothie Cleanse. This was before green drinks were available at every yoga studio, and way before you could order a kale apple juice at regular restaurant. In 2009, a Green Smoothie eBook was novel.
In the last decade I went through phases. If you've been reading me for that long, you may have watched them come and go.
I was predominantly vegan for a while, though I never used the label. I also fell into the world of superfoods, thinking that was the magic answer until one morning I woke up to the fact that my breakfast was mostly powders shipped in and processed from way too far away. I got really into supplements and then backed away, learning how to actually read the labels and know exactly what I needed.
I eliminated gluten 100% and even played with eliminating grains 100%. I added animal-based foods back into my diet after a serious car accident in 2011 and almost immediately felt the physical improvements.
Through it all I continued on. I continued learning, and reading and writing. I continued teaching at the edge of my knowledge and stayed open to new research, new ideas and the evolving needs of my body.
I responded to your questions and through attempting to answer them, deepened my understanding of the needs and the confusion that surrounded this field that had chosen me.
I learned to understand the biases and hypocrisies that we all bring with us when it comes to our dietary choices and how we find research and 'experts' that support what we already believe to be true. I started to recognize my own biases - how we tend to listen to and follow those that support our existing beliefs, and then began to actively challenge them and encourage my students to do the same.
I have written two books and thousands of blog posts and articles. I continue to do the research every single day and have for a solid 3,650 or so days in a row. The learning never stops.
And so, as I embark on the tenth year of my learning, this is what I know for sure.
I am still only just beginning.
There are 7 billion different diets for 7 billion humans that live on this planet.
What I think is the best diet for me today likely won't be the best diet for me in five years, and certainly not in ten, and I remain open to changing as needed to ensure my own optimal balance. I can only serve others to my fullest potential when I am well.
Oh, and you know the diet you think is working for you right now? That's awesome and I am so happy to know it's working. But it may not be the best way to live and eat for your children, your partner or your parents. And it likely won't serve you in five or ten years either, so don't hang on it too tightly.
All any of us can do is continue to UnDiet for vibrant health and break the rules we think we're supposed to follow so we can create the ones we need to follow that actually serve us today. We need to brave our own understanding of our body. Our intuition and instinct, when not clouded by cravings and fear, will likely lead us to the answers we've been seeking.
And so now, ten years in to my attempts at understanding nutrition, physical health, the body, spiritual development, teaching, learning, sharing and forever evolving, the words I wrote in my first book UnDiet ring truer than ever:
"The message we are supposed to be heeding, for the most part, is so flipping clear that we fail to notice it. The old saying - hindsight is 20/20 - is a bit of an annoying truth. It is so easy to see afterwards, what we were supposed to see or do, but often in the moment, our heads are buried so deep in the land of analyzing the past and fretting about the future that we don’t notice the present until we are literally knocked over. We fail to look up until we are brought down to our knees.
We fail to look up until we are brought down to our knees.
In those moments, when we fail to take note of the writing blasted across the neon signs of our life, which can take the shape of physical pain, recurring illness, recurring overly-dramatic-ball-your-eyes-out relationships, poor choice career moves - we may slowly start to wake up. Often, though, the wake-up comes from the least likely source or sign. It is in these moments that we have to learn to harness the power to clearly read the writing on that wall, with clean spectacles, and free of the fear that kept our heads down in the first place.
This is one of the greatest times to start UnDieting your life to a higher place. There is no need to give this power away to a leader, a guru, a doctor, or your mother/lover/brother/sister/best-friend. Trying to follow what someone else says or dictates may seem like the easy way as it frees us from taking responsibility. And it may just be the easy way… for a time. But it won’t work long term. This is the time to stop looking for answers to healing outside ourselves. It is time to focus on the exhale, look within and goodness me almighty, we will find the answers right on in there. We just have to be brave enough to stop and take a look at what’s really going on - and to listen."
As we enter this bright and shiny new year and I embark on my 10th year of nutrition study, I am here for you.
I am committed to continue diving deep into the tough subjects, offer some encouragement, inspiration and hopefully some deep belly laughter. But please remember, I am in it with you and I always will be.
You, my dear friend, will always know what's best for your health. Trust this. You are wise. Sometimes you just need a little shimmy and shake up to see exactly how deep your knowledge is, and be brave and committed enough to implement it.