The field of nutrition has seen a tremendous growth in popularity and interest over the last couple of decades. There is an increasing amount of scientific evidence showing that what we eat plays an important role in our overall health, there are more health coaches than ever before, and more media sources touting the benefits of specific foods and diets.
But who’s to say what’s really healthful for each individual person?
At Integrative Nutrition, we believe in something we call “bio-individuality,” which states that there is no single right way of eating that applies to everyone. Your genes, ancestral diet, body type, lifestyle, micro biome, and many other factors combine to create a unique set of nutritional needs and responses. A recent study even supports this concept by showing that different people metabolize the exact same foods in very different ways!
Whether you prefer to eat vegan, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, low carb or high carb, the important thing to remember is that we are all different and there’s plenty of room at the table for us to come together.
Here are 5 ways to be more open-minded when it comes to diet:
1. Avoid recommending a blanket approach for everyone.
You may prefer a particular way of eating because it makes you feel your best, but that doesn’t mean someone else will have the same result. Find a way to embrace your inner health nut and share your enthusiasm for various foods, but remember to encourage others to experiment and listen to their own gut too.
2.Try new things and expand your palette.
There are no limits to the benefits of good food made with love and care, so step out of your comfort zone and try new things! You might find that if something you previously avoided is prepared in a different way then it suddenly suits you better. There are countless cookbooks, blogs, and other resources out there to help you get started, and of course IIN can help you delve into all this on a deeper level. The point is to go forth and seek out something new, really giving it a few tries, learning about the history or benefits of various foods, and seeing how it makes you feel. A more diverse palette will help you relate to the preferences of others better.
3. Encourage others to understand their unique bodies.
Many IIN students enrolled in our program because they found themselves acting as informal Health Coaches without even knowing it! If you’re someone who loves to share wellness and nutrition tips with friends and family, aim to do this in a way that acknowledges the uniqueness of each person you communicate with. Spend some time with that person, ask them about their family history, how they respond to the foods they currently eat, and why they are looking to adjust their diet. Not only will this help you make suggestions that are catered specifically to them, it will help them understand themselves better and create lasting change from within. Please note that if you are sharing nutrition advice with a bigger audience we highly recommend the Health Coach Training Program.
4. Follow the 80/20 guideline.
Just as we don’t believe in any single diet being the best, we don’t believe that being too stringent is healthy either. Food activates our pleasure sensors and has the power to make us feel good, which is also important in overall health! If you eat wholesome foods 80% of the time and take care of yourself in other ways (such as through movement, relaxation, and having fulfilling relationships) then it’s very likely your body can handle the occasional indulgence 20% of the time. So if you feel like a cookie or a glass of wine from time to time then go for it, and remember to have an open mind about other people’s 20% choices too.
5. Agree to disagree.
Have you ever shared your enthusiasm, or disdain, for a particular food only to be met with skepticism or disagreement? That is bound to happen and it’s ok. Rather than engaging in a conversation that’s not likely to change anybody’s mind, simply agree to disagree. It may that be you have different preferences, or you’re simply in a different place when it comes to priorities in regards to food. Meet people where they are and find a way to joyfully coexist.
IIN’s curriculum teaches bio-individuality through exploring a wide range of diets, asking students to remain open-minded as they experiment with different foods, and providing various techniques for how to share this individual-based approach with clients, friends, and family. In this way we help cultivate inner awareness and the communication skills to navigate these delicate waters with confidence and acceptance of all body types and preferences.
How do you communicate with those who make different food choices? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!