Paleo, 5:2, Atkins, quitting sugar, juice cleanses: the glut of conflicting information about the latest and greatest diets has left many Australians confused when it comes to finding the right health path.
But a new book, written by leading Australian naturopath Karina Francois, proposes that making a permanent change to one's health doesn't come with a fancy name or a celebrity endorsement: it comes down to clean eating and a change of mindset.
Clean Food, Clear Thinking goes far beyond providing facts about healthy and unhealthy foods and recipes, educating the reader on the basic fundamentals required for health and weight-loss.
"Often we know what foods are in line with what our body needs, but then the mind gets involved and sabotages the commitment to our health. Clean Food, Clear Thinking goes beyond the food we eat and how our body uses it, teaching the reader how to change their thinking to eliminate habits that have a detrimental effect on our health," says Karina.
Based on naturopathic principles, Karina's approach eliminates the need to ever go on a "diet" or try the latest fads. "My book aims to empower the reader with an understanding of what our cells need to function optimally. Given that our DNA hasn't changed in over 150,000 years, it follows that our cellular needs remain the same," says Karina.
"One of the main issues with the latest diets such as 5:2 and Paleo are that they are a one-size-fits-all approach, and while people might see results in the short-term, they simply can't sustain these extreme diets in the long-term. Clean Food, Clear Thinking is about making a long-term change to your eating habits."
A leading naturopath, health educator and public speaker, Clean Food, Clear Thinking was inspired by Karina's experience overcoming health issues in her teenage years, and watching clients struggle with behaviours around food. After overcoming eating disorders in her teenage years, Karina again fell ill and lost sight in her left eye. Fearing she had multiple sclerosis, she consulted a naturopath, who assisted her back to health. That experience proved to be the catalyst for Karina to complete her training in naturopathy and open her own practice. In following with Karina's approach to sustainable weight loss, the book is broken down into three easy to digest sections: clean food nutrition, mindset: the psychology of weight loss, and recipes and an eating plan.
For example, a sugar craving can indicate low magnesium and chromium levels, which can be resolved by taking supplements. But on a mindset level, these cravings can indicate a person may not have enough pleasure in their life, hold deep-seated emotions they haven't dealt with, or could mean that you do not honour yourself through the day, so at the end of the day a bar of chocolate satisfies this need. In this case, the book helps the reader to examine the balance between work, self, family and pleasure.
Clean Food, Clear Thinking
Author: Karina Francois
Question: What are your top tips regarding mindset for women who struggle to lose weight?
Karina Francois: Firstly, assess your work/life balance - understand that weight loss management has to be part of a total life change that incorporates achieving life balance, psychological health and a positive self image. The real key to losing fat has less to do with calories, cardio or carb counting, and more to do with developing the right mindset for health. It's about taking the time to get your mindset straight by getting more of a balance in your life and the rest will come naturally.
Secondly, you need to uncover the reason why you really want to achieve your weight loss goal. This will create an emotional attachment to your goal. When you become emotionally attached to your goal this will permeate your subconscious mind, where your habits are entrenched. Then you will be able to change those habits to accomplish your goals.
It is also important that you work on your self-esteem. Unless you feel worthy of your goal, you will never achieve success and are likely to sabotage your goals.
Identify your values, as these dictate your behaviours. Ensure that your top values include health and self-love. Your true values allow you to make real, lasting and positive changes to your life.
Learn to love exercise. A key to appreciating exercise is to focus on the non-physical benefits. Exercise helps to release feel- good chemicals, reduce stress, improve self-confidence, alleviates anxiety and most importantly strengthens the connection between body, mind and spirit.
Ensure you have a supportive network. There is nothing worse than others dragging you down and sabotaging your health goals. Spend time with people that want to see you succeed!
Question: Why do you believe many Australians are confused about diet/healthy eating information?
Karina Francois: I believe that many Australians are confused because they aren't being taught about how the human body functions. As a naturopath, I am a teacher. I educate my clients about their cellular needs and explain why clean eating benefits the body. I believe that sound nutritional knowledge should start with a basic understanding of the nutrients that we need to function and thrive.
There is also an overload of information out there about the latest fad diets, so it's no wonder people are confused about finding the right health path. I believe that each person is an individual with different needs, and therefore there is no single approach that is going to work for everyone.
Question: What is your newest book, Clean Food, Clear Thinking about?
Karina Francois: Clean Food – Clear Thinking evolved from my own personal experiences with food, and also in my clinic watching women struggle with nutrition and behaviours around food.
I teach nutrition by looking at what our cells need and therefore what our body really needs, because if our cells are healthy, then the entire body will benefit.
Once we have the understanding of our cellular needs there is no need to go on a -diet' or try the latest -fads'. Our DNA hasn't changed in over 150,000 years so our cellular needs remain the same.
However, sometimes even though we know what is in line with what our body needs, the mind gets involved and sabotages our commitment to our health. What I found was that my clients would visit me for an appointment. I would teach them nutrition and they had all the knowledge to make the changes , however would turn up two weeks later saying that they knew what to do, but just couldn't do it. At times it would last a week and they would go back to their old ways.
Working through mindset activities really helps each person to uncover what is holding them back from making permanent changes. So armed with the knowledge and the right mindset, you have a formula for permanent wellbeing.
The book covers three sections - the principles of nutrition, the psychology of health management, and part three includes recipes and an eating plan.
Question: What is Clean Food?
Karina Francois: Clean food is nothing new. It's all about eating foods in their most natural state and steering away from packaged, processed foods full of additives and preservatives.
Clean foods don't place stress on the body's organs of elimination, and don't create a toxic environment that compromises all of our bodily functions.
For our bodies to function at an optimum level, our pH levels need to be balanced. Ideally our body functions at a pH level of 7.4. Food and liquids have a significant effect on pH levels in our blood, and clean foods that have less acidity play an important role in balancing this pH level.
Having too much acid in our blood is the precursor to health conditions such as cancer, arthritis and heart disease. Replacing acidic foods with alkaline foods will make you less susceptible to disease, provide an immense energy boost and promote fat loss. The key to optimum health is to alkalize your body.
Making smart food choices is the key. Ideally you should be consuming 80% alkaline foods and 20% acidic foods, but I start the majority of my clients on 60% alkaline and 40% acidic foods. Some of the best alkaline foods include cucumbers, kale, avocados, salad greens, broccoli, cabbage, celery, asparagus, quinoa, almonds and fresh herbs. Conversely, some of the highest acidic foods include cheese, yogurt, beef, poultry, eggs, fish, potatoes, barley and dried/pickled/canned fruit. You don't have to eliminate all acidic foods from your diet to establish a healthy pH level, but your diet should involve a higher ratio of alkaline foods.
Question: Can you talk us through how to identify damaging eating habits and where they originate from?
Karina Francois: Damaging eating habits usually start in the home, and are influenced by media, marketing and culture.
Marketing can subconsciously affect uneducated individuals to a point where they believe that unhealthy foods are healthy for them.
Bad eating habits can also result from unresolved emotions, a deficit of pleasure in your life, or a lack of life balance.
Compulsive eating or bingeing is usually triggered when you keep your feelings at bay. At some point in all our lives, we have all been encouraged to hide our feelings, distrust and dislike them. This generally happens when we are young. Every time that we felt disappointed, threatened and confuses, we were taught to swallow these feelings hoping that they would disappear. We controlled these feelings without actually dealing with them, and unfortunately controlling our emotions wears thin and many people find new ways of dealing with these feelings, such as binge eating. These behaviours become our survival instinct, as food brings comfort and helps to bury unwanted feelings.
Another driver of bad food behaviours is lacking pleasure in your life or lacking a balance between work and play, which can be satisfied by food quite quickly. Human beings are driven by pleasure, and if you life is fuelled by stress and responsibility, a quick chocolate fix at the end of the day can seemingly satisfy this drive.
Question: How can we eliminate bad food habits?
Karina Francois: When it comes to emotional eating, the best thing to understand is that addictions and compulsions are a signal that there is something bigger going on beneath the surface. Become more aware of your behaviours and what is driving them, and try to take the mask off and be more open to experiencing your emotions.
Look for pleasure in your life. What is it that makes you happy and makes you come alive? Explore these pleasures, instead of replacing this with food. If you adopt this mindset, you will no longer look to food as your lone source of pleasure.
Interview by Brooke Hunter