When healthy isn't healthy…for you

wellbeing

When healthy isn't healthy…for you

wellbeing

Whenhealthyisnthealthyforyou

One of my absolute core beliefs is that we are all unique. We are all human, but just because we share a lot commonalities doesn’t mean that what will work for one person will work for another. This seems to be one of the reasons that nutritional science is hotly debated, because at times two opposing hypotheses can be proven to be correct, even when in direct contrast with one another.

There’s a wide range of good common sense advice that you would think would be applicable to all of us, eating more veggies being one. But what if you have digestive issues? Could too much fibre from increased vegetable intake actually make you feel worse instead of better? How about drinking more water? I’ve read some accounts of people who have found that drinking water, in line with the recommended amounts, have had metabolic issues because of it. If you have thyroid problems, eating too much broccoli, kale or cauliflower, all touted as super healthy foods, could adversely affect it. P.S cooking those veggies well can make them better for people with those issues, ditto with some digestive problems.

High res riverford

There are so many examples of healthy living advice working for some people and then not for others, and I’ve had to remind myself of this when working with groups of people where I tend to give broader advice. As much as some stuff is common sense, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work well for you. Sometimes the only way to find out is to try it!

I completely believe that some of us do better with higher protein / fat diets and others with more carbohydrate. I know some peoples bodies have more difficulty with sugary foods, even natural ones. Likewise, some people with too much fat, even healthy fat can feel sluggish from it. It’s all about figuring out what actually works for you. 

As more and more different dietary approaches gain popularity, it becomes even more essential to bring it back to what works for your body rather than blindly following a trend. I don’t have anything against anyone that tries the latest approach, I’ve been there and sometimes experimenting is the only way you can find out what really works for you body. The important thing is not being afraid to change things in response to what your body tells you, and remembering that it might change over time too. 

I spent a while as a fairly high raw vegan, then when I knew it really wasn’t working for me (ethical considerations aside unfortunately) swung round to eating a lot more meat and animal products, almost paleo style. While I was actively tacking hormonal issues, eating too many low calorie high volume foods like big salads might not have been doing me any good! 

However it’s not always as easy as just listening to your body, as I discussed when I talked about Management v Mindfulness, I believe there needs to be a two way conversation between what your body tells you, and the information that is available to you. 

Strawberry pancakes

It’s that approach that lead me to develop the Super Conscious Living Programme as a way of systematically listening to your body whilst experimenting with an approach, or even just living as normal and collecting information from your body and behaviours. Then you can use that information to help you make changes that result in you experiencing improved health and wellbeing. Shameless plug – the Super Conscious Living Programme is on sale this month for £4.99 ;-)

One side of all of this, particularly when you are ‘in to’ healthy living is feeling like you don’t fit in with others. I found this when I was trying to heal my hormonal issues, especially around the exercise side of it. So while everyone else might be tucking into kale salads or going off running half marathons, if you have thyroid issues or stress problems, it’s reminding yourself that those things are not part of what will make you healthy at this point in time. I love green smoothies, but if you try them and find you get a chill and feel starving half an hour later, that’s ok! Just because they are healthy for other people, doesn’t make them healthy full stop. 

Do you have any health issues that mean the usual ‘healthy’ things aren’t healthy for you? 

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39 Comments

  1. Rach

    I really appreciate this article. I suffer from a lot of digestive issues which really restrict my diet (I am one of those people who can’t have fibre without a lot of issues and discomfort as a result) and constantly feel like I am “unhealthy” because of what I can eat. I grew up in a very health conscious household which I consider a blessing as I was surrounded by “good” foods which included lots of fruit, veg, whole grains, lean proteins etc. I think the internet is a blessing and a curse because there is so much information to be found but at the same time, there is so much information to be found! I find a lot of healthy living blogs inspiring and enjoy reading them but I’ve also noticed I get anxious when I see what other people eat compared to my own diet and when I read articles describing the ultimate “healthy” diet. I’m slowly beginning to accept that I have to listen to what is right for me and use the knowledge provided via the internet to ensure that I am getting as much nutrition that my body can let me with the foods that I can tolerate. Wherever you look you find people preaching about the perfect diet which will cure all your woes and help you live to 200 but at the end of the day, like you said, each one of us is unique and we have to do what is the best for us individually.

    Reply
    • Laura

      Absolutely, I agree with so much of that, in some ways the online world is awesome but then incredibly frustrating too, especially when it comes to comparison. Glad that you’ve been able to start and tune into your body more :-)

      Reply
  2. Cat

    Wonderful post – I’m becoming more and more fascinated with how individual needs can be met with the right diet/lifestyle – and the journey one has to go to get that sweet spot!

    Before I knew more about paleo I was trying to think of ways to get my dad to eat more ‘paleo’ – then I thought about his health (no gall bladder, haemochromatosis, an Irish genetic disposition for potatoes…hehe) I realised that what works for me wouldn’t suit his needs so well.

    I also think it can change over time – I may not be eating the way I do now in the future, but that’s ok if it’s working now – we can only do our best with what we have right!?

    Reply
    • Laura

      Thanks Cat! Absolutely agree, as I said I think being aware that your bodies needs can change over time is definitely part of it as well – as you say we can only do our best!

      Reply
  3. Kezia

    Brilliant! I have learnt over the year that my body may never love eating grains and that although veganism is popular for many would not suit my body (many as i would be left to eat nothing if a was a no grain eating vegan!). We have to learn to listen and honour our unique bodies, not compare ourselves to other equally unique ones – great post to start the week!

    Reply
    • Laura

      Thanks Kezia! Glad that you enjoyed the post :-)

      Reply
  4. Cecilia

    Yes! I am one of those people whose body can’t tolerate a lot of food. I am following a low FODMAPS regime now and that seems to be working. When I tell people I am gluten free, dairy free, and plant based, they assume all I eat is salads. But actually salads make me very ill. It’s about knowing your own body and being in tune with how you feel.

    Reply
    • Laura

      Absolutely! Glad that a low FODMAPS approach is working for you :-)

      Reply
  5. Lauren

    Fantastic post Laura – I could not agree more. We are are unique and different things work for different people. It is all about experimenting and seeing what makes us function best :)

    Reply
    • Laura

      Thanks Lauren! :-)

      Reply
    • Laura

      Thanks Millie!

      Reply
  6. Lucie

    I couldn’t agree with this more, fabulous! You totally hit the nail on the head. Following your blog and your journey I also believe that you have found YOU and that is so so so beautiful Laura, it’s a blessing to know you x

    Reply
    • Laura

      Thanks Lucie, you are a sweetheart!

      Reply
  7. Karen

    Completely agree. Having tried so many different ways of eating and ending up getting lean but having all sorts of grim side effects (including depression, hair loss, digestive issues, crazy carb cravings) it’s so important to listen to your own body and find what fits you, because you’re right, we are all unique. The advice out ‘there’ can be overwhelming, so listen to what your own (literal) gut tells you.

    Reply
    • Laura

      Could not agree with you more Karen!

      Reply
  8. Tamzin

    Definitely agree its trial and error for most of us until you find what works for you as an individual : )

    Reply
  9. Maria @ runningcupcake

    I totally agree. I think we can all get sucked into what other people say a bit- I remember a few years ago a lot of blogs were going vegan and I did start to wonder if I should, but I don’t think it is right for me. At that point I made myself read a few meat eater blogs, just to show myself that I was doing what I wanted for me if that makes sense.
    It is easy to compare to others- I did also wonder how some people managed to properly workout 6 or 7 days a week, but then I had to sit back and realise that I really don’t have the time, and my job is quite demanding- being at work 8 am -5.30pm and the bringing home a few hours of work at least each night just means I can’t fit it all in, so I do what works for me, whereas someone who works part time or is at uni could fit more in and not need so much energy for their job. We need to learn about ourselves :)

    Reply
    • Laura

      I can remember you saying that back then Maria, it definitely comes down to comparison sometimes as well, as you say people that lead completely different lives will live differently too :-)

      Reply
  10. Lauren @PoweredbyPB

    I think you are absolutely right, what works for one person might not work for another. I think it’s all a little trial and error, and almost a journey you have to take yourself to see what works best for you.

    Reply
    • Laura

      Couldn’t agree more, it is definitely a journey, goodness knows it has been for me!

      Reply
  11. Anna @AnnaTheApple

    Great post! I couldn’t agree more. Personally I could never do vegan or raw diet but that doesn’t mean I don’t agree with them. I just know I wouldn’t be able to stick to it. I prefer more meat and more veg and fruit. I can give or take bread, rice and pasta. But I know my dad couldn’t live without his bread. It’s just finding what works for you and if you’re healthy and you’re getting good results then sticking to it!

    Reply
    • Laura

      Thanks Anna! Yep you are so right with all that!

      Reply
  12. Rachel

    I think this is a great post – it’s so easy to get sucked into thinking that what one particular healthy blogger is doing is what we ourselves should be doing. Low carb seems to be all the rage at the moment but I have found that when I have tried it I feel a little bit queasy eating higher fat & protein foods but with no carbs. I couldn’t have a plate of just eggs, say, without a good slice of toast with it – for me, that’s a perfect balance. The eggs give the toast more staying power, and the toast helps to make me feel full and satisfied. Separately, those 2 foods wouldn’t keep me going for long, but together I can feel full for hours. I’ve experienced ‘crashes’ where I KNOW my body needs carbs, and had times when I know I need to ease off on them. And again unlike the mainstream advice, I find that eating little & Often does me no good. I like to really know I’m hungry and then eat a proper meal, otherwise I just get too snacky and eat too much.

    SO, like you said, find out what works for you. But just to make things even more complicated, there’s a good chance our needs will also change as we get older, whether we are doing the kids thing, whether we’re male/female, whether we have a demanding job or not, the time of year, the time of the month… etc etc!

    I think the best bit of dietary advice I’ve seen is the very simple ‘Eat Food, Not too Much, Mostly Plants’ idea. Can’t go too far wrong with that, and whatever else you do or don’t eat or when you eat it or how much of it you eat is no one’s damn business but your own!

    Reply
    • Laura

      Thanks Rachel! Yep, things can totally change as you get older, so important to keep reviewing what your body is telling you :-) I love that Michael Pollan quote x

      Reply
  13. Miss Polkadot

    With as much expert and pseudo-expert knowledge and advice out there what should be the easiest has become the hardest: simply trusting our intuition. For the longest time I tried to convince myself that grain-free vegetable-based lunches were the way to go because didn’t it work for everybody else?! Only piles of vegetables with fat-free sauces or dressings didn’t do anything for my hunger and left me feeling awful. Now that I’m back to working out my own way of eating I have been feeling better and trying to blind out health advice that I know from experience doesn’t work for me.
    Awesome post, Laura!

    Reply
    • Laura

      Thanks, so glad you enjoyed the post! I think a lot of that advice has led to us losing touch with our own bodies and listening to them x

      Reply
  14. Ms.J

    Oh veggies! Veggies posses the ability to kill me…specifically big, raw salads – of which I ate too many in my life already, and refused to accept that “plants” were causing me to roll with tummy cramps. But we live and learn, right!? Sometimes when I come upon a salad, I’ll think “maybe I should get a good dose of nutrient with a huge salad”. But I’m quick to remind myself with: why “should”? I’m doing just fine. Fabulous of you to delve into a great topic :) .

    Reply
    • Laura

      Thanks, glad you enjoyed the post! Yep salads for some people can be a nightmare!

      Reply
  15. Claire @ Flake and Cake

    Great article Laura. It is hard to accept but true: what works for one person probably won’t work for another. For example, my James thrives on cheese, breads and red meat. I have allergies to all three and if I ate them, I’d either be dead or a complete wreck. My body doesn’t deal with too low carb and actually, it needs a certain amount of sugar to work properly. Everyone is different and everyone has their own balancing act to figure out (if we ever truly get there, there’s so much to learn and experiment with!).

    Reply
    • Laura

      Haha, what a tough one when your James is so different! You do very well managing that from what I see on your blog :-)

      Reply
  16. Lucy

    Great post, I really relate to this. For example, I always hear about how filling porridge is, but I personally find I am starving again an hour after eating porridge- it really does not fill me up (keep meaning to try your method of whisking in an egg). I eat a lot of lentils/chickpeas/kidney beans etc. but have found these aggravate my IBS, so maybe they are not the best thing for me personally. Tempted by your Super Conscious Living progamme, but I am doing another intuitive eating type programme at the moment, so maybe when that course is finished.

    Reply
  17. Emma @ EatJogGlow

    When I started reading your blog a couple of years ago it was the first time I really thought about how the “perfect” diet was unique for everyone, and it completely revolutionised my thinking!

    My friends have always found it amusing how I can tell them all about the latest “superfood”…yet am violently sick if I eat a goji berry – clearly not a superfood for me ;)

    Thanks for a great post as always, Laura! xxx

    Reply
  18. Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy

    I totally agree with you! People get so caught up in what the latest healthy eating trend is, that they don’t even give a second though as to whether or not it is the right thing for them. Listening to our bodies is the best thing we can do.

    Reply
  19. Mary

    This is so true. Since I’ve been running and reading healthy living blogs I’ve learnt so much about the food that I put into my body and how it directly affects my energy levels and feelings. I do try the fads, but I don’t feel pressured to stick to them if they’re not working out for me. It is sometimes difficult, living with Dan and knowing that we have such different requirements for our bodies. If I ate as much meat as he did, I would forever feel sluggish and bloated. It just means I shoot more of the meat on his plate and hold back some of his veggies for me! Winners all round!

    Reply
  20. Rachael

    This is great Laura. I am a pescetarian but leaning increasingly towards veganism, i have wheat and dairy intolerance plus i’m trying to follow the FODMAP diet too due to my IBS plus i have adrenal/ hormonal issues…so i definitely understand how individual diet can be!!!!

    Reply
  21. Christina

    I love this blog post! It definitely makes a lot of sense, and something that I think should be more widely publicised. We’re all different, and sometimes it’s so easy to forget that!

    Reply
  22. Casey @ Casey the College Celiac

    Great post! I actually just wrote one on a very similar subject talking about my personal relationship with food. One year ago, after persistent digestive issues, I was diagnosed with celiac disease, meaning that my intestines can’t tolerate gluten (wheat). In order to “heal” myself, I became focused on eating healthfully. The problem is, the “healthy” lower carb, high-veg diet isn’t healthy for me, who is still at an extremely low weight from celiac complications. I need the sweets, the nut butters, and the “unhealthy” treats. That’s just my healthy. :)

    http://caseythecollegeceliac.blogspot.com/2014/06/a-celiacs-food-journey.html

    Reply
  23. Jen @ Bagels to Broccoli

    I LOVE this! So on point! It’s all about what we can handle and exactly – people w/thyroid issues can’t handle crucifers; people with metabolic dysfunction often are very sensitive to sugar of any kind, etc. this message is so important, so thank you!

    Reply

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