Diets are all about saying no. No to this food, no to that sweet. Lifestyles are about saying yes. Yes to whole foods, yes to a variety of nutritionally dense vegetables, yes to healthy fats, yes to naturally raised proteins. Saying yes keeps us on the offensive as opposed to being in survival mode.
People think about diets or cleaning up their diet as a single-focused mission in removing bad foods. While removing bad foods is part of it, we can't forget about replacing those foods with good-health foods. We often view food in terms of how bad it can be for us, but rarely think about the power of healthy foods in terms of our performance, health, and waistline.
Think about how you first described "Paleo" to friends - "well, I can't eat bread, sugar, peanut butter, pasta, or white potatoes." No wonder people felt sorry for you or thought you were crazy! While removing the garbage is a huge part of cleaning up our diet, that is only part of the equation. The classic definition is a much better summary:
Eat meat & vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar.
Notice in this simple definition the inferred command is positive? There is only 1 "No". The rest are a "Yes" or at least some in moderation. So, eat up my friends. The best defense is a good offense. However, our nutritional history in America is riddled with diets that are built more on extremes, arbitrary lists of restrictions, or "magic" weight-loss products. It's no wonder we tend to understand diet through the lens of "Don't", and why so many of us are driven by guilt, insecurity, or fear.
Everything changes with the concept and mindset of saying "Yes" to a wide variety nutritionally dense whole foods. It's no longer about whether a food is on the banned list, but rather you'll ask a more profound and powerful question, "Will this food help or hinder my lifestyle and goals?" For example, I hand you a soda. What's your response?
Ideally, the "correct" response jumped off the page. Remember you aren't a victim of your diet, because you're the captain of your ship. We aren't the mean guys telling you what you aren't allowed to have. You're choosing to say yes to a better you, so let's remove the victimized conversation from our minds. Next, while we always encourage making the best decision possible, don't make the mistake of compromising. A bad decision still is bad even if it isn't a terrible decision. Going back to our example you can look at diet soda in two ways. Compared to regular soda, it seems like it's healthy, but compared to water it still looks like poison. Therefore, be careful how you justify your choices, and instead ask yourself if that food or drink is going to help support your active lifestyle, health, and weight goals.
So, how do you know what foods are good for your body and health? There's no trick or magic pill for this one: EDUCATION. This is exactly why you decided to participate in this Challenge. You'll not only get to learn how foods affect your body, but you can continually cross-reference ingredients in the food search to learn what foods are beneficial to you and why. Then you get to put that knowledge into practice so that your natural response and first question you ask yourself about food is one that helps you make good decisions based on positive motivation rather than fear or guilt. Your food should bring enjoyment to your life, not anxiety.
So, we encourage you to think about food as your greatest ally rather than a feared enemy lurking around every corner. Take the time to learn what's in your food, and why it's your life-blood to health, longevity, and living to your potential. It's your fuel, and your body is worth premium (even if you don't look like a Ferrari).
While this mental transformation doesn't occur overnight, you'll be surprised at just how quickly the change can occur. The more you focus on the "Yes" and the "Why", the more dramatically and quickly you'll notice your thought patterns and confidence improve.