If you are a HumanaNatura member and natural health practitioner, I suspect you are asked quite often what aspect of our natural health practice is “most” important.
For people in the midst of pursuing health on many fronts, it can seem a funny question. But it is an important question too, especially for people who are just beginning to consider healthy changes in their lives. And how we respond as natural health practitioners is often critical as well, bringing with it significant implications for the progress, and sustainability of progress, that others will make toward unlocking their health and own lives.
So, what is the most important aspect of natural health enhancement? In one sense, it is a tough question to answer. Health includes so many important components – nutrition, exercise, lifestyle choices, social support, stress management, emotional and self-awareness, goal setting, growth and learning – to name some of the most important aspects of our health covered in our natural health program.
In another sense, though, the question very easy to answer, since most people who ask it are just starting down the path of enhanced health, or have yet to look seriously at their own health and quality of life. The truth is that the most important aspect of a natural health practice, at any point in time, is our own principal barrier to a new level of health – the one thing that most holds our health and well-being back at that point. I personally reply, almost always, with this answer. This is not always what people want or expected to hear, but it is advice that stays with people and can last a lifetime. And it is the truth. Our health is always most constrained by one thing, a dimension of our lives that is specific to us, until we overcome it and then our health is held back by something new.
As such conversations turn to the specific principal barrier in the person’s life, often there is confusion, since there may be many things inhibiting their health, especially when just starting out to create a healthier life. In these situations, I often suggest that that their diet may be the most important obstacle to new health and in any case can be seen as the foundation of our health and its enhancement. If our diet is not right, the rest of our potential for natural health is a hard, if not impossible, path. Our prospect for new health is even hard even to grasp conceptually and experientially if we do not know the early resurgence of our health that comes from a natural diet.
I should add, and you may have noticed, that I have left myself a caveat. In discussing my advice about diet, I said “often.” The times I do not talk about diet as a most important obstacle are when I am speaking with someone with a drug addiction (including nicotine and alcohol) or if the person is struggling with an obvious life-limiting personal relationship (an interpersonal addiction). For them, the first step to greater health may be even closer at hand than their diet, although in many cases, they may be able to use new awareness of their diet to gain control of their addiction and begin the long and open-ended movement of our lives that is the pursuit of natural health.
Often, when such conversations in my health counseling work turn to diet as the most important initial aspect of health enhancement, and when the way we eat is framed as the gateway to a lifelong path toward enhanced health, people will immediately share the frustrations they have experienced in trying to get their diets right.
In these conversations of our diet, I find that about ninety percent of the time people do not have a clear picture of a healthy diet and are often carrying a great weight of dietary and health misinformation (often in addition to the physical and emotional weight of extra body mass). To counter this, I discuss a natural diet in very simple terms, as eating that is based on the way humans lived in nature for millions of years and informed by modern science. Perhaps like you, I describe a natural diet as extraordinarily simple and easily understood, and as a way of eating that has five components:
– Meats (including fish, poultry & eggs)
– Raw vegetables
As you might imagine, or as you may often experience firsthand, newly health-oriented people are almost always surprised and frequently quite skeptical that our ideal human diet can be so simple. To address their skepticism, I may speak with them about the reasons why this is our natural diet, the benefits of a natural diet, and their own needed steps to move closer to this way of eating. These discussions often drift into lifestyle issues beyond diet, of course, to considerations of other health barriers. I almost always encourage people to consider these other items, even to make a list as we speak, but still to explore the benefits of a natural diet as a “gateway step” toward new health in their lives.
Many times, our conversations end with a recommendation for people to see their doctor, and to go home and empty their kitchen of unhealthy foods (ones that are not on my “short list” of five foods), and for them to try the HumanaNatura diet program for thirty days if their physician agrees. To end our talk positively and promote new personal commitment, I often paint the picture of their starting a self-managed boot camp, by affectionately asking that they “drop and give me thirty” – thirty days of good, clean eating on the HumanaNatura program.
In my work for HumanaNatura, as you might imagine, have this general conversation quite frequently, and often with people I may not see again or at least not see again soon, or see only online. Much of the time, I don’t know if my advice was acted on and the result. It is a little frustrating for me, this not knowing, but such is the nature of advocating health at a global and even community level.
With this last thought in mind, perhaps you will appreciate my delight this week when I heard from an old friend. I knew she was aware of HumanaNatura, since we had discussed it more than once, but I did not know she had begun our diet program herself. “I lost thirty pounds and look like a new person,” she told me.
I am delighted for her and feel a certain pride of authorship. Naturally, the next step for her, like anyone else experimenting with natural eating, is to move on to consider the other things that natural health is about, and what now might most hold us and our health back, but I decided not to spoil the moment and let us both bask in her accomplishment. The rest would come later, and I knew we would speak again before too long.
Getting our diet right may not be the most important aspect of enhanced health, at every point in time in the life of every person pursuing natural health, but a natural diet is the foundation of our health in all our lives. As a community of practitioners, we should count as a success each person who adopts this new way of both eating and approaching our lives and the world.
Mark Lundegren is the founder of HumanaNatura.
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