Lisa Cohen
Your Nutrition and Wellness Coach
(404) 210-5194

Food Rules for the New Year

TruthIn case you clicked on this article and hopes of discovering  “Magic Rules” to help you to lose weight or flatten your belly or achieve some level of perfection in someway, you may want to stop reading now. However, if you’re open to the idea that establishing rules around the foods that you eat is actually counterproductive and possibly harmful, please continue.

I’ve spent many years searching for information that would enable me to be thin, healthy, happy, perfect, and craving–free. What I was really hoping for was to be able to have my cake and eat it too, quite literally. Oh, and to look like all the models in the magazines and movies and media of course. Little did I know that even all these models and actresses don’t look like the people they portray in the media.

So I did what I was fed by the latest media craze or best-selling diet book.

Oprah told me to never eat past 7 PM about a decade or two ago, so I made sure all my binging was done early in the day. When I saw how fattening “fat” was, I went on a low-fat diet, buying cases of fat free cookies and crackers and cereal and ice cream. When I read about food combining, I ate massive amounts of fruits, meat, and bread, But of course I ate them separately with time in between.  I heard about how carbohydrates were really what’s making me fat, so I ingested copious amounts of protein and fat, and was even known to eat an entire rotisserie chicken and one sitting.

At one point, my focus shifted to an elusive “perfect” health, and in search of this perfectionism, I quite literally began to starve myself for fear I would eat something that was unhealthy. While the condition have yet to be coined, it was actually a form of anorexia called orthoxia. I became dangerously thin at an unhealthy level, and people noticed. I loved the attention.

I’ve eaten according to my blood type, been a vegetarian, a vegan, a raw vegan, a yeast-free eater, low-glycemic index food follower (carrots scared the hell out of me back then), and a myriad of other often trendy diet labels.

And don’t forget all of the various detoxes, cleanses, fasts, Calorie reduction, extra calories to “trick” my metabolism, and diet pills… Both over-the-counter and prescription.

Of course, I also read the articles in the fitness magazines about how long I would need to run or workout in order to burn the calories from all the brownies and cookies and ice cream that I had eaten the night before, The years of 2-4 hour daily workouts followed. Sure, purging all those calories by over-exercising kept the weight down for a while, though all the blisters and chafing and aches and pains that I lived with, along with my life being reduced to that of a hamster on a wheel running and running and going nowhere not only got old, but as I grew older it became impossible to maintain. My body began to revolt.

Besides my body either being too thin, or more often, heavier than a healthy size for my body type, I was mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. I had no clue what it meant to listen to my body or eat intuitively. If I heard something was good for me, I would eat mass quantities. Forget the phrase “less is more;” my mantra was “more is more.”  I would eat what I was told or heard or read despite how it made me feel physically.  For one stretch of time, for instance, I was a vegetarian living off of tofu and rice, yet I felt gassy and bloated all the time. I ignored these messages from my body, since obviously these so-called experts knew what was good for me much more than I did.

While many of these experts often had valuable information and very valid points, even scientific backing for much of their information, I was wrong in trusting anyone more than myself when it came to what was optimally healthy for me.

My own struggles with food, eating, and body image, along with valid health challenges and concerns, led me to seek an understanding on a deeper level. I decided to pursue a formal education in nutrition and holistic health, and I basically became my first client. This guided me to realize that we are all biochemically individual and our own needs, and there is no one approach that is perfect for everyone. Combined with my yoga training, both as a certified instructor as well as a long time student, The mind/body connection has become even clearer over the years.

Becoming grounded…stable…still… on emotional and energetic levels sets the foundation that enables us to listen. It’s the key towards us making the kind of choices that create vitality.

The latest diet fad or list of food rules or shortcuts to drop weight are generalizations and cookie-cutter approaches that not only are misleading, but can be downright counterproductive and even dangerous when we did here to them without honoring our true needs.

When at new year is upon us we tend to grasp at things to make changes, often ignoring signs that tell us that maybe this is not the best approach. So if you make one resolution or intention for the beginning of the year, or for the beginning of any day for that matter, my suggestion is to honor the one food rule that really matters. That rule can also apply to other things in life including lifestyle choices, how you exercise, and the thoughts and the people you choose to allow into your life.

So the one food rule is this:  Throw out all food rules!

Learning to listen to your body and honor your needs is the key. That’s the one rule you need….that I need… that we all need. This is the key for us as we work towards optimal health. It’s perfectly fine to avoid substances, people, situations, and thoughts which are toxic for you. But those things different for each of us, and there is no one answer. It’s both quite complex and incredibly simple at the same time, and we each have our own path towards learning to honoring our own inner truths.

The answer lies within each of us and by shifting from a search for an outside answer to learning to listen to our own intuition, a whole new paradigm will be revealed.

Remember, no food, regardless of how “healthy” or “superfood-y” it is proven to be by doctors and/or scientists, is healthy for YOU if it saps you of your energy and vitality.  No study or dietary dogma is more important than the innate wisdom of YOUR body.  Period.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that this is an imperfect process.  There is no place where we are “done” and as we change, our needs change. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’d like to confess to you now…I am far from perfect in this myself and it is, in fact, my own challenges and imperfections that guided me towards helping others.  I’m always learning new things about myself, my body, and my needs.  Being open to change is a huge gift we can all give ourselves.

If this has perked your interest, I encourage you to continue to seek within as well as to consider guidance from sources which honor your bio-individual needs.  I share a lot of information on my facebook pages below to help, so check them out and like the pages if you’re so inclined!



and so, I begin the new year (and every day as well) with this mantra..this intention:

Today I am willing to acknowledge the innate wisdom of my body.  By adopting the mind of a beginner, I am open to receiving that information and accepting my truth, and by doing so, I am able to change, grow, and evolve.

wishing you all joy and freedom for the new year and always~ Lisa
PS: one more takeaway:  ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE NOT GOOD OR BAD BASED ON WHAT OR HOW MUCH FOOD YOU EAT!  Your character is not determined by your food or your weight or your body.  and that is a FACT…and the only real “rule” I endorse.

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4 Responses so far.

  1. duane solem says:

    Great instructions! I’ve followed that main idea (listen to your body) for the later part of my life, having done everything from organic (decades before it became popular) thru early macrobiotics (got dangerously skinny) and so on. But it took having done a lot of those things to learn what’s right for me. The only ‘weird’ thing I drink is goat milk (raised goats on a small ranch in CA).

    • pranalisa says:

      I have never acquired a taste for goat milk or any milk for that matter (except almond milk, which is not technically really milk at all); however, if you feel good drinking it, it sounds like it’s good for you!

  2. GREAT and timely message, Lisa. I’m glad you finally started listening to your own body and using your own logic about diet and eating instead of buying another book or starting another diet. My friend in Australia just told me about the 5:2 diet or “Fast” diet. You fast for two days, apparently. I have real trouble with that sort of thing but my friend says that she did too but managed. I talked to her a few days ago…and she’s put all the weight back on. (naturally) I was like you once, doing all of the diets. When I was very young, I decided to go “vegetarian” in the most unhealthy of ways. I was living on spirulina and iced coffees. I lost 25 lbs in a month and then got very ill. I went to the doctor and he checked my iron levels and found me anemic and wanted to hospitalize me! I went back to eating meat.

    I did the low carb and no carb diets. The first time I lost 10 lbs in two weeks, the second time, I lost 7 and the third time 5. I never got over my cravings for pasta, like the book said I would. In fact, I just dreamed of the day when I could eat it again.

    I did the Weight Watchers points and lost weight on that too and because of that, I can never eat salads with feta cheese and walnuts again. Salad, salad, salad. I would eat one every day for lunch, carefully measuring out my dressing, the 1 oz of cheese and 16 walnut halves. Again, I would be thinking all day of what I’d get to eat at dinner. I still sometimes have a hard time eating salads because of all the diets I’ve been on where I ate so many of them, especially the low carb diets. I had a Greek salad with a piece of chicken on it the other night for the first time in a loooong time!

    As for listening to my body, that is sometimes hard. I listen but sometimes I don’t DO the right thing for it and ignore it! When I do listen to it, I feel best. I tend to eat when I’m hungry and I tell my husband when I need to eat, I need to eat.

    My garden is coming along now and I’m growing Asian greens, kale and chard, so those fresh and tasty veggies will be featuring prominently in my meals in the next few months. Eating freshly picked veggies makes a huge difference in taste, so I try to eat as fresh as I can.

    And I’ll be back to the gym regularly now that the holidays are over. But I am NOT killing myself at the gym anymore and a year ago decided to stop the crazy work out class that I was doing twice a week. We were encouraged to do 500 leg lifts against a wall, 100 squats, hundreds of repetitive exercises that left me so sore I couldn’t walk for two days without being in pain. I don’t believe we were made to do that sort of stuff and at 50, am fearful of wearing out parts that i need to keep for another 40 years. Now I have variety of exercises I do that keep me from getting bored or too sore including spinning, a weight training class, swimming and balance exercises on a balance board at home. I’m going to try to get to more yoga too as I love it but it’s always been a scheduling problem for me, I need to over come that.

    Thanks for posting such a great article and full of good advice, Lisa. I look forward to future posts.