In the last few weeks I’ve been hinting at the big epiphany that has been changing the way I think about health and diet.
My realization came after I adopted Millie (pictured above, sticking her tongue out like she knows more than we do about healthy living). You see, feeding her made me realize how unbalanced our relationship to food can really get.
That’s why I believe we can all learn from dogs. I’m not saying we should lick our butts or chase cars, but that maybe the way a dog’s diet is structured has a lot to teach us.
In the wild a dog or wolf might hunt, eat grass, and find leftover scraps to eat. Domesticated pets have a much more regimented way of eating, and that’s what we can learn from.
Come to think of it, a dog’s life is pretty awesome: lots of chasing of squirrels, long afternoon naps, and dog treats.
Isn’t that what we all want to be able to eat? No, not squirrels but human treats! Having a strong nutritional base with the freedom to treat yourself every now and then.
Just Because Someone Else Eats It, Doesn’t Mean You Should
In my previous post I talked about how you can’t trust your tastebuds. Dogs can’t either, really. They don’t know what’s good for them.
They watch everyone around them eat and think that this food must be good if everyone else is eating it. (Sound familiar?)
Take for example grains, grapes, or chocolate. All toxic or mildly allergenic for dogs. Yet dogs will happily eat these up if you or someone around them are having any.
That’s why as pet owners we need to keep these harmful foods out of a dog’s reach. So why don’t we do it for our own harmful food cravings?
The Pareto Principle
Looking at my dog’s diet, I noticed she was eating about 80% main food, and 20% treats. Now don’t get me wrong, these treats aren’t deep-fried Mars bars, they’re quite in line with her diet. (She’s a raw dog, and you can see what she eats here.)
So what can we learn from eating by the 80/20 rule?
My big realization is that if we all adhere to an 80/20 way of eating we won’t fall off the wagon, beat ourselves up, or feel deprived.
I also think that it’s important to recognize that 100% percent raw is not ideal for everyone. So this is a much better way to regain your health and vitality, without feeling like a loser if you eat something cooked.
Preparedness Trumps Spontaneity
I don’t look at my dog each morning and wonder what to feed her. She would probably starve if I didn’t have a plan and some prepared food on hand at all times. That, or she’d get all kinds of human food “leftovers” that aren’t any good for her.
So why do we fail to have planned or prepared food for ourselves?
When we don’t have a plan or any prepared food in the house, we reach for instant food and take out… which we know isn’t good for us. (This is different from treating ourselves, by the way!)
Everything starts with having a solid plan and foundation in place. Without proper grocery shopping skills or a nicely varied menu plan, you’ll start reaching for all those unhealthy instant meal fallbacks. And that would just skew the 80 to 20% balance.
What’s in the 20%?
Let’s look at what’s in the fun 20% food category. I recommend keeping to a gluten-free diet, so if you are going to have baked goods then keep them gluten-free.
Ideally you will want to eat raw desserts since they taste so good and are so low in sugar.
So what’s left to treat yourself with? You can treat yourself with some of the savory dishes that you miss. Think of including some cooked veggies, warm soups, steamed sweet potatoes, or cooked grains of the gluten-free variety.
These might not sound like treats to you, but it’s such a nice way to balance out an otherwise high raw diet that you’ll feel a lot more grounded and fulfilled.
If you’re coming from a conventional diet you can also use your 20% for meat, fish, or dairy products you aren’t ready to let go yet.
This doesn’t mean you can run out and buy doughnuts, chow down on doritos, and eat peanut butter sandwiches on white bread everyday.
The 20% is meant to give you more flexibility, in a way that doesn’t hurt your progress and health.
What’s in the 80%?
The trick here is to be honest with yourself about how much of the “treat foods” you’re really eating. So if you’re just having one apple per day and the rest of your meals are processed, then this is not going to work.
I’m not recommending that the 80% be uber healthy, while the 20% is completely unhealthy. Rather, both are healthy foods but you just don’t want to overdo the 20% ones.
What’s Does it Mean for You?
Well it means that this winter you can enjoy some warm soups, cooked squash, or warm millet, and still feel amazing in your body and mind.
It means you can be more inclusive with friends or family members who don’t quite get the whole “raw” thing.
It also means that you can be nice to yourself and stop all those longing looks at what other people are eating.
It means you can finally stop obsessing about food and live a little.
You might also wake up really early and ready to go for a walk in the park every morning. Maybe.
How I’m Going to Help You Do This
I never thought I’d say that I’d help people eat like a dog, but here goes! After asking you and other readers what would help you stay on the healthy eating path, and in line with my big epiphany I’m creating something free to help you.
I know you’re looking for simple & quick meals that are nutritious, presented in a way to save you time. You might also like a produce guide that focuses on the changing seasons.
So that’s exactly what I’m putting together, and you’ll be able to get your copy free if you’re on my newsletter.
If you’re not yet on the newsletter, click here to sign up for free. Expect some goodness in your inbox next week!