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Eat Nourishing Foods – Pillar of Health #1

Here on the blog, this month is devoted to introducing you to the Core 4 – my four Pillars of Health – and the first is to Eat Nourishing Foods.

Eat Nourishing Foods - Pillar of Health #1 | StupidEasyPaleo.com

The Origin of the Core 4

Originally, the Core 4 came about when I developed the Harder to Kill Challenge in 2015.

My community was telling me how much you craved balance. How, sure, food and exercise were on your radar, but you were still feeling off-kilter. That you’d buckle down so hard about diet that you’d get super stressed out. Or that you’d start a new fitness routine and have to trade sleep for hitting the gym at 5 am.

You told me that when you’d do the newest diet challenge with super strict rules – a completely artificial construct – you’d do okay. But then real life would happen and these challenges didn’t teach you how to navigate the grey areas of life.

Cue frustration. Shame. Guilt. Falling off the wagon a hundred times. Wondering what is wrong with you. Rinse and repeat.

So I reflected on and researched the aspects of health that lead to balance, the things that helped me take my own wellness back. And those four foundational guides became the framework for the Core 4 book.

The idea is not to do one thing perfectly – like eat the most “clean,” perfect diet – but rather to take care of yourself in all four areas. Essentially, it’s about being a generalist and looking after your physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual health.

Of the hundreds and hundreds of people I’ve coached in the Core 4 Program since 2015, an overwhelming majority come to the program focusing really hard on one or two pillars at the expense of the others…and still feeling less-than-good as a result. One of my favorite quotes is, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

So the program is where we shine a light on what you don’t know. (Not surprisingly, the unofficial motto is Learn, Explore, Grow.)

Eat Nourishing Foods - Pillar of Health #1 | StupidEasyPaleo.com

My four Pillars of Health – what I lovingly call the Core 4 – are:

  • Eat nourishing foods

  • Move with Intention

  • Recharge your energy

  • Move with intention

Oh, and my newest book, The Core 4: Embrace Your Body, Own Your Power dives into these pillars in depth!

But I want to give you a taste so you have a better idea of how the Core 4 influence everything that I do starting with…

Eat Nourishing Foods

What you put in your piehole matters, and for many people, changing what they eat has an enormous impact on how they feel. For this reason, I call food the gateway drug to wellness.

We all have to eat. It’s tangible; you can taste, touch, see, and smell it. It’s cultural and social and brings us together. So when I created the Core 4, I started with food.

However, I’ll reiterate: It’s not the only thing that matters for your health.

You could have the most perfect diet with the best macro split and eat everything organic but still be suffering from health problems…

…especially if you’re stressed out, underslept, burning the candle at both ends, lonely, and / or sedentary.

(This is not a judgment, by the way. I have been there, truly. After my divorce in 2004, for example, I subsisted mostly on MetRx Big 100 Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough protein bars, coffee, and a bottle of wine a night for almost a year. I speak from a place of deep compassion because I felt pretty damn hopeless to change, and I didn’t know what I didn’t fkn know. Plus, I still have blind spots and things I’m learning about.)

The framework around Eat Nourishing Foods has a few key points. It matters:

  • What you eat,

  • How you eat it,

  • When you eat it, and

  • Why you eat it. (Your context, goals, bioindividuality, etc.)

Eat Nourishing Foods - Pillar of Health #1 | StupidEasyPaleo.com

My nutritional therapy training has even furthered my approach…that real, whole, properly-prepared nutrient dense foods tailored to the individual is the best way to move health forward when it comes to what we eat.

There is no one list of foods that works for everyone.

There is no exact ratio of macronutrients that works for everyone.

And even in an individual, there is no one single way that is guaranteed to work for a lifetime. (Age, health status, physical activity, genetics, pregnancy, menopause, etc…these are just a few of the factors that can shift nutrition within the same person.)

We need to all have a little moment here and let that really sink in. And it’s about time we stop asking, “Is XYZ food paleo?” and starting asking, “Is XYZ food right for me?”

Here comes fierce love Steph: There is no quick fix. This stuff takes time and effort. I’m interested in helping and guiding people who are ready to do the work it takes to figure it out. If you’re here to lose 10 pounds in the next 7 days, I’m not the right nutrition expert for you.

And as I mentioned above, the what of Eat Nourishing Foods is not the whole picture.

The Other Things That Matter

Secondly, it has to do with how you eat. Are you eating when you’re stressed, on the run, in your car, or distracted? Barely chewing? Those all impact health, particularly digestion.

And if you can’t digest, you’re not getting the nourishment out of what you’re eating.

Third, it’s about when you eat. Now, there’s definitely some variability here in what’s optimal for everyone. But too often, I find folks who are brand new to addressing their food want to get too fancy, too fast.

They’re just starting out yet pressuring themselves to follow every special protocol under the sun. Another guiding principle I follow is, “Know the rules so you can break the rules.” Establish a really strong base of the most fundamental things before you get fancy.

And lastly, it’s about why you eat what you eat. What are your goals? Your health challenges? Your preferences? Known or as-yet-unknown food sensitivities?

Take into account what you value, how much brain space you have free to devote to thinking about food (hint: obsessing over healthy eating is not a great use of that precious time and energy), your family / living situation, and more.

Eat Nourishing Foods - Pillar of Health #1 | StupidEasyPaleo.com

Takeaways About the Eat Nourishing Foods Pillar

Figuring this stuff out isn’t something you accomplish in a week or even a month. (That’s why the Core 4 Program provides a framework for continual exploration and adjustment.) And even when you think you have it figured out, it’s unlikely you can just eat the same 20 foods with the same habits for the rest of your life.

Because, change. It’s an inevitability yet something we fight so hard against because, well, it’s hardwired.

So learning the skills of eating nourishing foods helps you reassess, adjust course, and continue living life feeling good in your body, able to do the things you want to do.

Expect to see lots more about this part of the Core 4 going forward on the website.

And if you’re ready for more balance in your life, check out the Core 4 Book.

Up next…

What aspect of Eat Nourishing Foods do you struggle with the most? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll talk it out!

Pin this article for later.

Eat Nourishing Foods - Pillar of Health #1 | StupidEasyPaleo.com

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24 Responses

  1. I look forward to hearing more about this, especially in context with the other three pillars. I have been dealing with Type 2 diabetes (with various degrees of “success”) since I was diagnosed in 1996 and go through periods where I’m all about eating the foods that make my body feel good, in reasonable amounts, and passing straight by those that done, and then there are times (like the last 12-14 months) when I still know the foods that make me feel the best but run around eating stupid, flour-y, sugar-y foods anyway. It’s not a lack of knowledge, or a lack of “plans” – there are certainly plenty of those available, it’s just not feeling like doing what I know will make me feel better. So frustrating!

    1. Thank you for sharing your experiences, Denise. May I ask what your “why” is, a purpose or reason that you can really viscerally keep coming back to?

      1. Hi Steph,

        My “why” is the desire to do everything in my power to avoid the nasty complications of T2D (stroke, heart attack, nerve damage), but sometimes even that isn’t enough to get me to skip the flour, sugar, and fat. I guess it’s the short term versus long term problem: long term I *know* that I don’t want to die from a heart attack, but short term that scone (or cake or cookie or whatever) looks, smells, and tastes wonderful.

        1. Sometimes the cake is worth it and that’s ok. You don’t have to be perfect to stay healthy <3

  2. For me, at least for the last 8 years, it’s been learning avot Paleo, then fighting to exit the dogma of it all. So the whole What you eat?, has probably always been my problem. I continue to work towards how to support my body as I, take care of my marriage, take care of my kids, homeschool, workout and take care of myself. Learning to be more mindful in all areas is my work in progress.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Joanne. Dogma can really become a trap and it sounds like you have quite a level head on your shoulders and are doing the best you can.

  3. Hey Steph,
    I struggle with knowing which foods are best for me and taking the time to eat. What I mean is I often eat on the run.

    1. Hi Becca…totally know that feeling. Figuring out the right foods for oneself can take time and tinkering. A 30 day elimination plan can help you kickstart this process. From there, it’s slowing down and checking in with your body so that you can begin to listen to its cues. In the end, it’s not as much “knowing” which foods are best as it is “feeling” which ones are. If you’re out of practice with listening to your body, that’s okay. You can begin to listen again at any time. Making a commitment to sit down to a table and eat may be the first simple step.

  4. I tend to fluctuate between restricting my carbs or calories to eating what ever the heck I want 🙂 It’s a work in progress.

  5. Right now I’m working on the WHY. My why has changed since I’ve been on my better health journey and I’ve just started balancing all the necessary areas of me with the outer portions of my life. It’s fascinating work!

    These pilars, these blogs, your writings are a refreshing balance of grace and rock hard truth. I’m eager for more! Thanks for using your voice for people like me who struggle with words.

    1. Hi Amanda…thank you for sharing the pieces you’re working on. I love that you’re turning some attention to those tougher topics.

      Thank you for your very kind words…more to come <3

  6. I too fall into similar issues as an above poster.
    By the end of 8th grade/beginning of high school I was diagnosed with hypopituitarism and then that later led to T2DM in college – which especially at first was like going through the stages of grief with denial, anger, etc. When the science behind it clicked and I was able to understand that even if I had done everything perfectly that it could have still developed I was able to accept it more.
    I’ve “always” known all the side effects that could further happen, then studied them since being in pharmacy school, which acutely leads to the “oh no – I gotta make all these changes, but I don’t have time” panic feeling. I still struggle to always pick the best options to eat due to “lack of time”, what’s around/close/free at school, what’s cheap, or reverting to old eating habits and emotional eating.

    I’m working more on making at least slightly better habits over summer while not in school. Even more than avoiding medical complications, I know I’d feel better and probably do better mentally if I didn’t revert to the SAD or emotional eating. I’m also continually reminding me that it’s about balance, but my balance just includes less of the “junk” food.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story, Sarah. I think you voiced a lot of concerns that many people have…how to best eat for their health and / or to manage a condition when your environment seems to conspire against you. I appreciate you stopping by.

  7. Hi Steph! Love your content. Quick question for you: I keep reading about too much protein being “‘not ideal” and to eat 1g per lb body weight but here’s my dilemma. I have a very active job (personal trainer 20+ hrs per week), plus 3x strength training/powerlifting + 2 days interval rowing…. I’m a very petite woman but lean w a lot of muscle mass – and always trying to make gains. I prob eat around 2100-2300 cals each day and 150-160g of protein. BUT I’m 115lbs. So on paper my doctors are always gasping and saying it’s way too much protein! When you canculate it out, it’s about 25% of my cals coming from protein. I only use whey once a day bc I have to eat so much – and 12oz comes from animal meat. The other protein is coming from veggies – I eat about 10 cups low starch veggies per day plus sweet potatoes and squash! I feel like I’m healthy but I’m seeing all this conflicting stuff about protein so not sure if I’m over doing it. If I cut back I’d end up having to eat way more carbs to sustain my energy. I just can’t find any good info on small people who need lots of calories !! Haha!

  8. I’ve been through different stages of Paleo since 2010 and have worked out which foods my body tolerates well. I’m confident I know what to eat, when and how to eat it but I really get stuck in the why and that is where my emotional eating brings me down. It’s only in the last few months, after years of conflicting feelings and behaviors, I’m getting a suspicious feeling “in my gut” that my food relationship imbalance has more to do with stress and anxiety rather than actual food. I’m really eager to work through The Pillars because I know there is something deeper going on that cauliflower rice and yoga alone won’t fix. My primary goal is a lifestyle that I can practice, not just achieve one day, but really live to practice.

  9. I like this mindset! That it takes time. I’ve been dealing with gut issues the last 2 years (gut inflammation, silent reflux) and find it tiring to be on a restrictive diet all of the time. I’m trying to heal naturally and really tune into what my body responds best too. I look forward to reading more about the 4 Pillars. Thank you!!

  10. I need to work on not being perfect when I want to change my eating habits. Also, to figure out what works for my body also and what will nourish it to the fullest too.

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Hi, I'm Steph!

Nutrition and fitness coach for women, Lord of the Rings nerd, and depending on who you ask, crazy cat lady. My mission is to help you fuel for more, not less: bigger muscles, strength, energy, and possibilities. We’ll do it with my signature blend of science, strategy…and a little bit of sass.


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