Hello friends! I hope you're having a bright and happy week, even if the sun has gone MIA like it has here in Chicago. Oh, January.
I haven't done a book review in way too long, so I'm excited to share my thoughts and reaction to the book SuperLife by Darin Olien!
When I was contacted by TLC Book Tours to participate in a virtual book tour for this paperback release, I jumped at the chance because I've actually been drinking Darin's delicious superfood supplement Shakeology for almost three years now, and have heard him speak live at our annual Beachbody coach summit.
- As an ex-science nerd (I have a BA in Biology!) it was fun for me to learn more about why superfoods are important and get a deeper perspective on what it really means to be healthy, including the complex chemical reactions and the science behind how our bodies function and why certain nutrients are so vital.
Our bodies are seriously amazing! It's very empowering to know that we can take control of our health and avoid, prevent, or heal from chronic illnesses or issues by making simple daily decisions.
"Health is created one choice at a time. It really is that simple! Once you know what healthy choices to make, you repeat them over and over again. That's how health becomes a lifestyle."
Darin takes a holistic view of health (as opposed to western medicine, which has a specialist for every system and body part). In this book he lays out an overview of five "life forces," or the main factors and processes that drive our health and wellbeing on a cellular level, and then explains how we can optimize that cellular health by our food and lifestyle choices so we feel awesome. He also shares lists of beneficial foods and a ten day sample eating plan, which actually looks delicious! No starvation detoxes here.
He explains that the key to optimal health is to fulfill these life forces, which is a relatively simple fix because it all revolves around what we put into our bodies.
The 5 life forces
In the book, Darin gives a thorough explanation of each force and how our bodies operate, and then a checklist of simple things we can do to take care of ourselves.
I like how he combines the detailed scientific background with realistic actionable steps, and the tone of the book is in his relaxed California surfer vibe. Lots of nutrition based books can come off as preachy or make you feel like a bad human being for not being as enlightened as the author, but I appreciated that SuperLife takes a pretty simple and casual approach to the hard science.
Instead of recapping all the complicated details for each life force, I'm going to focus on my personal takeaways and what I learned from this book, including some simple healthy shifts that we can all implement into our routines to immediately feel more energized and vibrant!
What I learned
- What's in Shakeology! All the superfoods are sustainably sourced by Darin from small farmers throughout the globe, the true definition of "fair trade."
- Frozen produce is good when you live in the tundra of Illinois and don't have access to fresh local organic veggies year round. Yay!
- We eat too much protein! Protein in plants is more bioavailable. Meat is hard on our systems. Beware of the Paleo diet… in reality, our ancestors ate mostly plants because meat was very scarce and we had to hunt for it.
- Vitamins and nutrients from whole foods are easier for our bodies to assimilate. Taking supplements in the form of pills is not the best, including calcium! This is why shakeology is so great - it gives us all the nutrients in a whole foods source :)
- Eat more fat!
- Some foods are acidifying to our bodies, and we need to make an effort to eat more food that is alkalinizing (aka fresh veggies and fruit).
- Why hydration is so important - and there's a difference between feeling thirsty and cellular dehydration.
- Exercise - "Don't try to beat your body into shape, and don't stress about it. You're supposed to feel great. That's the only thing that counts. It's not about the perfect body or the perfect workout routine. You just need to show up for your own life."
At the end of the book he provides a list of foods and their main nutrient properties, and also shares a sample 10 day eating plan that actually looks pretty delicious. II'm definitely going to be trying some of the recipes!
If you're a perfectionist and tend to take everything you read literally and get obsessive about your food, take this book with a grain of Himalayan rock salt. Remember that Darin is writing from his personal perspective, and he's made it his life mission to be obsessed about his food. He also lives in southern California.
I love how he talked not just about food, but about other habits that have an effect on our systems, including stress! Stress is acidifying to your body and bad for you not just mentally and emotionally but also on a physical level.
Regarding food stress - it's better to enjoy dinner with your family or friends and eat the bread and pasta … than to make a big deal about your self-imposed food restrictions and feel guilty for eating something "unhealthy" every once in a while (obviously if you have an actual intolerance that's another story). It's ok to position yourself as the health freak at the office and in your family, but don't be annoying about it. As soon as your family and friends realizes that this is your lifestyle and not just a passing phase, you'll start to influence them by your own choices. Lead by example, not by preaching… just like Darin!
Make the best choices you can with the options available to you, and don't make a big deal out of it. Healthy eating is simple, and I think one of the biggest reasons it's so hard for us is because we constantly try to overcomplicate things.
Eat more plants, trust the process, be patient and don't expect your body to drop 20 pounds in one month. Change takes time, so focus on how you're feeling and make more decisions that make you feel good.
How to achieve balance? Just be aware and mindful of what you're putting in your mouth and make sure you're eating MORE good stuff and fresh whole foods than processed foods.
"Every bite we take is a decision: healthy or unhealthy? Will this food nourish me, will it deliver something needed to my cells, will int enhance my well-being? Maybe the answer won't always be yes. But what happens if we make more good decisions than bad ones?"
Food is not an emotional or moral decision…it's science.
We already know exactly what we should be eating, so it's not about finding a fancy new special meal plan. Just make smart decisions that you know are good for you! It's that easy.
"Instead of relying on willpower to resist junk food, just eat better and the cravings will vanish, I promise."
I've learned in my own experience that when you focus on eating MORE healthy food (instead of trying to use your willpower to cut out the treats and junk), your preferences and taste buds actually change and your body becomes more sensitive. After a while you won't have to rely on will power at all because your body will actually start to crave the healthy stuff, and junk food doesn't even sound good…if you do eat it you'll feel like crap, which will make it easier to say no next time.
Focus on small shifts, instead of trying to overhaul your entire life, because changing habits takes TIME in order to avoid feeling deprived.
Darin ends the book with a list of his "Daily Simple Fixes," although some of them are more simple than others.
When you ready this book, I recommend making a "to do" list of all the lifestyle changes, and ranking them on a timeline or spectrum of what will be easiest vs. hardest FOR YOU, based on where you're at currently. It's unrealistic to completely change your entire lifestyle in one week and we're all on different levels when it comes to our health and wellness.
Maybe you're already vegan, live in California, and buy all organic food. Maybe you live in the Midwest like me, your current diet consists of Lean Cuisines and bagels, and you have no idea what tempeh even is. Neither scenario makes you a better or worse person, but you'll have to approach the book differently and give yourself the appropriate time to shift your mindset and habits based on where you're starting from.
Here's my personal action plan after reading SuperLife, ranked from what things that will be easiest to the stuff that's going to take me a while to evolve into!
LOVE IT - easy to implement
+ I've already stopped drinking diet soda, caffeine, am using Shakeology daily, exercising regularly, eating healthy fats (my HDL good cholesterol is 93!) and have cut back on processed grains/bread and sugar. Go me!
(If I can do it, you can too. Seriously, I love food and I was never active growing up. The 21 Day Fix nutrition plan structure was super helpful in helping me adopt a more whole foods based diet, mindful eating, cutting out sugar and junk without even missing it, and teaching me how to meal plan, and I highly recommend trying the program if you want to get started without feeling overwhelmed or deprived!)
+ Drink a big glass of water first thing in the morning.
+ Less coffee, more green tea. I've already given up caffeine but I still love my daily decaf coffee habit. Since coffee is acidifying to our bodies, I'm going to start slowly experimenting with replacing it with green tea. I don't think I'll ever completely cut coffee out of my life but at least I know that it's important to balance it out by eating lots of alkalinizing foods!
+ Keep drinking Shakeo and eating as many raw fruits and veggies as I can
+ Being more active in my daily life. Making an effort to get outside for more walks throughout the day (which is tough with Midwest climate)
+ Experimenting with eating less meat and trying more vegan recipes. I love beans, grains, produce, and plant food, but it's easy to default to the traditional dinner of meat and a side of veggies. I have several awesome vegetarian and vegan cookbooks so I'm going to play around with them and spend more time on weekend meal prep chopping veggies and cooking grains and beans in bulk so I can easily throw together a power bowl for lunch or dinner.
STUFF I'M STILL WORKING ON
+ Continuing to work on my attitude! Practicing gratitude, mindfulness, yoga, and doing more things that make me feel happy and centered. (I know you're probably thinking, "I suck at yoga and meditation." Well, duh. That's why it's called a practice.)
+ Slowly adding more and more organic produce and sustainably raised organic meat into my diet. I'm a thrifty Midwestern girl and my default mindset is "what's the cheapest or best deal?" so it's going to take me some time to get used to CHOOSING to spend more money on our food…although I know it's an investment that will pay off in the future with reduced medical costs.
+ Soaking my nuts and grains
+ Eliminate sugar
+ Slowly transitioning to natural plant-based cleaning products, make up, and toiletries.
+ Try the Ultimate Reset!
Here are the "fixes" that were a little out there for me...
+ Drink only distilled water, and "vortate, love it, and structure it" to infuse it with positive energy.
+ Not wearing sunscreen (I will get my Vitamin D with a supplement to avoid skin cancer!)
If you're open to learning more about how you can feel amazing and invest in your long term health through making simple lifestyle shifts, or if you're interested in nutrition and learning more about the science of how food choices affect your body, I highly recommend this book!