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5 common mistakes health junkies make

July 10, 2013
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5 mistakes health junkies makeYou and me, we’re interested in good health. We want to feel good and look good and we’re willing to do what it takes. Pretty awesome.

This isn’t a race, but if it were, let’s just say that you and I would be near the front of the pack, sporting our high-powered blenders and bags of flax seed, carefully checking the PLU’s on our produce for that splendid #9 indicating organic if we were so unfortunate as to have to buy produce from anything other than a Farmer’s Market. Oh, is that a sweet little feather stuck to my lip? It must have come from my SOY-FREE FREE-RANGE BRIGHT-ORANGE-YOLKED EGGS THAT ARE SO DAMN FRESH FROM THE FARM THE CHICKEN LAID IT IN MY MOUTH.

Yes, we can be caricatures of ourselves. I often think about this as I drive my Prius at 5mph (running only on electric!) from yoga to Whole Foods while listening to NPR. I always remember my reusable bags. Did you know they can double as a breastfeeding cover for a 2 year old?

But our interest in healthy living does not make us perfect. In fact, some of the biggest health junkies I know are actually working against their own health by their very commitment to health! Wait, what??

Yes, we make mistakes. Here are some of the more common ones:


1. We eat too much kale


Kale smoothies, raw kale chips, massaged kale salads, grilled kale, – oh, we sing the praises of this dark, leafy green from the rooftops, don’t we? And yes, it’s one of the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet. But be aware of the possible downsides, such as:

– Kale is listed by the Environmental Working Group as one of the “dirtiest” crops in terms of pesticide residue. I mean, just in case you dared to buy conventional produce.

– Gallstones and kidney stones can occur as a result of oxalates found in kale and other vegetables. You are particularly at risk if you eat a lot of meat and don’t drink enough water. (Careful, Crossfitters!) From “Kale is among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates, naturally occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings. When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating kale.”

– Kale is also a goitrogenic food, meaning it inhibits thyroid function, particularly in individuals who are already at risk for hypothyroid conditions. Like childbearing, breastfeeding women. The goitrogenic properties of kale can be mitigated by cooking it, so if you have low thyroid issues, lightly steam that shizz, ok?

Best bets: Yes, still eat kale but rotate them with other greens in your diet and prepare them in different ways. Kale is practically old news anyway by now. Bitter greens like dandelion are the next big thing!


2. We blend too much of our food


Smoothies are cool, especially when we can hide kale in them, right? I have been known to drink a smoothie now and then. I’ve been on TV making kale smoothies as a matter of fact. I’m not anti-smoothie and you’re not a bad or unhealthy person for drinking them!

But know this: Proper digestion begins in the mouth, with the chewing action of the jaw. That motion stimulates and turns your whole digestive system “on.” So you may actually be dampening your digestive power with all that blending.

And if you think about it, “real food” is often defined as something very close to how it grew out of the ground. Food your great grandmother would recognize. This sort of thing nixes the idea of high-powered blending, which doesn’t appear anywhere in nature (except, of course, in your mouth).

Another thing to consider is how many calories you are packing into your smoothie. Blending takes large volumes of food and makes them so very…drinkable. By the time you add your hemp hearts and almond butter and bananas and yogurt and all – that’s a lot of food compacted into a few sips.

Best bets: Blend your food sometimes. And often, eat your food whole.


3. We have too many rules


If your list of self-imposed dietary restrictions runs the length of your arm, ask yourself why. You may feel legitimately better in your body without gluten, grains, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, meat, etc. etc. Or, you may be using food as way to exert control in your life – certainly not a healthy relationship. The only thing worse than a diet of processed food is a diet so rigid that it wraps itself around your brain and doesn’t allow you to live fully, for fear of brushing up against a piece of white bread.

Best bet: Be mindful of your food choices, but accept imperfection.


4. We treat food like it’s religion


I used to read a blog all about raw, vegan food. The woman who wrote it was gung-ho and so was I. We both got pregnant about the same time, and I got the impression she was going to go stick with it and raise her child as a raw vegan. Me? I started eating a whole lot of yogurt and red meat, as my cravings dictated. I ditched the idea of being vegan because my body so clearly needed more. And I stopped reading her blog.

Recently, I checked in on her and read an amazing post about how a vegan lifestyle caused some health problems for her child and how the family has now starting eating as omnivores! Hooray! Such powerful stuff. I hope we can all be brave enough to change our eating habits as needed throughout our life. There’s no reason to stick to your guns. In fact, doing so may be harmful.

When I was in school at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Joshua (the founder of the school) would say you can be vegan today, macrobiotic tomorrow, eat the Mediterranean diet the next day and the paleo diet after that. You can do what your body wants. It’s not like choosing a religion or a baseball team.


5. We talk about it too much


Guilty as charged. I admit it. It’s hard for me to see a mother give her child a bag of M&Ms without muttering something under my breath or turning to my husband with a look on my face like someone is tearing off my legs.

Yes, it’s hard to watch other people, especially loved ones, feed themselves crap.

What’s even harder is when those people don’t want to hang out with you anymore because they feel judged every time you’re around.

Think about it. Good health is about so much more than food. If we are to have fulfilling relationships, we need to get over the fact that my husband has a sleeve of Coke cans in the basement. Ahem.

Best bets: Keep your mouth shut unless someone asks for your opinion or you’re writing on your very own blog. Even when asked, tread carefully. Food is a very personal thing and no one likes being told they are wrong.


In short, remember moderation in all things.

I swear, that’s the best advice I’ve ever been given. It’s how I try to live and how I approach health coaching with my clients.

Hey, let’s go get a beer.

  • Danielle

    Great blog post! I am definitely guilty of sharing too much and want people to know I can converse about a whole lot more than just food (I think.)! Promoting balance is your awesome. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Kimberly | New Spark Coaching

    Thanks for sharing yours and Joshua’s words of wisdom. As a recovering perfectionist, I definitely tend to believe that I have to adhere to very strict dietary regulations in order to be healthy. Being reminded that there’s room for variation and experimentation is VERY freeing!!!!!

  • Jennifer Blanchard

    I agree that I can fall into several of these ruts from time-to-time. Problem is I’m not a huge fan of greens, but I know I need them. SO that’s why I eat a ton of kale and spinach, both of which are high is oxalates. And when I eat them, I always eat them raw. Now what should I do? LOL

  • Xandra

    Good points Michelle. I make sure when I’m drinking smoothies to “chew” them in my mouth a bit to get the digestive process started. And they were a lifesaver when I was pregnant and nursing for just the reason you mentioned – I could make nutrient packed high calorie smoothies to help me get so much of what I needed!

  • jen

    Great post, such good advice! I’m so much happier when I’m flexible with my choices and I’ve learned not to give food advice unless specifically asked for it.

  • Kristen

    This is awesome! So important to listen to the body and what it needs. I start with a whole foods plant based diet and then go from there. Made an awesome butter chicken dish last week because I was craving it!

  • giselle gras

    I enjoyed your article Michelle! this what the Bible says about

    freedom and balance; religion binds us, just like being a health junkie, but God says he wants us free so read on…:)

    Romans 14:1-23 ESV Says…

    As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. …

    Galatians 5:1Christ has freed us so that we may enjoy the benefits of freedom. Therefore, be firm [in this freedom], and don’t become slaves again.

  • Goody

    I agree. Balance and moderation is important.

  • Sara

    I really enjoyed this…made me laugh too!!

  • Erica

    Thank you Thank you! I just got out of the hospital with a kidney infection that I believe was due to my eating high oxalate foods, primarily kale. I thought I was flushing with greens. Oh man, what pain. I have so many nay sayers who think I’m crazy for blaming my dark greens but when I compared the other foods I was eating they were all high oxalate. This is something I am adding hugely to my health coaching info. Take it easy on your food theories, right? Great article. Thank you!

  • Marie

    Excellent Post. And all about Balance! Thank you.

  • sandra


  • amylyn78

    Love the thing you said about using food as exerting control in your life, so true and IIN totally helped me understand that WHOLE FOODS and moderation is the best way to be. Ive been every diet under the sun for extended periods of time. Honestly, its not about that. Truly, the best advice? Ditch the processed foods, and eat fresh food. Thats it. Just finished the program today with my final test at IIN and excited to see what the future holds!

    • Michelle Pfennighaus, CHC

      Oh how exciting! Congratulations. Stay in touch and let me know how it goes for you post-graduation!

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