Post by Contributing Writer, Beth
The amount of information on the natural living lifestyle can be overwhelming. It can be really difficult to sort through what to change, when to change it, and why. Here are a few first steps that I think are important, and will serve you well as you embark on the journey toward a healthier and more natural life.
1. Have the Desire.
The very first thing required for a journey into natural living is a sincere desire for change. It sounds kind of obvious, but don’t spend all kinds of extra money on natural body care products unless you actually care about intentionally avoiding the chemicals that are in conventional ones.
Don’t buy expensive healthy ingredients if they’re only going to sit in the pantry for a year. It’s pointless to try and senselessly jump on the bandwagon only to fall off later and feel guilty about it!
2. Baby Steps.
If you have the desire to move toward a more natural mindset and lifestyle, then go easy on yourself and take baby steps. Don’t rush to your pantry and throw every single thing away and then panic and wonder what the heck to make for dinner.
Perhaps you could start with making homemade cleaners instead of the conventional ones that are full of harmful chemicals. Or try out a shampoo that is free of SLS and Parabens. Maybe you could even just start out by choosing one item in your pantry to make healthy and homemade instead of buying the unhealthy version (like chicken stock – which is one of the most nutrient-dense good-for-you things you could possibly serve your family, not to mention so frugal!).
3. Become an Avid Label Reader.
Learn to check the ingredient list of every product you buy, and learn what the ingredients are and what they do. Be conscious of what you are putting on or in your body. You will be surprised at first just how much junk is hidden in products that we supposed to believe are safe.
Did you know that peanut butter often contains extremely high amounts of sugar? And that most conventional shampoos contain a carcinogenic chemical called Sodium Laurel Sulfate? Read labels… or better yet buy things that don’t require a label (think produce, meat, etc), or make your own!
4. Be Informed.
Of course no one can assimilate all of the information out there, especially when it continues to expand and change so quickly. Don’t worry about knowing it all, just focus on reading and learning little bits as you are able.
Choose a few blogs to subscribe to (may I suggest Frugal Granola and Red & Honey as good places to start! ;)), read a few books, and commit to being a learner. A few key things to check out to start would be the EWG database and the Dirty Dozen list, and for nutrition, check out WAPF.
5. Have Healthy Treats on Reserve.
If you are trying to eat better (cutting out sugar/grains/processed foods or whatever it may be), then I would highly advise having a plan for when those cravings hit. For example, this recipe for chocolate coconut macaroons is pretty much as healthy as it gets… they are even GAPS legal, with no grains, no dairy, no refined sugars… and yet they are one of my most popular recipes among my friends.
6. Don’t Take it Too Seriously.
This will depend on your own convictions and it will look different for each person. In general though, I would advise that you don’t let your new knowledge and lifestyle be more important than relationships.
Many of the strictest real foodies I know will say that the 80/20 rule is ok: If 80% of what you ingest is super healthy, then an occasional indulgence (like on special occasions, etc) should not be a big deal. That is assuming, of course, that your 80% really is actually healthy, and not just “pseudo-healthy” (like the Food Pyramid and other misleading “resources”).
Embracing a natural and healthy lifestyle and diet is a continual journey. It can be difficult at times, but if you stay on the course, you will not regret it!
What is your number one tip for a beginner who is learning about natural living?
Beth is a natural redhead, wife to a pilot husband and mama to (almost) 3 little ones. She is passionate about missions, motherhood, and finding the beauty in everyday life. She blogs from the Canadian prairies about the art and soul of audacious homemaking at Red & Honey.