The global wellness economy is 4.2 trillion dollars, more than half of the 7.3 trillion global health expenditures. My guess, diet is a big factor in wellness spending. With so much money at stake, you will find many people and companies touting the next great thing from vegan to paleo, from bulletproof to omega-3s, from organics to non-GMO, from protein powders to vitamins, corn-fed to grass-fed, raw or cooked, from juicing to intermittent fasting. Each one has a convincing argument why they have the best diet. Almost every food these days is a “superfood”, blueberries used to just be blue berries and kale was kale, now they are both a superfood. This is just scratching the surface of the myriad of diets, supplements and modalities being espoused. Each one of these diets and supplements has “scientific” studies and evidence to support their claims of effectiveness and benefit (until we learn something new), and sometimes they contradict each other. Let’s not forget how much money is saved if product growth is accelerated and spoilage is reduced, thus you have the science and industry of food colorings and preservatives, hormones and chemical fertilizer, all helping the bottom line, NOT our bodies.
I’d like to throw in my own two cents here to help wade through all this as well as to lend some perspective from my 40 years of dietary experimentation in the hopes my perspective will be of some help. Really, I just want to uncomplicate this mess, or simplify. Eating healthy should not take a scientific degree in reading food labels, our food shouldn’t be so messed with, and eating healthfully should not be complicated. The best diet there could ever be for anybody is personal, and this best diet will evolve and change over the years as we learn, evolve and change. Even if you always eat the same things, the amount you eat should shift as your needs and metabolism shifts. There also definitely needs to be experimentation. It’s pretty common that the foods you grew up on don’t necessarily suit you. I had major wheat allergies yet grew up eating wheat, never attributing my digestive issues with organic whole wheat. It took an open mind and a willingness to learn and experiment. This is necessary.
Regardless of your dietary preferences, Paleo or Vegan preferences or your Non-Fat or Saturated Fat preferences or your gluten-free status or the myriad of other choices, I have found three essentials to diet invaluable, and if you can stick with these three things, diet should never again be an issue, barring any medical issues. These three things are 1) quantity of food, 2) quality of food and 3) variety of food. After you have these 3 things, eat whatever you want. Let’s have a look at these in more detail.
1) Quantity of food ingested: This is huge factor in diet, as it relates to health. The body is the absolutely most amazing machine ever built. If not overburdened, it can metabolize and digest most any food product you put into it. Whatever value a food has in it, the body will get it. Yet overeat, and the body is helpless. Due to evolution, the body is way better handling less food than too much food, which is why fasting and intermittent fasting has always been and still becoming a health aid. One by-product of calorie restriction is a lighter body, which moves easier with less energy expenditure and fewer burdens on the heart and other organs, as well as fewer burdens on the skeleton, which means less wear and tear. Which adds up to not only a longer life, as we will get into, but also a physically more comfortable life, meaning less structural discomfort or pain. Studies have already shown that rats and monkeys put on a calorie-restricted diet live 30% longer with 80% less age-related disease. Basically, that says it all. So experiment with reducing your portion size and possibly reduce the quantity of meals in a day, and lastly, keep your hand out of the cookie jar. Snacking, 9 times out of 10, is completely unnecessary calories. Research fasting and intermittent fasting and see how you feel about that as well.
2) Food quality is not only important for you but also for the planet. Science has a tendency of making things easier yet not necessarily better. Convenience and health are sometimes polar opposites. Chemicals and preservation techniques save money, which can contribute to a corporation’s enrichment and bottom line, yet they detract from the environment, wildlife and most all life that comes into contact with these fungicides, pesticides, herbicides, preservatives, colorings, additives, hormones and processing, including our own life (nitrates cause cancer in labatory animals, why you putting that in my food?). Now with the genetic modification of food (GMO), cloning of animals, we are entering the realm unknown. Lets stay in the realm of the known, nutrient dense whole foods that have not been compromised by convenience and corporate interest. This means minimally processed organic produce, pasture and humanely raised additive-free poultry, meats and dairy, wild-caught fish and products like ice cream or cake or anything that’s made up of these things. The interest in all this is so high that finding this type of simple clean food is getting easier than ever.
3) Variety of food means just that. Meats (if you like animal protein and fats), dairy, veggies in lots of colors, grains (if you’re into them), fruits, beans, seeds and nuts. Even if culturally you eat a certain type of kitchen like Indian food or Mexican food or Thai food, eat a variety of dishes. This way, your body has the ability to draw what it needs from your diet. Truth is, the body is a creature of habit and thrives within consistency. So eating a certain kitchen at similar times is very helpful (just eat a variety of foods).
Obviously all this is easier said than done. Food addictions along with family meal habits and cultural customs may interfere with personal needs. What about emotional eating? Could you imagine dealing with emotional issues instead of burying them in food? Nobody said this would be easy, especially without cultural support. If I’m not mistaken, USA leads the world in obesity. Cultural gluttony is the norm. It might not be easy for you and the people around you, as you stand out and make a healthy shift. Yet there needs to be a paradigm of self-care and personal choice, and the people around you would benefit from seeing that paradigm, even though initially it may be difficult (misery loves company). If you are not willing to lead the way who is? Yogis, did you know sacrifice and self-restraint are synonymous with yoga practice? Maybe you need some support in this type of shift? This is what our classes are meant for (and much more). Yes, the yoga class’s highest purpose is to empower the practitioner in all their life choices, by developing awareness. All these qualities go a long way in the world of diet.
Something happens when you start to take care of yourself, you start to feel good, and that alone inspires us to keep going. Make a move!