The Absurdity of Proper Diet
The global wellness economy is 4.2 trillion dollars, more than half of the 7.3 trillion global health expenditures. My guess is that 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, bulletproof to omega-3s, organic to non-GMO, protein powders to vitamins, corn-fed to grass-fed, raw or cooked, and from juicing to intermittent fasting. Each one has a convincing argument as to why they have the best diet. Almost every food these days is a “superfood”. Blueberries used to just be blueberries 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 benefits (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 of 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 and 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 diet will evolve and change over the years as we ourselves learn, evolve, and change. Even if you always eat the same things, the amount you eat should shift as your needs and metabolism shift. There also 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, Non-Fat or Saturated Fat, or your gluten-free status or the myriad of other choices) I have found three dietary essentials invaluable. If you can stick with these three things, diet should never again be an issue, barring any medical issues. These three things are quantity of food, quality of food, and variety of food. After you have these 3 things, eat whatever you want. Let’s have a look at these in more detail.
- Quantity of Food Ingested: This is a huge factor in diet, as it relates to health. The body is the most amazing machine ever built. If not overburdened, it can metabolize and digest almost any food product you put into it. Whatever value a food has in it, the body will get it. But if you overeat, the body becomes helpless. Due to evolution, the body is better at handling less food than too much food, which is why fasting and intermittent fasting have always been and still are becoming an aid to health. One byproduct of calorie restriction is a lighter body. A lighter body 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. This adds up to not only longer life, as we will get into, but also a physically more comfortable life (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 number of meals in a day, and lastly, keep your hand out of the cookie jar. 9 times out of 10, snacking equates to completely unnecessary calories. Research fasting and intermittent fasting and see how you feel about that.
- 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 lives. Nitrates cause cancer in laboratory animals; why are you putting that in my food? Now, with the genetic modification of food (GMO) and cloning of animals, we are entering the realm of the unknown. Let's 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, cake, or anything that’s made up of these things. The interest in all this is so high that finding simple, clean food is getting easier than ever.
- A variety of food means just that. Meats (if you like animal protein and fats), dairy, colorful veggies, grains (if you’re into them), fruits, beans, seeds, and nuts. Even if culturally you eat a certain type of kitchen like Indian, Mexican, 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 of 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, the 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 of 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 you to keep going. Make a move!