Be a Dietary Detective
If you’re like me, in my adult life, I have followed many diets, food trends and “experts” who have told me what to eat, when to eat, and how much of it to eat. If there were a gimmicky juice cleanse that claimed to increase metabolism or a paleo for vegan’s diet that I hadn’t tried yet, I’d be all over it.
That was then.
That was before I realized that only I am the expert as to what is good for my own body. While I greatly respect physicians, dieticians and nutritionists who know how different foods affect the body and can roughly determine for people what macro and micronutrients we each should have to be healthy and fully nourished, I have realized that most prescribed “diets” are just a simple tweaking of the basic/fat/protein/carb trio in one fashion or another. Low carb, low fat. low this, high that, eat this, don’t eat that. It’s enough to drive anyone crazy and leave one absolutely befuddled and frustrated as to what to eat!
I have learned that each person has bio-individuality (the concept that no one diet works for every person, all the time). And each of us needs to respect our own special nature regarding food. We need to listen more to our own inner expert rather than relying on the outer wisdom of others. It’s dangerous to say that there is one perfect or ideal diet that one should follow. You may find that at some points in your life you need specific types of diets: a cleansing or detoxifying diet when you’ve indulged a lot during the holidays; an optimizing diet, say, if you’re training for a marathon. For some, spicy food rules, for other it creates GERD. For some, dairy is queen and for others it causes major digestive issues. You have different needs when you’re pregnant and when you go through menopause, when you exercise and when you don’t exercise, when you’re getting over a cold and when you are getting over a stomach bug. How can anyone claim to say they have the diet that is best for you, bar-none, without knowing the minutia of each individual person at any particular moment? You’re the expert here!
From an evolutionary perspective it’s absolutely absurd that we would fathom taking whole food groups out of our diet, as in low-carb diets or even some paleo-inspired diets. Can you imagine asking a lion to take out antelope and stick to the leaner zebra for 30 days for optimal health!? How and when have we stopped trusting our own intuition about what our bodies need to be healthy? Is it simply the abundance of choices we have available to us? Or is it perhaps the fact that healthy, organic food from the earth and from healthy animals are less available and oftentimes more expensive? Maybe we just are so stressed and busy that we just want to outsource our eating habits to someone else. That makes sense but it also compounds my belief that we have completely lost touch with inner wisdom. Our bodies are always talking to us – we have just ceased to listen!
We have so many food decisions to make each day. Brian Wansink of the book Mindless Eating suggests American’s make up to 200 food related decisions a day. That is a lot of decisions! Freedom of choice is both a luxury and a curse. We are a choice-loving people, but research also shows we develop decision fatigue easily and when that decision quota is up, we quickly become overwhelmed and make decisions based on what’s easiest…. i.e. fast food, processed foods etc.
Another problem with us being able to tune into inner wisdom is the fact that we are literally addicted to food. How can we possibly make sound food judgments when the chemicals in our favorite processed food keep us in a vicious cycle of binge/restrict, binge/restrict? We know these foods are “bad” for us, yet because it’s a socially acceptable indulgence and widely available, we often end up eating it anyway. When we eat it, the reward centers in our brains light up, releasing dopamine, which activates the cues for wanting more and more and more of it. So what do we do? We go cold turkey – which works only for a short time, until we lose our willpower, binge on said food and begin the cycle yet again.
So, what is the solution to all of this?
Become your own dietary detective.
Learn to slow down when you eat and when you make decisions about eating. Practice mindful eating (attend one of my workshops or lectures on mindfulness-based eating awareness.) See how your body feels and responds to certain foods. What makes you feel nourished? What foods give you energy? Which make you feel fatigued? You are your own expert when it comes to your diet. [bctt tweet=”You no longer need to rely only on the “experts” and diet authors, but on your own blueprint from within.”] You no longer need to rely only on the “experts” and diet authors, but on your own blueprint from within. Once you learn the basics of slowing down, tuning in and experimenting – something magical happens. You instinctively know what and when and how much to eat, just like the lion or tiger does. There is peace and freedom from this place, taking you away from all the clutter of food trends, dietary hype and government-sponsored suggested plates. Yes, it takes time, yes it takes practice and yes you may need support. But shouldn’t the end goal be about you trusting yourself for the needs of your body?
Let me know your thoughts below.
**disclaimer. This article is relevant for the average person without any serious medical or digestive concerns, without serious food allergies or dietary needs that of course would need to be addressed by a health professional.