Today I am a healthy, happy and confident woman but I must admit the path to getting to this person wasn’t always an easy one. I had to overcome years of obsessing about my weight, calories and the all evil carbs. These struggles lead me to plenty of body image issues, low confidence and severe anxiety.
I was a master of “yo-yo dieting”, but who could blame me. It seemed every week a new fad diet or extreme weight loss book came out. The media claimed “This is it! The diet that actually works!”. I would read through the book as quickly as I could, sometimes in even just one day. By the end of the book, I knew… I knew this was what I had been searching for. I related to every word the author wrote and it all made sense!
Or so I thought…
Most of us have been on a diet at one time or another. Remember dwelling on your list of good and bad foods? Think back to the first day, the day you committed to following the restrictive guidelines. You felt excited, hopeful and could almost feel yourself thinner and happier. Fast forward a few days or maybe a few weeks, by which point you were finding your new diet was leaving you weak and fatigued. This way of eating, you realized, was unsustainable. Feelings of anger, failure and disappointment, and the all consuming guilt set in, and you fell back into your old ways. After quitting the diet, you inevitably gained the weight back (if you had even lost any), and maybe even gained additional weight. After all was said and done, you ended up feeling worse (both emotionally and physically) than when you started.
This was me – for about 6 years. Out of desperation and feeling lost, I decided to learn the basic fundamentals of nutrition. I wanted to, for once and for all, figure out which way of eating was the answer. I studied over 100 dietary theories – and tried at least half of them! What is the one thing I’ve learned?
No one way of eating is right for everyone.
Nutrition is a crazy science. You could scientifically prove two opposing nutritional theories and still be right. We are continuously learning more and more about nutrition each day. We are just beginning to understand the correlation between food and our overall health. The media is flooded with nutrition experts and new diet books are being published constantly, yet it seems that we are more confused about what to actually eat then ever before.
There was a time when no one told us what to eat. We relied on our bodies and our natural environment. On a pragmatic level, we relied mainly on local and seasonal foods. On a more intuitive level, our diets were also bound by traditional knowledge and cultural wisdom. As Michael Pollan mentions in his recent article, “Rules to Eat By”:
“We relied on culture, which is another way of saying: on the accumulated wisdom of the tribe. All of us carry around rules of thumb about eating that have been passed down in our families or plucked from the cultural conversation. Think of this body of food knowledge as samizdat nutrition: an informal, unsanctioned way of negotiating our eating lives that becomes indispensable at a time when official modes of talking about food have suffered a serious loss of credibility.”
I believe that the media and publishing industry are ignoring the role of the individual in diet. The most common and mainstream dietary guidelines contain little reference to age, constitution, gender, ancestry, lifestyle, activity level, and even intuition. Unfortunately the truth about diet and nutrition usually lies in these subtle details. The fact is, a diet that makes you feel the best could make your friend feel lethargic. Take dairy for example. For some it causes congestion, mucus and digestive discomfort. For others, without high quality dairy products in their diet, they constantly feel fatigued and weakened. Sure, other factors come into play such as your emotional relationships, career and spirituality (but we will save that for a later post!) We still know, when it comes to our diets, there is no one size fits all.
Remember being healthy is not that complicated. Your body knows what to eat. Listen to your body, not your brain. Eat what feels right for you at that very moment. Experiment, get back into the kitchen, have an open mind, and most importantly get to know your body. Everything else will fall into place.