I am going to bet good money that you have been told at some point in your life that you are a unique and special individual, that there is no one else just like you. It’s a message that we hear a lot, we’re all individuals and we should embrace our own quirks and personalities. I think it’s a good message and I’m not writing today to bash sentiment, but rather extend it to other parts of our life, mainly eating (go figure).
It’s no secret that my big mantra for healthy eating/living is what works for me might not work for you. I have talked about it before, but more and more I think it is a message that we need to hear again. It seems that every day a new study comes out touting that a new diet is THE way to eat. More recently the Mediterranean diet has been in the news and folks are jumping on that eating bandwagon. I’ve fallen victim to diet hype many times, so I know how tempting it can be to start a new diet craze. We get drawn in by the people who have had amazing results (lost weight, have more energy, can do 1,00 push-ups in a minute etc.), the scientific studies proving that this diet is effective, and the doctors/nutritionist/celebrities representing the diet. Marketing people know how to parade their product/idea to get consumers to buy, that’s their job.
I’m not here to bash these diets either, although there are some fairly terrible ones out there that no one should touch with a ten-foot pole (cabbage soup diet anyone?). In fact I believe that these diets can be successful, but not for every single person. There is no possible way that one diet can meet the needs of the billions of people on this planet, and you know what? That is totally ok! For some reason, people tend to think that if everyone else is eating a certain way, they need to do that too. Take gluten-free diets. The number of people who have Celiac’s Disease (meaning they literally can NOT have any form of gluten) is about 1.8 million, with 1.4 million people out there undiagnosed. The number of people who are following a gluten-free diet? 1.6 million. Gluten-free has become a fad diet that people think will make them healthier, but there are a good number of people out there who have no need to follow a gluten free diet. It can actually cause them more harm than good, mainly because their body doesn’t NEED to avoid gluten.
What we really need to start pushing in terms of healthy eating and living is that it is a unique journey. Just like you yourself are a special individual, your body is a special individual as well. For me, I do well and thrive on a diet of whole fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and no processed food, preservatives, chemicals, gluten or dairy. Through trial and error I have found a way of eating that give my body the nutrients it needs to perform well. I would never say that every single person needs to eat the way that I do though. Case in point: My parents came over for dinner last weekend and I made sloppy joes with lentils instead of meat. Now my father is a meat eater, always has been. I think that if possible he would just munch on cow all day every day. That is fine and that is what works for him. He was receptive to my vegan sloppy joes and even said they tasted great, but they did not agree with him later on. He has a digestive system that thrives on eating meat and feels his best eating that way.
What do you do though to find your happy diet? Try. Yes, this seems like really stupid advice, but it’s the best way to find what will work. My best suggestion would be to do some research on a few different diets that interest you. Say you feel drawn to eating less meat, look into vegan and/or vegetarian diets. Once you have educated yourself on the basic principles of whatever eating lifestyle, start implementing those into your diet. When you have been eating a certain way for awhile, assess your health. How do you feel? Do you notice improvements in your life like more energy, better skin, healthier bowel movements (of course I am going to mention poop!)? Or do you feel the same or worse than before? If you feel better continue eating that way, and if not start the process over again or make some adjustments. I want to stress though how important it is to stick with a certain diet for a good amount of time before switching. You won’t be able to really assess your health after only a week of eating a new way. It could take up to a few months to really start seeing the benefits. Give your body some time to adjust and then evaluate your situation. Yes, this can be a long process and may seem tedious, but your health is worth it in the end.
Now bear in mind, I am not giving you license to justify junk eating by saying this is the diet that allows you to thrive. I still believe that eating whole and real foods like fresh vegetables and grass-fed humanely raised meat are much better for everyone than processed or packaged food. My main point is that we need to stop worrying about what our friends and neighbors are eating and start focusing more on what makes us feel great. For some that might be a mostly Paleo diet, others might do well on a vegetarian or vegan diet, still others might thrive eating gluten-free. It’s all about finding your perfect balance and not being nervous to step outside of the diet of the moment. I understand it can be difficult for some of us to go against the grain, I still get a little anxious about listing all of the things I don’t eat. I worry that I will be a hassle to others or they might think I’m just trying to get attention or that I am not eating the right way. But the longer I have eaten this way and been more open about it, I’ve realized I value the amazing way I feel rather than what others think about my eating habits. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what makes you feel the healthiest, because in the end that is what matters the most!
In other news, my little sister graduated from Valparaiso yesterday! I am so proud of all she has accomplished and can’t wait to see what she will do next! Congratulations to all graduates out there!