(Me and my big brother enjoying good food and good company at a Farm to Table dinner)
By Nancy Smorch
Should you switch to a raw foods diet?
How about Paleo?
Maybe gluten free?
Or vegetarian? Or maybe one step further - vegan?
What about macrobiotic, Ayurvedic, or juicing?
There are soooo many dietary theories out there these days, and tons of people that are passionate and vocal for all of them. Trying to figure out which way of eating is best can really be confusing!
Why is it like this? I don’t imagine early American settlers were sitting around a fire (or maybe in a tavern) debating the merits of one diet over another.
But today, friendships are abandoned and relationships are torn apart due to a difference in food preferences. Have we gone a little too far???
My answer to that is a resounding YES!
Not so much in that we experiment with different foods, or enjoy a certain way of eating and how it makes us feel. But I do think our lack of tolerance for others’ preferences needs to be reevaluated.
Sometimes we just need to agree to disagree. And that’s OK.
But why are there so many different ways of eating, and which one IS the right way? That’s a tough question. Let’s dive in a bit here.
There are so many variables that come into play with food and the human body.
First of all, let’s look at the human body. Every single person is unique in terms of their DNA, their biochemistry, their emotions, their environment, their blood type. So, even though one person is doing fine on a vegan diet, another person, for various reasons, may need nutrients or nourishment that would be difficult for them to get on a vegan diet.
Also, our bodies are changing all of the time. So what works for you this week, may not work for you next week, next month, or next year.
When you’re looking at the foods in the various diets, quality is obviously pretty important. One person on a vegan diet may be doing just fine, but another person on a vegan diet may be having various health issues. If you looked more closely at exactly what foods each person was eating, you may find that one of them is eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, while the other is hardly getting any fresh vegetables and fruit, but is eating mostly processed vegan foods, void of nutrients and full of artificial "stuff."
And then there is the person that just plain eats like crap and is perfectly healthy and has lived a long and prosperous life. Then you see a person who is meticulous about eating all the healthy foods and who makes sure everything they eat is organic and that they are getting a variety of nutrients in their diet, yet they look sick, are low energy, and don’t have a spark in their eye.
What’s up with that? I’ll tell you what’s up. Our emotions play a crucial role in our overall health. You can eat all the healthy foods you want, but if you are miserable or feeling unfulfilled in various areas of your life, or worse yet, are stressed about eating right, it’s going to affect your health!
Add to this that the quality of food today, in general, is terrible. With GMOs, chemical-laden produce, antibiotic and hormone-packed meats... imagine what all of these are doing to the millions of biochemical processes that occur in our bodies. Much damage has for sure been done, and the repair usually isn’t as easy as popping a pill!
I totally get how confusing this can all be! I’ll read stories of those who have had major health problems, and when nothing else has helped, switching to a Paleo diet, has dramatically improved their overall health and life. Then I’ll read similar testimonials of those who have become vegetarian and juice regularly, and the various health issues they had have miraculously disappeared. There’s definitely no shortage of stories and strategies and diets and supplements that have lead to healthier bodies and minds.
So what is one to do?
First, tune into your own body. Notice how you feel when you eat different foods. Listen to your instincts. If you feel you need to eliminate a food, try it for a while and make note of any changes. If you feel you need to add something, listen and add it in and, again, notice how you feel. No one should know your body better than you, but this means that you have to pay attention to your body - don’t totally leave it to the care of others! Partner with trusted experts, physicians, alternative healers, therapists. But don’t give away your power.
Second, accept others’ way of being with food. Understand that what works for you may not work for them. And the flip side of that is to understand that just because your best friend is eating a certain way, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should eat that way too.
Third, enjoy life! Let yourself feel all of the emotions that life sends your way. Process them. Learn from them. Let them go, and then move on. Let yourself be happy. Laugh a lot. Share yourself with others and allow others to share themselves with you.
Finally, enjoy good food!!!! Don’t deprive yourself of what nature has so perfectly created. Allow yourself to be creative with food. Cook more and invite those you love and those you want to know better to share in food with you. The nourishment you’ll get from these kinds of connections is almost as important as the nourishment from the food itself.
Life is a journey, and so is our relationship with food. May we all be so fortunate as to allow it to take us to a happy and peaceful place.