One does not fit all
With so many dietary theories out there, and all their conflicting books, programs, guidelines, and recommendations, it's no wonder people get confused about what they should be eating. So, how do you tackle the minefield of what you should be eating?
Here is my approach:
- Eat real food
- Listen to your body telling you which real foods best nourish it
Two simple points (although I am well aware that implementing them can be a bit complex in the modern-day world) and here is my thinking and experiences behind them.
Why do so many dietary theories exist?
The simple answer: we are all different! No two bodies are the same and what makes one person feel bright and refreshed can make another dull and nauseous. For example, eating red meat may make one person feel energised and regenerated, and another, completely lethargic. I've personally tried many dietary theories on for size. At 16-years-old I went gluten-free, as I had been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease. This change in my diet was necessarily permanent and completely remarkable for me. I had never felt so well in my life. I dabbled in the Raw Vegan diet for a while, after having very positive results with it helping me to recover from giardia quickly. However, eating raw vegan food for long stretches of time over-stressed my digestive system. Raw food can be hard to digest, and in winter I felt myself needing more warming foods. I tried the Paleo diet for over a year, in an attempt to get on top of degenerative joint issues, which worked really well, made my head feel clearer, and stopped me feeling constantly hungry all the time. I've also used Ayurveda guidelines for eating and lifestyle with positive results. Now, I use a bit of a mix of all these theories and some other bits I’ve figured out on my own. However, these are my experiences, and my experiences won’t necessarily be your experiences with trying the same diets. Some of the more negative experiences I had were around calorie-counting, low-fat, and highly-processed meal replacement approaches which I would never go near again. The highly-processed carbohydrate content and low- and often highly-processed fats inflamed my joints, made me hungry all the time, and left my head feeling foggy. So, for me and I suspect for most people, there isn’t one perfect dietary theory out there, and while I have taken inspiration from parts of them, I now take a different approach.
What is Real Food?
When trying to figure out what food is best for you to eat there is one general guideline I believe is beneficial to everyone: EAT REAL FOOD. Real food comes from nature, like fruit, vegetables, herbs, nuts, and seeds, in their whole form, grown on trees, bushes, vines or in the ground. Preferably it is going to have been organically grown, local, and in-season too. It could also include free-range meats, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy if these nourish your body and make you feel good. Real food is not food-like products, highly-processed, packaged, with a list of ingredients and additives you don't recognise and that your body in-turn does not recognise when it is trying to digest them. We've evolved eating real food, and our bodies know how to recognise and use real food for their nourishment. This in itself is a big topic and over the coming months I’ll talk more specifically on it and easy ways to include it in your diet, but basically, real food is from nature and easily identified as such.
Listening to your body
Not ALL real foods and methods of preparing food are right for everyone. As I said above, for some people meat is beneficial, and for others it isn’t. For some people eating a lot of raw vegetables makes them feel great and for others they may benefit more from having their vegetables mostly cooked. Also, our body’s needs change with time, circumstance, and seasons. So, an extremely beneficial skill to develop is learning how to listen to your body. Your body is telling you what it likes and doesn't like all the time. However, many people are completely tuned out to these messages and ignore everything their body is trying to tell them. Sometimes, the body will then have no choice but to scream in the form of disease or severe discomfort which can no longer be ignored. So, after you eat something get into the habit of asking yourself: how do I feel after eating what I just ate? Notice, make note, and learn. Getting into this simple habit can be very beneficial in getting to the bottom of what food is good for YOU.
- Eat Real Food – food direct from nature
- Listen to your body
- Start simply - do I feel good or bad after eating this?
- Go a bit deeper - how do I feel after eating this? Describe the effect beyond good or bad e.g. clear-headed, dull, brighter, lighter, sleepy, congested, happy