Diet – One Size Does NOT Fit All
Ever notice all of the dietary trends we cycle through? Notice that when someone is endorsing a particular diet, it is generally done at the expense of other dietary practices? And many of these ‘authorities’ would have you believe the diet they are peddling is ‘the only way’ to achieve ‘fill in the blank.’ Why shouldn’t you believe them? They are properly credentialed after all. ’Authorities’ in fact.
My biggest peeve around all of it is the lack of personal consideration. I get it. Much of the data rolls down on blogs, in books, etc., and those authors, writers, nutritionists, etc., are attempting to convey broad concepts and practices to the masses. So how do you ‘get personal’ when the concepts are written for masses and each person is a snowflake (no two are the same)? Diet is one of the most crucial lynch pins causing health or lack of it. And it should be chosen carefully, built around your body’s needs and fully consider any extenuating factors affecting your body.
And hell, why should you take stock in what I say??? While I do not have a host of initials after my name (in fact, not even one set of them), what I do have is over 30 years of practical application of and experimentation with nutrition, diets, herbs, herbal remedy production, fitness, injury rehab, etc., as opposed to book learning and theory. The cool part: my hope is to only influence broader and more critical thinking when it comes to selecting dietary practices. This is a very large topic. The thoughts I’m sharing really only scratch the tip of a very large iceberg. (And Danger Will Robinson, this is a bit of a tome . . . good thing there are pretty pictures!) The purpose is not for you to become an expert, but rather, to start applying some simple critical thinking to how you approach eating. So let’s dig in.
But before we pull that trigger, I’ll share a few thoughts on what I consider healthful dietary practices. Regarding diet, I’m agnostic, save the thoughts below. Diets are like tools and tools need to be well chosen. You wouldn’t use a screwdriver to drive a nail, right?
• A diet which consists mostly of organic, whole, unprocessed food is THE way to excellent health whether meat eater, vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, fruitarian, etc. My only vote is for quality food no matter your discipline. … less labels to read!
• Food should be our medicine. After all, many common food items have amazing healing properties. It does take knowledge and learning to apply them therapeutically.
• The very best authority on any body is the owner of that body. Can we all use an outside opinion at times? Most certainly! But YOU are still your own authority.
• Just because your food comes from a ‘health food store’, doesn’t mean it’s ‘good for you’. I’ve found many items in the most well known health food stores (YES, I’m talking about Whole Foods) that are produced no better than stuff you’d find at a more traditional grocery store.
• A diet built upon a preponderance of convenience foods (pre-packaged meals, fast foods, processed meats, processed cereals, grains, protein powders and such) is not the best choice if you want to grow through your life with grace and vitality.
• Health mysteries are not solved by stomping on symptoms (generally, traditional western medical thinking), but rather by carefully determining what is causing those symptoms. And we need to be alert that we are not employing alternative healing modalities/practices with a similar rationale.
• The greatest, most valuable resource you have is your body. Any aspects of life can become impossible without a well functioning, robust form.
Most commonly, the holy grail in the choice of a dietary practice is losing weight. If you have a hard time dropping weight for an extended period of time, weight loss should NOT be your goal. In my experience, people who have been struggling to lose weight over time need to be focusing on what X Factor is overwhelming the body and causing persistent and perhaps continued weight gain. Many times that X Factor is the very dietary practices being utilized. When the inner terrain of the body is somewhat correct (that means it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to not be overwhelmed), the lose of weight happens speedily and with a modicum of ease.
There are several facets that influence a body’s ability to lose weight:
• Consumption of foods that don’t ‘agree’ with your body in particular. Calories don’t matter here. If you’re eating foods that do not agree with your body, your body will carry excess weight even if those foods are discriminatingly well produced. fresh, whole, organic and even if your caloric intake is low. It’s very common to unknowingly ingest foods that do not agree with one’s body. Hence, when coming to diet, one size does not fit all;
• Dietary restrictions because of negative food reactions that you did not have when younger (excellent symptom of an overtaxed immune system);
• Any metabolic and/or glandular system issues. While not always the case, some of these issues can be identified literally by using the eyes – is your weight gain around the belly button/center of the body; is the skin directly under your eyes darker in the afternoon than the morning or do you have perpetual dark ares under the eyes;
• Allergies are very commonly the body’s warning sign the immune system is not fairing well;
• Compromised digestion. If your digestive tract is challenged in extracting nutrients from your food, your immune system’s ability to function is also compromised.
• Under or non-functional glands / removed organs (this doesn’t mean you can’t lose weight, but needs to be considered in the overall picture of dietary practice);
• An over taxed immune system (which is generally present if any of the above exist);
• Other pre-existing health conditions (some of these may in fact be fallout from an over taxed immune system … are you getting how important a robust immune system is?);
• Many common diseases. While those diseases are getting diagnosed/given a label, the diagnosis itself may not be an answer, but rather, a symptom of a larger picture affecting the body.
Once the body is returned to a greater state of balance, weight loss will generally happen swiftly and without extraordinary effort save the discipline of choosing well. And the most important point here is this: before you decide to try the next diet to drop those pounds you’re wanting to lose, the best picture to bring into sharp focus is whether or not your body is well positioned to lose weight. In which case, the mystery to solve is what is persistently overwhelming your body to the point where the body requires excess weight. And yes, I used the word require there. There are several states of imbalance in the body which require the body to hold excess water (weight that looks like fat) to protect the entirety of the body system at large from a larger threat to overall health. So the body, which is infinitely wise, can in some instances, use excess weight as a tool for protecting the whole ecosystem.
I have witnessed on many occasions, ‘health professionals’ chastise their clients, who have been attempting to lose weight and failing, for not having the correct discipline to stay the course. THAT pisses me off for so many reasons too numerous to include here, but percolate upon these: they’re not even considering whether or not their client has an underlying health issue; curiosity as to what or if something is ailing the person is non-existent because they are so grossly uneducated in practical application of diets they can only correlate weight to the number of calories consumed (fantastically false!). This type of thinking is so limited in its scope, not much in the way of long term results, or robust health can ever be achieved.
Who doesn’t want be healthier, right? As a world society, we’ve not even begun to tap the potential of health available to us. We have firmly ingrained ideas on what happens to the body once age is applied. Transparent ideas abound as well as ready acceptance on the subject of aging and most are patently erroneous. I’m sure you’ve all encountered that very elderly person who is still a whirling dervish physically and sharp as a tack mentally. While luck and genes do play a part, the largest part of that equation is overall health. Don’t lose site of the fact that there is literally less nutrition in our food, than say, 30-40 years ago, even if that food is organic. The proliferation of chemical use the globe over, the state of the environment overall … we are taking in colorless, odorless, tasteless, virtually invisible toxins on a daily that do collectively “add up” and cause heath issues. So if you’re getting up in age, and you’re chalking many of your minor or major issues up to age, I would encourage you to look more deeply at the holistic picture that has been visited upon your body during the course of your life.
And of course, those poor animals should not be suffering because we need flesh to eat. Another very meritorious reason for altering a diet, though it is not (yes, I said NOT) the best choice for all bodies. I have a great respect for this lifestyle choice and for some, it is the most perfect choice. Some bodies actually have more need of protein than others and those specific bodies will not flourish on a vegetarian diet easily. Those absolutely fixed on being a vegetarian even though their bodies may not be well poised for the diet, do have some options (not outlined here, but covered briefly here near the end of the article) that will assist the body in managing well. And no, I do not think eating pounds of spinach and kale for added protein are the remedy.
I can’t help but mention those people who point out, “The gorilla is vegetarian and literally the strongest bipedal form on the planet. If they can build all that strength and muscle eating only plants, then humans should too.” While the basic concept seems very reasonable on its surface, the logic completely throws out the window some of the most basic principals of biology and life: I’m pretty certain packs of gorillas don’t have bunsen burners, pots, pans and the use of fire yet. In other words, 100% of a wild gorilla’s diet is raw as compared to a standard human diet which is largely cooked. While we are genetically very close to the primates, the gorilla’s digestive tract is perfectly suited to breaking down cellulose, a task for which the human digestive tract is completely incapable. And most people skip right over the fact that gorillas do eat insects – a very dense form of protein, and not plant based!
More on the digestive tract track: others marvel at the cow, who builds massive muscle and strength eating only grass. Cows have five, count them, FIVE stomachs. Those 5 stomachs are for breaking down all that cellulose. Last time I checked, humans had but one stomach. A goat’s digestive system is designed to eat round the clock; a snake’s digestive tract is best suited having food only once a month. If you starve a goat for a very small number of days, the goat will die. If you feed a snake once a week, that bugger will be dead in a month. The point: no matter the quality of the food in your diet, if you do not respect the biology of the beast you’re feeding, the results can be detrimental.
After you have the goal of what you wish to achieve with your diet, the next question to answer is whether your body in specific is well suited to a particular diet. The answer to this question can be a bit obscured. Foods that agree with your body will leave you feeling well energized, balanced as well as sated. Bodies are generally fairly transparent in demonstrating when consumed foods proffer not great results. If you are interesting in eliminating foods that may not be in agreement with your form, begin observing what happens after eating. Note if you feel tired, have a runny nose, have digestive difficulty (which may manifest as heartburn, gas or difficulty in elimination of hard waste), clear your throat repeatedly, etc. The difficulty: we tend to eat several types of food in one meal. So you will have a process to go through to single out the offending foods. Some ‘un-agreeable’ foods are harder to identify as the fallout does not show up immediately or within 2-3 hours. Identifying these culprits will take on a different form of experimentation: remove something from your diet for 3-4 weeks, then consume a very good portion of that food by itself. Once the body has had time to adapt to the absence of an offending food, the reaction to consumption of it will be louder and more easily observable.
What will be interesting to learn in these experiments will be the number of ‘healthful’ foods that may not be ‘healthful’ to you in specific. Diets are great, but no single diet is built for every soul on the planet. Begin by learning what is harmonious with your inner terrain, and you’ll begin to master which diet is correct for you. You are unique and your diet should be also unique to you.
REPOSTED from AGENDA Holiday Print Issue #9, available here.