Too much information
There seems to be an infinite number of ways to “diet” in today’s world. You have paleo dieting, macro dieting, calorie restrictive dieting, high protein dieting, high fat dieting, low carb dieting, and so on. Everywhere you look there is conflicting advice on which foods to eat to achieve your fatloss or musclebuilding goals. There appears to be no consensus among humanity as to how you should structure your eating, and which foods you should eat at all. To make it even more confusing, every day a new university study on a nutrient will outright contradict a former one. Almost every seemingly healthy food on the planet has been demonized at some point in history. This happens so frequently, I’m surprised we can find anything left to eat! Let’s take a look at one diet trend that is popular among the fitness crowd today. Then I will provide my take on a better and more progressive way to eat.
Reducing food to numbers.
Basing your food consumption on artificial systems of measurement might be confusing you more than it is helping. Humans simply love to assign a numbers to things. Ever since our little monkey brains developed the ability to count we have weighed, measured, and applied complex formulas to the food we eat. This extremely left-brained approach to eating food, has become the norm. Everything is categorized into a “macro” (a macronutrient) and assigned a “calorie.” I think it is important to know what a calorie even is. Did you know that a calorie is the energy required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water through 1 degree Celsius? Though it can be used as a reference point as to how much energy you could gain from your food, it is far from perfect. For example, 100 calories of Coca Cola is radically different than 100 calories of kale salad. While processed sugar is called a carbohydrate so is a leafy green vegetable. In sum, you may find you can religiously follow a specific set of calorie or macro total goals. But are you nourished? It is still imperative for your health that you consider what particular food you are eating. Use the calorie/macro total as a source of information but not as a strict guide. Furthermore, the more processing your food undergoes typically the more it is often stripped of nutrients, the more preservatives are added, and the greater likelihood it will cause health problems. So while it is useful to know what food provides the most or least energy, remember that using a math equation will never tell the whole story.
With all the conflicting advice on how to eat in the world today, it appears there is only one way to truly navigate the onslaught of dietary advice. That way is through a strategy that I call “intuitive eating.” There is probably no known scientific method to design a diet built around human intuition. It just isn’t quantifiable. Furthermore, it is uniquely specific to an individual at a particular stage in his or her life. By eating this way, the person can let his or her own internal guidance system point in the direction of what foods to eat. The body will always indicate to a person what increases vitality, and what does not. The only necessary ingredient is that people actually get in touch with their biological systems. Most of humanity is suffering from a severe disconnect with our bodies. We are constantly distracted by entertainment, gadgets and work to realise what it feels like to eat. We need to sit and FEEL what is going on when we consume a particular food or eat a certain way. Whether it be positive or negative, it is imperative we sit and just allow it. Only then can we recognize how sugar is attacking the body. Only then can we tell how plant based foods increase our energy and enhance the body’s cells. The body is constantly sending its warning signs, even if we aren’t paying attention. It’s time we tuned in.
So how does one use an internal guidance system to intuitively eat? First you must first dedicate your life to feeling good. If you are emotionally and physically starved, you will gravitate toward foods that temporarily fill that void. Once you stabilize your body and energy levels through physical and emotional nourishment, your cravings, your addictions to low quality processed food will typically disappear. If you gravitate towards sugary, processed or fast foods the idea is first to allow it to occur. Understand what you are seeking from it. Secondly and without judgement, notice how you feel before, during, and after the consumption of that food. Witness what happens to your mood. Thirdly, instead of using your left-brain to count how many calories or grams of this and that are in your meal, use it for this: Build a mental database of the foods that made you feel fantastic and sustainably nourished. Discard those that merely filled an emptiness, created a high-low effect, or those that your body just reacted negatively to. After a short while of moving in the direction of foods that feel good to eat, your body will tell you in many ways what you need more of. Your skin might clear up, your energy may increase, you may become a happier person, your illnesses may even heal. Give it some credit. Let your body, which is an intelligent and magnificent system, guide you intuitively towards the right foods for you.