I spent a long time focusing on diet a lot.
At the moment – perhaps because I’m focusing on something else pretty intensely – I’m not focusing on diet very much at all.
Though I doubt you can really ever get to the end of any growth journey, I think I’ve found a stable point with my diet journey that has me quite satisfied.
Right now my diet can be labelled “gluten free” and “vegan” and I restrict a few other foods I’ve found don’t do me any good.
Apart from what I don’t eat, my philosophy is this:
– Eat mostly carbohydrate, not so much fat or protein
– Eat unlimited fruit and vegetables, so long as you also get enough calories to have energy and not be hungry. That basically means, for me, snack on fruit, drink juice, and have a large vegetable accompaniment with every meal.
– Avoid excess fat but don’t be too crazy about it. Add a bit of fat to what you’re eating (oil, nuts, olives, avocado) if you need extra satiety.
– Eat stuff that tastes good and looks good.
– Eat regularly. Try to avoid extremes.
– Eat real food and not chemicals. Preferably “whole food” but white rice etc can be good for satiety.
By finding what foods worked for me, I’ve been able to cure my long-term illness and generally feel better. Mostly it’s been gluten, fluoride, garlic, and coffee that I’ve been able to directly link to outbreaks of my illness. (I haven’t been able to test if animal foods directly cause problems though I kind of expect milk, at least, did).
I’d like to say I’ve controlled my weight though I’m not sure about that. I know I lost some weight when I went vegan – I think permanently. Apart from that I lost a lot of weight when I followed the raw food diet, then gained it back when I went off it. My weight’s fluctuated quite a lot. I’m currently OK with my weight but not ecstatic.
The other thing that I’ve achieved with my diet is the sense that I’m making some positive effect on the lives of animals and on the environment. As I’ve written in other places, veganism is a very important lifestyle choice for me.
What have I learnt in all this time I’ve focused on diet?
Well, for one thing, it’s far too easy to get obsessed about details.
There are so many studies saying one thing is healthy or not. Particularly things saying what you SHOULDN’T eat – not so many things saying what you should eat.
Usually you’ll read about such and such a toxin or how a food is linked to such and such a disease and then you’ll decide you don’t want to eat it ever again.
Except that sometimes — these ideas are wrong. And sometimes — the toxin isn’t that bad, or the link to the disease just isn’t that big in the scheme of things. And sometimes — maybe a food is bad for many people or on average but good for you personally.
If you get lost in all of that your diet becomes one big unwieldy morass of micromanagement.
It’s stressful, it’s awkward, and you don’t get healthier.
As I’ve written in other places, you might just be focusing on all sorts of things while missing the one thing that will actually make a difference in your health. For instance, I personally made a big deal about soya for ages but kept eating gluten. When I switched and ate soya but not gluten, my health improved radically.
I believe in experimenting and finding out what works for you. As for information you get from external sources, I recommend filtering it like crazy and only going with the general guidelines and philosophy that fits best for you. As you can see above, my philosophy is pretty simple and flexible. Add that to the foods I’ve realised do or don’t make me feel good and you have my diet.
Overly complex or dogmatic philosophies feel very wrong for me. I look back at my old posts and I wonder a bit at how fundamentalist I was about the diets I believed in. Just like with spirituality, there is no truth that can be boxed down and given the label of Absolute Truth. Any attempt to do that is what we call a “religion”.
I find it hard to believe in, or at least find relevance in, theorising about the “natural diet” nowadays, for instance. Though I do believe that humans are generally herbivores, and evolutionarily closer to frugivores than anything else… it’s a rough idea I have, and I don’t want to bet my life on it. If approximating my diet to a hypothetical human ancestor makes me feel better, then great. If it doesn’t – and so far it hasn’t quite – then I’m not going to try to force the issue.
There’s just so many details in the realm of diet that are unsure, debateable, just not substantiated. I say this even for my chosen diets, which I follow but no longer *believe in* in the same fundamental, unchangeable way. With so much that’s uncertain I think it’s frankly laughable that anyone can be *so sure* about anything.
As I observed even while I was in that world, there was always someone equally convinced of the exact opposite of any idea I might have had. And they had scientific evidence to prove it – just as I had. Though I was so sure I was right, from an objective standpoint I had to admit there wasn’t really much to separate the proponents of one side of the debate from the other.
I think that it’s important to know the purpose with which you go into your diet.
Some diets – like the raw food diet – proclaim to have it all. Health, weight loss, beauty, everything. I think a lot of the time when diet becomes a religion there’s some element of that. The One True Diet is the only diet for anything.
Perhaps – certainly in some situations – there is one diet that will achieve all of your seperate goals. But even then, I think it’s best to know your purpose with your diet for one reason: if you don’t know your purpose, you won’t know when you’ve achieved it. And when you have no way of knowing you’ve done “enough”, you’re just going to get lost in micromanagement and ideological battles that seperate you from the reality of what you’re doing.
I healed my disease by working out specific changes to my diet. I improved the impact of my diet on other living beings through other specific changes. I attempt to maintain general health and prevent future diseases with other changes. And if I wanted to lose weight, as I think I might in future, I’ll have yet other changes to focus on.
There’s the image of a raw foodist who tries to work out if the cinnamon he uses in his smoothie was dehydrated in conditions that were below cooking temperature or not. Or the Atkins dieter who can’t have a squeeze of lemon because of the carbs. Or the calorie counter who won’t drink juice because it’s got sugar in it (no matter that a glass is only about 100 calories).
That’s not productive. It’s obsessive. It’s a waste of energy. If these guys knew what they were actually trying to do, and could tell when they got there, maybe they wouldn’t have to stress so much. Instead they get lost in the realm of “should” and “should not”, of the One True Diet, fanaticism without practicality.
Keep it simple, know what you’re after, and filter your information. Question it like crazy, experiment to find out the truth of it in your experience, and filter.
That’s all I have to say about diet for a while now, I suspect. 🙂