Help! Which Dietary Theory Is Right? (Part II)
Have you ever known someone who is so passionate about his/her way of doing things that everything just sounds conceited and snotty when you have a discussion about it? Hey, I’ve been that person! It’s not too hard to become really convinced of the benefits of a certain eating philosophy, and then proceed to try to “convert” the entire world to your point of view. For a while now, I’ve taken on the topic of answering the question I hear frequently: “Which way of eating is best?”
So far, we’ve looked at Paleo, vegan & vegetarian diets, and dabbled in a few others, such as macrobiotic. We’ve also talked about bio-individuality; but I’m going back to that, because it is SO essential to this discussion. But there’s something even more basic than that; and I’ll get to that shortly.
Bio-individuality is a concept that is a central teaching at my school, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. What it means is that every person is unique, and has unique nutritional needs. When I hear anyone, even an expert, say that all people should eat a certain way, it’s a “red flag” for me. Particularly in this world of various environmental factors and skyrocketing allergy rates, not to mention our relative mobility when compared with our forebears, it makes sense that our bodies are not all the same.
Everything you’ve experienced up until now has made you the person you are today. Your family life, your places of residence, your employment, every breath and each bite of food have had some impact upon the body in which you now reside. Of course, genetics figures in heavily; but there is ample evidence that even the most ominous genetic factors can be positively affected by the choices you make.
We accept this idea when it comes to our emotional make-up. Why is it so hard for some of us to believe that our food has a profound impact on our bodies? We also readily accept that our thoughts, reactions, and daily patterns shape our emotional health, right? But what’s going on in our brains is strongly related to what’s happening in our stomachs. Dr. Daniel Amen has done the most profound work on this topic of anyone I know. Check out his website by clicking here, or look up some of his youtube videos.
The flip side of this is that our bodies send us messages through diet. Say what? Have you ever had a craving for a certain food? That was a gift from your Creator, a message delivered through your body, via your brain. There was something you needed, and your body was trying to let you know about that need.
If you crave a strawberry cupcake or a can of potato chips, you probably don’t exactly need that, but it’s still a signal that there’s a need. Many people are vegan or vegetarian for years; then they muster up an iron will when they crave meat or eggs, only to eventually succumb. Some folks eat lots of meat, fish, veggies, and healthy fats, shun all grains, and do very well for a long time. One day, they want rice, corn,or bread. What to do?!?
Sometimes, a craving can be connected to an emotional need, such as a childhood memory, feeling of security, or need for comfort. (Comfort foods! Yum.) Again, we see a connection with the brain/thoughts. When we acknowledge all of these connections, it makes sense that our nutritional needs change from season to season, year to year, and sometimes a moment at a time. It also make sense that a rigid interpretation of what “diet” is right for your individual body could make you pretty miserable.
But don’t think I’m just being wishy-washy & non-committal, trying to get along with everyone. There is an ideal way for you to eat! However, you ultimately have to discover what that is, and I can guarantee it will not be exactly what someone else’s ideal is. Flexibility is a good thing, and with regard to dietary theory, I would not be a very good health coach (in my own opinion) without it.