Why The Journey to Health Isn't One-Size-Fits-All.
The journey to health has become muddled by fad diets, outdated beliefs and an unfair emphasis on food and exercise without regard to the rest of a person’s lifestyle. The data on nutrition changes on a daily basis:
- Carbs are king.
- Bacon is bad.
- Zero alcohol ever.
- Eat more fat.
- Okay, only the good fat.
- Treat carbs like the plague.
- Okay, nevermind, some carbs are fine.
- Red wine is good for you.
What?! The world we live in doesn’t make it particularly easy to find the truth. And to throw in another kink, I believe that there's more than one way to get your body healthy (this isn’t to say there aren’t some universally understood truths we can apply, or that there isn’t merit in the different fad diets and exercise regimes).
As a general rule, society focuses on food and fitness as a means to lose weight and thus become healthy. But is weight loss really the goal? And does becoming healthy mean the same thing for everyone? In my opinion, the answer to both questions is no. For now we’re going to focus on the ‘why’ behind this. In the next part of this series, we’ll get to practical application.
So why is the journey to health not a ‘one size fits all’ formula? Why doesn’t the paleo diet do the trick for everyone? Or the ketogenic diet? Or Atkins? Or any of the other well-known and often highly effective plans?
1. We all have a different genetic makeup, age, body frame, gender, and ethnic background.
All of these factors influence what each body needs. One person may thrive on a higher carb vegetarian diet, while another may gain weight on that diet and feel better eating meat and veggies with very little carbohydrates. I find that if you dig into your ancestry and discover what traditional diet your ancestors ate, that may be indicative of the general type of food that will work best for your body. Again, that’s not a hard and fast rule -- just a place to start. But this is a big reason why a bio-individual approach to nutrition is a good way to go.
2. Different people have different lifestyle habits, which influences their bodily needs. As a result, food is not the only factor to consider.
Maybe your diet is fine, but there’s something else amiss. Maybe you have a deficiency due to a lack of sun. Maybe your sleep is suffering because of your new job. Often, the key to feeling better lies within a more complex combination of things. And sometimes you simply need to break off that relationship that’s been pulling you down.
When I work with people, I always approach their health journey from a holistic perspective. Yes, let’s talk about diet as a lifestyle. Yes, let’s get in shape. But let’s also look at your emotional well being, how your sleep is, what your fears are, how you're using the breath. All of these factors play into your health.
3. Consider the source of your food.
I’m overjoyed that society is beginning to consider the source of our food more than ever. Whether your meats are factory-farmed or pasture raised makes all the difference in the nutrient content going into your body. It absolutely matters where and how your meat, fruits, and vegetables are farmed. Beginning to ask those questions is a big step in the right direction.
4. Just because it works now doesn’t mean it will work later.
What sounds good to you now may not sound so good 20 years from now, so staying flexible in your approach is critical. In college I was religiously on the paleo diet bandwagon. After college I found that I was emotionally all over the place, sick of meat, and leaning toward more carbs and a vegetarian approach. Now, I’ve settled somewhere in the middle. It’s about listening to your body and what it needs from you, which brings me to a few action steps we can start with today:
- Cultivate body awareness. Start treating your body like the all-natural laboratory it is and listen to what it’s saying. It will absolutely tell you and the more you follow your intuition, the better your journey will be. Practically speaking, this could look like recording what you eat in a journal -- and instead of counting calories (which I never recommend), record how the meal made you feel. Awareness is a game changer.
From there, start to shift your mindset from weight loss to ‘how do i feel’? Losing weight is limiting. Isn’t the ultimate goal to feel incredible in your own skin? To be full of energy and vitality? To run, jump, play and live a pain-free life? That, to me, is a beautiful and dynamic goal.
What do you think? What is your experience with fad diets? Do you ever feel like your approach is just a wee bit limiting? Let us know in the comments below!