What to eat/not to eat/when to eat/how much to eat? Navigating the world of food can be a minefield, to say the least! With a constant stream of new ways of eating and headline-grabbing health crazes being churned out and sold to us as “the one” it can all get pretty confusing. So, what exactly should we be eating?
It can be easy to assume that if we just subscribed to a particular way of eating or followed the exact meal plan "that [model/health-guru/nutritionist] swears by," that we would then look like them, have boundless energy and be at the peak of health. And, with the rising popularity of the “What I Eat in a Day” posts, displaying carefully curated, incredible looking dishes it’s hard not to get caught up in the hype and feel like we’re never quite doing enough. Here in the Western world we live in a culture becoming ever-more obsessed with health. It is completely understandable then that most of us dread the thought of being “unhealthy” and are on a continual search for the golden ticket - that elusive "best" way of eating. Is it possible that there is one that is best for everyone?
"we live in a culture becoming ever-more obsessed with health"
The Problem with One-Size-Fits All
From a purely physiological perspective, if you ate the exact same thing as *insert name here*, you might feel and look better, but you also might not! Eating what they eat might actually make you feel sluggish, bloated and brain foggy. This is because, biologically speaking, your hormones, metabolism, dietary tolerances and your microbiome (the community of microorganisms living in and on you) are as individual as your fingerprints (1). Practically, your lifestyle - how active you are, your work, etc. - is probably pretty unique to you too. You also might not have three extra hours in your day to meticulously weigh out all your food, prepare elaborate and complex meals, or have a bank balance that allows for an all organic, “super-food”-heavy shopping list! Furthermore, we know that we are not purely physical beings, food is not just fuel; it is also a source of pleasure and social connection. We all have different food preferences and flavours we enjoy and we all have different values that affect those food choices.
Let's Get Real
What, then, can we conclude? Quite simply that there is no one best way to eat. In fact, (unless you have a clear medical reason like a validated food allergy, sensitivity or intolerance) there isn't one single food that will make or break your health. You are an individual and so are your preferences, goals, physiological needs, lifestyle and limitations. What works for someone else, be it a celebrity, your trainer, or your best friend, may not necessarily work for you, and that's OK. Although there are a few general nutrition guidelines that we know allow our bodies to feel good and function well - eating a wide variety of foods, staying adequately hydrated, including lots of whole foods, slowing down and enjoying food (blog post on some gentle-nutrition 'pillars' coming soon) - the human body is pretty resilient and could adapt to a number of different ways of eating. The truth is that having any hard and fast 'rules' about food is very likely to do a lot more harm than good in terms of our mental, emotional and physical health, not to mention our relationship with food in the long term (2).
"the human body is pretty resilient and could adapt to a number of different ways of eating"
Determining the best way of eating for you will take some experimenting, finding out what suits not only your physiological needs, but your lifestyle too. We are so used to being told what/when/how much to eat by the weight-loss and "health" industry that we are left dis-empowered confused. Honouring your body and health means taking a good look at your relationship with food and your body and really defining what health means to you and why it's important. Remember, health is so much more than just what you eat! It means slowing down enough to listen to your body, not just the next big “wellness expert” touting their new book or programme with wildly sensationalist claims. It means finding a way of eating that makes your body and mind feel good; one that you truly enjoy and most importantly one that enables you to live out your values - to focus on the things in life that really matter to you!
If you need some help figuring out what this looks like for you or just desire more freedom in the area of food and health, get in touch about one-to one coaching.
1. Zeevi, D., Korem, T., Zmora, N., Israeli, D., Rothschild, D., Weinberger, A., . . . Segal, E. (2015, 11). Personalized Nutrition by Prediction of Glycemic Responses. Cell, 163(5), 1079-1094. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2015.11.001
2. Brown, A. J., Parman, K. M., Rudat, D. A., & Craighead, L. W. (2012, 12). Disordered eating, perfectionism, and food rules. Eating Behaviors, 13(4), 347-353. doi:10.1016/j.eatbeh.2012.05.011