It’s the new year and a time to think of changes we might want to make in our lives for the year ahead. Many people consider diets at this time, and there are a lot of popular diets out there right now. We even name them! And there are a lot of people testifying to their effectiveness, with amazing weight-loss photos or stories of how great they feel, how much energy they have.
In my opinion, many of these diets help people to feel healthier mainly because they eliminate processed foods. Keto, Paleo, Vegan…These are all generally better than diets of convenience foods, processed self-stable products and sugar-laden beverages.
However, I do not believe that there is one diet that is superior. One diet that will promise weight loss, healthy skin, loads of energy and resistance to disease for the rest of your life. And there are a lot of arguments going on out there, opinions swinging back and forth. Fat helps you lose fat! Carbohydrates make you fat! Protein fuels your body and causes you to burn fat!
If you spend some time reading on all this, you start to realize that we are obsessed with fat. At one time, not so long ago in our human history, our ancestors were obsessed with fat, too. But for entirely different reasons: Fat! Where can I get some? How can I store it? How can I get some more of it to stick to my ribs so that I can have energy stores to survive the winter, carry a baby to term, or set out on a three-week hunting excursion?
I have found that studying “diets” too deeply becomes a form of food-controlling, food-obsession and possibly even food-disorder. You become that dreaded picky friend when you go out to who can’t eat anything on the menu. Because it’s not on your diet.
The truth is, we’re omnivores, and we are meant to eat a wide variety of foods. And we can survive on a range of different foods. It is a great adaptation that has helped us to thrive as a species. Humans have done well on an almost exclusive fat diet, like the Inuit. High carbohydrate diets, like people from agricultural cultures. Diets of blood and milk, like the Masai. We can live on only plants. We can live on only meat. We can live on Pringles and Mountain Dew. But each of these diets will cause us to feel differently, and I believe our needs fluctuate daily, monthly, with the seasons, and possibly the best way to learn to eat is intuitively.
This means you must eliminate man-made, artificial foods so that you are able to hear the subtle signals from your body.
So, in honor of our new year, here are my ten tips finding a diet that will work for you:
1.) Eat real food. Whole foods, as found in nature. Your body knows what to do with that stuff.
2.) Be cautious with diets that require you to eliminate, no exceptions, any food group.
3.)Avoid diets that require supplementation. You should not need to take a pill made in a lab in order to meet your dietary requirements. No one on earth has ever done that until very recently. Plus, the actual ingredients in those pills and vitamins are highly questionable. It’s okay to take a vitamin, but don’t follow a diet if you won’t survive and stay healthy without it.
4.) Turn to the wisdom of your ancestors – try eating as your people ate hundreds of years before you. Was it mainly fish and potatoes? Pastas and vegetables? Beans and corn? Wild meat and foraged plants? Give it a try, you might be surprised at how familiar it is to your DNA.
5.) Try to eat healthy fat and protein for breakfast, especially.
6.) Eat more vegetables. Any way, any how. Learn to love them. They are practically the one thing all diets and all doctors can agree on.
7.)Drink more water than you think you need. Make it easily accessible all day long.
8.) If you’ve been struggling with a diet, try to reincorporate the foods that have been restricted to you. Been on Atkins? Add in some small servings of whole grains. (How about vitamin and mineral-rich pseudo grains like quinoa or buckwheat?) Been a vegan? Try to blend in some animal protein. (You may even seek out and consider “ethical” protein – I kept a dairy cow who had her calf happily at her side and was not pregnant while I milked her. Or eggs from local farmers with truly free-range, happy, bug-eating chickens?)
9.) Find a way to eat that makes your body, mind and soul feel good. How you feel is a bigger indicator of health than how you look, or how you believe you should look. Eat well, feel good, and embrace the body God gave you.
10.) Eat intuitively – listen to your body. You will notice that you “feel” like eating certain ways at certain times. Trust your body. Sometimes you need a green salad on a hot day. Sometimes you need a slice of chocolate cake to celebrate with a friend. Trust and let go.