Not until recently have we become so obsessed with our diets that we have lost almost all certainty in how or what we should be eating. The controversy between the dietary fads has been heated and emotional. We have Raw Foodists who advocate eating nothing but raw fruits and vegetables with minimal nuts and seeds, better if sprouted. Then on the other end of the spectrum are our Paleo friends who advocate a relatively high protein diet (mostly animal based) and promote both cooked and raw foods. Is there an optimal human diet, and if so who is right? Or better yet, what is the source of this confusion and is there a solution?
We are moving from an information based society to a knowledge based society. In the days of high information we have and still are receiving an overflow of information. With the internet, television, radio, and books there is an unlimited amount of advice and wisdom being stuffed into our senses. As we begin to shift away from the paralysis of information, we are learning to decipher the difference between knowledge and information.
What is information exactly? Information is basically an idea. It might work or it might not. As it depends on various factors, we don’t know what the outcome will be. When consuming a raw diet, several people have experienced digestive problems while others experienced radiant health and energy. This is where knowledge steps in. Knowledge is information with results. Knowledge is the outcome, it is wisdom.
To be absolutely certain about something is nearly impossible, take for example that we have no guarantee we’ll even be around tomorrow as the world could end from any numerous factors outside of our power. But while we are still here on this planet, we have the ability to find out what works! Thankfully, our dietary advocates are learning to be honest. We have the brave souls that come out from behind their social mask of raw foodist, vegan, paleo, and so on and are sharing their real experiences. This is powerful insight; the truth as they know it!
As a “dietary experimentalist” myself, I know the power of food and I also know when something is working and when it’s not. In the youth of my experimentations I never realized the strong connection of Ego with each diet. I would become powerfully attached to what I was doing as if it was a part of my identity and over time would throw off the entire experiment. It is so easy for us to become obsessive and attached in some form and miss the point of what we are doing; joy, happiness, growth, health, and peace.
When it comes to our diet we have to be willing to be honest. Now I know that’s a far cry from what many dieticians and nutritionists are advocating but hear me out. We do not have control, and our desperate need to control everything is infiltrating way too far into our diets. The simple truth is we all know what to eat, real food. Real food for some includes animal products like milk, eggs, and even meat. It also includes plants: vegetables, fruits, roots, leaves, stems, flowers, nuts, seeds, saps, pollens, and more.
So how do we choose what ones are right and what ones are wrong? We have to use knowledge. No longer can we rely on basic information. What knowledge tells us is that some people who eat animal products have gotten cancer. It also tells us that there are plenty of people who have eaten diets made up of 90% animal products and lived disease free until late in life. This leaves room for a lot of good questions, which are being asked both by science and natural medicine. What we can learn from this today though is that there is obviously something deeper to this healthy living stuff that we aren’t quite getting.
Holistic health and practices like TCM and Ayurveda consider these missing factors: stress, emotional well-being, career, finances, life purpose, family, relationships, community, exercise and sleep. Science is discovering that emotional stress is more damaging than most drugs! We have also discovered that intense exercise affects our Ph levels more than food! This is valuable information because we are learning that though powerful medicine, food is not the only factor. What we have learned so far is that when striving for optimal health, which is the whole point of a healthy diet, this is the order of importance:
- Stress: Emotional and Mental
- How You Eat
- What You Eat
If we are not addressing these points in this order we are never going to reap the reward from a nutritionally optimal diet anyway. We will be flushing away money and time put toward healthy foods until we balance our mental and emotional states through honesty, love, happiness, letting go, goal setting, and other methods. Also, sleeping before 10:30 pm as often as possible or experimenting with other effective sleep methods like polyphasic sleep patterns. And we need to be moving! We spend so much time sitting in chairs, driving and not enough time walking, breathing deeply, and stretching.
The final topic then is what and how do we eat? As I mentioned earlier, as far as what we need to be eating the food list is simple: eat what nature provides. The problem has not been what we have been eating as much as it is how we are eating it. When we remove over-refined, processed, and chemically exposed foods we have a pure substance that provides a multitude of health benefits. So as long as you are eating pure, real, and whole foods from nature you have completed half the battle.
Next, you want to strive to become an intuitive eater. Your body is constantly fluctuating. Depending on how you’re breathing, what you’re thinking, and what you’re doing you’re putting different demands on your body and what type of fuel it needs. For example, if you have slept well, are in a good mental state, and have been engaged in a lot of physical activity it may be very beneficial that you eat more calories, particularly in the form of protein to assist in the healing of tissues. Likewise, spending a quiet afternoon or weekend doing very little physical activity but walking, spending time with family, and relaxing your body may only need very little food to get the nutrition it needs. Depending on the weather too, you may have a different need for certain types of foods and preparation.
In conclusion, your goal is to take care of your body in a holistic manner. Nourish your mind, your dreams, your relationships, and your life as a whole just as you would your body. Once you sit down to put food into your mouth, choose organic, whole fresh foods that are from nature and pay attention to your body.
Becoming an intuitive eater starts by learning to listen to your body’s signals and needs. I like to ask myself questions before I eat such as:
“Am I really hungry right now?”
“What does my body need right now?”
“How could I eat to best provide my body with the appropriate amount of energy?”
Also, looking at how you have spent your day can give you great clues on what and when to eat.
Have you performed any moderate to intense physical activity? You may require more protein. If you’re aiming for a more plant-based diet and minimalizing meat consumption, protein shakes made from hemp, pea, or sprouted brown rice are supreme choices. My favorite hands down is Sunwarrior’s Warrior Blend. The taste far exceeds any protein powder I have experimented with. With its incredible absorbability and taste you can’t go wrong with a Warrior Blend shake to rebuild the body.
Did you get your 8.5 hours of sleep? Skimping on your sleep can cause some pretty major imbalances in your body’s hormonal system, blood sugar levels, and digestion. If you noticed any fatigue in your body you might be craving high-carbohydrate foods to wake you up. This can be a confusing signal from the body. Though sugary foods will wake you up, you’re only satisfying your brain chemistry and not giving the body entirely what it needs.
When lacking sleep your best bet would be to recognize your body’s need for sleep and try to get in a short nap or some quiet meditation (I enjoy walking meditation). Both of these boost our body’s natural energy without any negative side-affects. Because the body becomes very dehydrated and digestion becomes weaker when you don’t sleep enough, you’ll want to choose your foods even more wisely.
Great food choices when you are tired would be simple and easy to digest foods. Instead of refined carbohydrates aim for foods like home-made vegetable soups, steamed vegetables, fresh fruit, raw vegetable juices, and high-quality proteins like sprouted quinoa. Because of their rich water content and abundance of vitamins and minerals, these foods are all energizing naturally. Taking some sort of fermented vegetables like sauerkraut will assist in the digestion of these foods as well. Making sure you’re digesting your food is always important, but it’s even more important when you’re lacking sleep. Increasing your ability to digest foods with fermented foods, digestive enzymes, and enzyme rich foods will guarantee your body is getting in all those energizing nutrients to make it through your day your best.
These are all great questions and clues that help you tap into real knowledge about what your diet should look like. You will start to learn your body’s unique needs and therefore start to digest and metabolize your foods properly. As far as being strictly raw, vegan, paleo, or primal is concerned, there is no need. When you become more intuitive with your eating you will find some days your body needs a more “paleoish” diet, some days your body will need well-cooked and very easy to digest foods, and other weeks your body will ask for the detoxification and rest that is provided by raw foods. Strive to become a powerful intuitive eater, learn to know your own unique needs, and never again will you have to worry over the “right” diet. What is right for one is not necessarily right for you.