Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Finding balance

I have a tendency to enjoy making drastic changes in diet.  It's been fun trying out different ways of eating in an attempt to improve how I feel.  Low calorie, vegetarian, vegan, raw, low carb, etc.   I've gone through all the extremes and have yet to find something that is sustainable (for me), enjoyable, and that completely resolves my low energy levels and digestive issues.

This doesn't mean that particular diets don't have anything to offer.  I certainly noticed improvements on some of them, in particular low carb eating, but when it comes to long-term sustainability there's no way I can follow such a diet, nor do I know enough about the long-term effects.  But to ignore my own needs, whatever they happen to be, in order to follow a strict diet, is in my opinion a mistake.  For example, eating out at restaurants is a huge pleasure for me, and happens to be my favorite activity when going out with friends.  If I'm following a strict diet that doesn't allow whole categories of macronutrients, I will most likely feel deprived.  Some may be willing to make such a sacrifice, but it has become clear to me that I am not.  I can continue to struggle against this or I can choose to accept it and make decisions based on where I'm at.  When I was eating low-carb, my energy was more stable, but even eating an apple would cause a huge blood sugar rush that would leave me wired and uncomfortable.  I couldn't eat a "bit" of carbs without going into a binge frenzy.  Again, this isn't to say this way of eating can't work for anybody, but it won't work for me.

I think individual variation is essential to take into consideration when considering what is an optimal diet.  Look at how many different views there are, all having scientific evidence to support their side.  Sure one can look more closely at the studies and find faults in certain arguments, but the reality is that there are healthy people eating just about every single diet you can imagine.

I believe the different results that people have with various diets comes down to individuality.  Not just our individual biochemistry, but our psychology.  Our minds play an important role in determining our physical health, and focusing only on diet leaves out countless known and unknown variables that are also essential in determining our level of well-being.  Do you think that all the nutrients in that organic grass-fed meat you're eating are going to be properly assimilated if you eat it while experiencing a high level of anxiety while eating?  If you're sleep deprived?  If you're having an argument with a family member at the moment?   These are equally important in determining how our body is able to use the nutrients in what we eat.  We can't continue to obsess about eating a perfect diet while neglecting everything else, it just doesn't work.  I wish that was not the case, because changing what I eat is easier than working directly on my emotional or psychological issues, but they're all essential.   None of these are separate.  Our physical health determines our mental health, and vice versa.

My intention is to find the balance that works for me.  I think I will enjoy posting what I find along the way and discussing what other people have found works for them too.  I'm sick of dogmatic, one-size-fits-all solutions.  It's bullshit, and I refuse to continue listening to other people more than I listen to myself and what works for me.  I've learned a lot through various books and blogs, but ultimately along the way I've had to take bits and pieces from them all to find an appropriate mix.  Nobody has a solution that gives me exactly what I need, nor should I expect anybody to.  I'm responsible for my own health and can't expect it to be handed to me on a silver platter for $19.99.

I don't mean to imply that there is not an optimal way for me to maintain proper health, but rather that it needs to be found through trial and error rather than intellectual theorizing.  At this moment I'm allowing myself to eat pretty much whatever I want, and it's actually quite therapeutic.  But in the long-term, I would like to develop a diet based on how my body reacts, rather than satisfying any psychological cravings.  No strict rules, unless I determine that some foods simple can't be consumed in any amount without having an unacceptable effect on me.  I suspect that wheat and sugar may fall into this category, but I'm making any major rules at the moment.

Basically, I'm a big work in progress, and that's okay.  I'm skeptical of people who seem to know it all.  Whenever I thought I did, my beliefs had completely changed within months.  I'm choosing to stay open and learn whatever I can.

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