In the world of health and fitness, there are many many many opinions on what one should do to achieve "optimum health" or what diet is the "perfect diet." Over the past few decades our country has gotten more and more health conscious, and on the other extreme more and more obese and sick. Many diets claim to be a "cure all" for everything from chronic illnesses, allergies, fatigue, weight loss, digestion, even happiness... while all these diets have many of the same promising claims, they actually have very contradicting opinions on several topics.
I'm not going to go into every specific aspect of every dietary theory and how they are right/wrong (not what this post is for) but heres a few examples of how different diets disagree and may lead one to confusion...
*Disclaimer: I am not trying to bash anyone following any of these lifestyles. Some concepts I actually agree with, and some I find complete nonsense. This is just a comparison for point of this post.
1. Vegans do not eat meat or eggs, and do eat grains, beans and legumes for sources of protein. Paleo believe that we were not meant to digest any grain and eat a very meat and egg based diet.
2. Some say dairy is the devil, yet greek yogurt is praised as a perfect high protein snack.
3. Raw vegans believe any thing cooked sends negative energy , while the macrobiotic theory
and many asian religions believe anything raw is bad, and you should only consume cooked food. Did you know that's why you'll rarely find salad on the menu at a Chinese restaurant?
4. The fitness industry tell us how much protein we need to build muscle and we should watch our carbs, but many vegans say it's a myth we need that much protein and we need to "carb up!"
5. The paleo extremists will get in an argument rather or not sweet potatoes are paleo... some say butter is an amazing healthy fat, but wait! It has to be grass fed...if not then it's just a bunch of processed junk.
6. The Keto diet uses a high fat method, making the body learn to use fat as energy instead of carbs. Someone on a Keto diet may consume over 100 grams of fat a day but under 50 grams of carbs.
7. In stark contrast the 80/10/10 vegan diet recommends that 80% of your calories come from carbs, preferably fruit, and keeping your fat intake under 10%. Thats probably over 350grams of carbs and under 20 grams of fat.
8. In contrast to the above individual eating only fruit, the candida theory says that fruit is bad because it has to much sugar, spikes insulin, and feeds cancer.
9. Were told after a workout to consume protein+carbs for proper recovery.
10. But... following "food combining" protein and carbs should NEVER be eaten at the same meal- at least several hours apart- for proper digestion.
Okay I hope you get the point... but the list could go on and on and on. There are so many theories in the world of nutrition. Some have very convincing studies, but one could easily get confused and not know what to believe.....
Being the little health nut that I am, I am known to get excited about an article on GMO's or grass-fed farming. I know I'm a nerd. haha but I have fallen victim several times to believing many of these diets and being left confused on what is really healthy for my body. At one point I didn't feel right about eating oatmeal in the morning.. I still ate it, but there was a voice telling me "oh wait! that's a grain and paleo people don't eat grains. Oh but oats are vegan and gluten free so I guess their okay..." Or when I tried to be vegan for Lent, afterwards I found my self feeling guilty for eating an egg. Really Stephanie?? Eggs are natures multi vitamin!
I like to call all these different diet extremists the "'Food Police." Whether there the actual followers of the diet or just the little voices in your head, there seems like in todays society people want all or nothing. They feel like they want to part of a club or family... but in a "diet club". Why do we feel the need to label ourselves "paleo" or "vegan" or even "gluten free?" I think theres a sense of comfort in a label, some people like to know what they can and cannot eat. Perhaps it will be easier? No... it's silly to judge your healthy eating on one style.
Is it worth never having ice cream because it will have long term benefits on your health and maybe add what? 5 minutes to your life span? Haha joke aside, what I mean is that many of the claims to certain diets are foods are exaggerated. An ice cream cone will not kill you or give you cancer. Smoking everyday, now that might.
Of course, if you have ethical reasons to be a vegan, I understand.
If you have life long stomach issues, and being paleo works for you, go for it!
If you know you allergic to soy or gluten, of course AVOID them!
If you know dairy makes your skin break out, then limit the milk and cheese...
What I don't want to see, and refuse to fall victim to, is feeling guilty for eating a perfectly healthy food because one of the "food police" say it's bad. I'm tired of people thinking they're right and fighting over food. I think for most of us, eating a balanced diet that is 90% unprocessed is the best. All of the diets I talked about do have one thing in common- they advocate eating REAL food.
"Food is nourishment, not something to be policed.
Food is a gift from God, enabling us to thrive and be well.
And food is just one part of our lives, not our entire lives.
If I've learned one thing about nutrition and true health, it's that eating enough, eating nutrient rich food, and just letting go is the golden ticket to a lifetime of happiness and well being."
- Robyn from www.thereallife-rd.com
I do believe everyone is different. What works for me may not work for you. Every body is unique and needs different amounts of different foods. But you have to find what works for you and not be brain washed by the media or the "gurus" of all these different styles of eating. You have to find your own balance.
I hope if you got one thing from this post, it is that you can walk away knowing there is not one perfect diet. Nor does there have to be. Everyday strive for progress not perfection. Focus on nourishing your body with a majority of nutrient dense foods and you will have a little wiggle room for a treat once in a while. :) Focus on how foods make actually make you feel, not how there supposed to make you feel. Eat when your hungry and don't deprive yourself. It may sound simple, but it can actually be difficult to throw out all the information the "Food Police", while in good intention, have pounded into your head. Being happy, getting enough sleep, spending time with family, keeping stress low, and actually enjoying what you eat is just as, if not more, important than what you eat.