5 WAYS TO DODGE MAGIC BULLETS AND SAVE YOURSELF (A LOT OF) PAIN
If you’ve found yourself feeling disappointed or like a failure after being paleo/raw/vegan for a while and having it go pear-shaped, don’t worry. Here are five ways you can find a way of eating that works for you.
1CLARIFY YOUR MOTIVES
Why do you want to go vegan / raw / paleo? Is it to lose weight / fit into your old jeans / get clearer skin? If so, look a little deeper. Why do you want to lose weight or have better skin? The deeper reason for embarking upon any health endeavour is often to feel more confident, to feel more satisfied, to have a richer and more meaningful life. But feeling good is not dependent only on diet.
You need to look at all aspects of your life in order to feel good – that includes your emotional landscape, exercise and other habits, attitudes, values, beliefs. It involves assessing your job satisfaction, family dynamics, relationships, and lifestyle.
Look at the whole picture. Diet is important, but it’s only one piece of a much larger whole.
2PRACTISE INTUITIVE EATING
It’s okay if you eat a salad, ditch refined sugars, or eat a vegan meal – as long as it’s truly what you feel like.
The only reliable authority, in the end, is your own body. Learn to trust your body again, and how to listen to the messages it is sending you about diet. The simple tools of tuning into your body and fully experiencing each bite of food have the power to resolve most questions about food choices and diet.
Rather than adopt a diet, you could try a more intuitive way of eating that is highly personalised to your needs, food preferences, lifestyle, and experiences.
A truly instinctive approach to nutrition aligns joyful, nurturing eating with the authentic needs of body and soul. It doesn’t include eating raw salads in winter when you are dying for a hot pumpkin soup.
3 TAKE THE BEST FROM THE DIET, AND MAKE IT YOUR OWN
The paleo and raw movements get a big tick for their push towards real foods. Veganism gets a tick for the emphasis on plant-based foods, which most people need more of. We would be better off eating real foods. That means foods that we grow, hunt or pick foods that are unmodified and come from nature.
When possible, we should aim for the most nutrient-dense foods, because that’s why we eat – to nourish – not to accomplish some idealised macronutrient ratio. Take the good bits from these diets if they work for you; then break the other rules. Don’t become a slave to rules and extremism. That brings me to the next point...
4 AVOID EXTREMISM
As much as we collectively rant about the benefits of moderation, people will always tend to be extremist when approaching a topic as complex and transitional as nutrition, in an attempt to simplify and make sense of it all.
Unfortunately that desire for the ultimate answer contributes to the hype around ‘magic bullet’ foods or diets. You don’t have to go 100% paleo, raw or vegan in order to gain more energy and be healthier. You may only need to add a few more vegetables to your diet, or reduce your intake of refined sugars and processed foods. People have a hard time grasping moderation as the key, but moderation really is golden.
5DITCH THE LABELS
Some days I’m ‘vegan’. In summer in Thailand, I went three months on a raw vegan diet, without even noticing it. In winter in Australia, I eat eggs and the occasional fish. I may have a paleo lunch and on the same day have a nonpaleo dinner with roast potatoes and ancient grains.
These ways of eating can work when they are slotted in to fit your lifestyle, your day, your mood, your climate, your genetic heritage, and your season.
When these seemingly healthy diets fail is when we try to fit ourselves to the diet, with their theoretical rules and blanket recommendations.
Don’t be a raw foodist for the sake of being able to say ‘I’m 100% raw’. That’s not very flexible, and unless you live in a tree house in a Thai jungle all summer running up mountains and practising yoga for six hours a day (as I once did), it probably won’t work perfectly in the long term. Ditch the labels and do what works for you – and that may change on a seasonal, daily or hourly basis. n REFERENCES: 1. Comparision of the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone Diets for Weight Loss and Heart Disease Risk Reduction: a randomised trial. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2005, vol. 293, p 47. 2. Retention rates and weight loss in a commercial weight loss program. Finley et al. International Journal of Obesity. 2007, vol. 31, p. 292-298.