If 2019 is the year you plan to make major strides towards improved health and energy but in a way that will last forever rather than just while you’re on ‘the diet’, healthier eating may not be the answer. Eating well is indeed a very important part of achieving optimal health, but on its own it simply is not enough.
There is one word that sums up what the healthiest people on the planet have mastered: CONSISTENCY. Vibrant, optimistic, energetic people who rarely get sick have made physically and mentally healthy habits a permanent part of their lives. Think about it for a second. Are the healthiest people you know constantly gaining and losing weight or trying the latest fitness trend? Do they always want to talk about their food intolerances or eating style? Generally, they’re people who are positive and very healthy throughout their whole lives. How they do this is by permanently, consistently and carefully balancing the multiple variables that contribute to optimal health. It’s a daily commitment and frequently requires tough decisions in a world full of unhealthy options and threats – including extreme negativity. Many of the factors that enhance well-being are illustrated in the Wheel of Health here. Some of them, like genetics, are not in our control – at least not yet. Other factors, like economics or addictions, may be adjustable, but definitely are not easy things to change for many.
The Wheel of Health is always in motion. Constant fine-tuning or micro-managing of just one or two spokes in the wheel – commonly healthy eating and exercise – will never produce optimal health. Given that we are physical, mental and spiritual beings, to maintain optimal health, we must take measures that address ALL of these areas…and throughout our whole life. If you’ve pretty much got healthy eating mastered, there may be an opportunity to look at other spokes in your efforts to get healthier.
A few days ago just before the start of the new year, I came across a news article suggesting how one adult can eat nutritiously for $65 per month. The dietitian who contributed her time and expertise to this article most likely did so voluntarily – as is the case for many of these types of stories. I don’t know her.
This article was most likely designed to encourage the notion that healthy eating can be achieved on a reasonable budget (and it can) despite popular misconception that to eat healthy requires shopping exclusively at natural food stores or sourcing expensive food. There were practical ideas in the story that some readers likely found helpful and appetizing.
I haven’t been back to check but the day I read the online article I also reviewed the comments readers had posted about the story. On that day, the feedback was unfortunately overwhelmingly harsh, negative and in my opinion, extremely unhealthy. The fact that a short article with a few meal and snack ideas could infuriate so many people is deeply concerning to me. If it’s not your preferred eating style, I recommend letting it go and putting the rage-like energy into something more productive…and healthy.
Everyone eats, has preferences and deeply personal beliefs around what approach works best for them. In fact, that is an important thing to establish. If how you eat keeps you energized, happy, at a healthy weight with healthy blood pressure, normal cholesterol, steady blood sugar, disease-free and out of the doctor’s office, know that your eating approach is likely working. Don’t change it.
Unfortunately, food has become a replacement for traditional religion for some. It’s as if it’s the new, open church where you find the ‘squad’ or ‘tribe’ that’s aligned with your beliefs – whether it be only people who eat ‘clean’, all the people who are against animal agriculture, purely those who exist on carefully sourced coffee and energy bars or other ‘congregations’ for example. Over the past decade, food choices have become a statement, a badge to wear or a negatively-charged dialogue to have instead of simply being enjoyment, sustenance and fuel for life. Innocent bystanders on the edge of these articles and conversations end up feeling guilty and wondering if they’re eating the right thing – even if the approach they follow is truly keeping them healthy.
I’ve been immersed in consumer food and nutrition issues since I began studying to become a dietitian 34 years ago. Over the past 3 decades I’ve kept my ear very close to the ground and been in thousands of conversations about eating and healthy living. I’ve also had hundreds of in-depth counseling sessions (a minimum of 3 hours each) with individuals looking to improve their health whether it be by losing weight, recovering from cancer, enhancing their professional athletic career, managing their food allergies, resolving digestive system woes, expanding their repertoire of healthy meal ideas, or nourishing their active family well on a budget.
It is crystal clear to me that endless micro-managing of ones’ food intake without acknowledging or addressing the other spokes in the wheel never fully or consistently produces optimal health. Getting angry and raging about one dietitian’s suggestion of how to eat well for $65 per month indicates to me that there may be room to work on some of the other spokes in the wheel. Definitely if a sense of health-enhancing calm, peace, joy and energy is the goal. (And the article I chose as an example is just one. Pretty much every article I’ve seen written about food in the past few years is harshly and excessively critiqued.) I feel for the genuine food experts who share from their science and fact-based education, career long experience and client successes who get chewed up for just about every morsel of advice they write while it was shared in the spirit of improved well-being.
Maybe the whole trip of life is driven by the fact that perhaps we never truly achieve optimal results with every spoke in the wheel? It’s as if we need to have something to be working on to keep us alive, interested, talking and making it happen. It’s like juggling multiple balls. If we no longer have any left in the air perhaps our life ends?
In setting health goals for the new year and far beyond, taking measures that can be consistently and permanently maintained is best. Over-managing any one area, as all too often happens with food, won’t do it. Operating with kindness rather than harsh judgement towards our bodies, others and our planet, achieves better and more lasting results than aggression and hurt. Thirty years of seeing individuals overcome great challenges and achieve health success has clearly shown me that.
Wishing you a happy, healthy new year!