I used to pride myself as being a very “healthy” eater: limited foods, from even more limited sources, as “whole” as possible, always. I didn’t think of it as restrictive. It was “clean.” I believed in only eating “natural, real food.” My way of eating was more than about being healthy, it was moral…or so I thought.
I campaigned fervently for my righteous way of eating. I taught “real food nutrition” at every opportunity, to anyone I met. I changed the way A LOT of people thought about food, and how they constructed their diet. And A LOT of people’s health changed for the better. I was validated…for a while.
The results didn’t always last. Not only were my results waning, but so were others. I was seeing more people that weren’t instantly cured by giving up “unhealthy, processed” foods. And I even encountered people who were getting worse upon eating the “good, whole, real” foods. I could not imagine what was so inherently wrong with these people that the “healthy” foods were not working, and even making them sick!
Until one day, while ruminating about others food indecency and their perplexingly positive results, I had a thought that would change my life. I very quietly, and dubiously, asked myself one question, “What if… just, what if… I was… (clears throat, swallows)… wrong?” Was it possible that it was my beliefs, and not their bodies, that were wrong?
Do we, as a collective scientific community, know everything? Uhhh, No. There is a genetics professor at UT Austin that says at the beginning of each new semester, “Everything I taught 10 years ago is complete nonsense today. And everything I teach today will be complete nonsense in 10 years.”
Our model of every thing is limited and incomplete. We are constantly learning new things, with new pieces, from new technological breakthroughs. What good is the scientific process if we are not willing to change our perspective when given new pieces to the puzzle?
Stephen Hawking, world renowned theoretical physicist, states in A Brief History of Time, “you can disprove a theory by finding even a single observation that disagrees with the predictions of the theory…” One outlying, seemingly contradictory experience changes EVERYTHING, and I had witnessed a lot.
Hawking concludes with, “Each time new experiments are observed to agree with the predictions the theory survives, and our confidence in it is increased; but if ever a new observation is found to disagree, we have to abandon or modify the theory.”
My confidence in my dietary beliefs was crumbling beneath me. And then my long held beliefs about diet and nutrition were revolutionized with 2 simple questions:
“Have I ever had a good outcome/positive response with any declared “unhealthy” food?”
“Have I ever had a bad outcome/negative response to “healthy” food?”
Answering yes meant my model of a healthy diet was wrong. And that was hard for me. But changing, despite my experiences, seemed harder.
Deane Juhan in his book,Job’s Body, eloquently states my struggle,
“…Unfortunately, if the history of mankind, or even of modern science, has any lasting certainty to offer us, it is the fact that it is entirely possible for rational individuals to be absolutely certain about notions that later prove to be utterly preposterous… We must escape our pain, quiet our fears, and we must act, today, now. For this reason we are always tempted to adopt beliefs and to defend them staunchly as truths, because the possibilities which they imply profoundly soothe our anxieties and produce some measure of practical results, rather than because their actualities have been borne out by unequivocal proofs or continue to offer the very best solution to current problems.”
The problems that had occurred from defending, adhering, and negatively adapting to my old beliefs were far worse, for myself and everyone I interacted with, than the momentary pain and anxiety of adopting the new. In fact it was that temporarily uncomfortable space that led me to the realization that our diet has never been, nor will ever be, perfect. That’s NEVER been biology’s goal. But it could be better. It was time for a new model.
With all that I currently know, I believe a healthier diet model includes these three important distinctions:
Dietary Distinction 1: Individual
We are all different, and we should respect one another’s dietary reflection of that.
Does your diet reflect yours?
Dietary Distinction 2: Inclusive
A healthier diet includes ALL of the foods that have EVER elicited a personally positive response. Has Yours?
Dietary Distinction 3: Increasing
Biology’s greatest offering is the possibility of ever increasing one’s functional capacity. A healthier diet model seeks, at every opportunity, to increase the range of foods from all sources that makes one feel good and function better. Does yours?
So now the questions turn to you:
Have you ever had a positive response to a “negative” food?
Have you ever had a negative response to a “positive” food?
My résponses to these questions forever changed my diet which leads to my last question:
How will your response to food change your relationship to food…how will you change your diet?