The diet landscape is ever-evolving.
Lately, it’s splintered and fractured into a million pieces.
One reason for modern dietary chaos: Gut health is worsening globally (source) — for many reasons other than diet.
Sick buildings, poor sleep schedules, chronic stress, poor air quality (and plenty more) all contribute to our declining gut microbiomes.
Yet these factors cause us to clamor for (seemingly) straightforward dietary solutions — to problems food can only partially solve.
Why do we place so much trust in diets? A couple reasons:
First, diets are often touted as ultimate solutions to human health problems.
Second, we often view the diet as controllable — and with immediate benefits. A new diet can begin as soon as right now.
When it comes to dietary wisdom, who can we trust? After all, there are MDs and PhDs (and internet entrepreneurs) on every side of any dietary debate — each disagreeing vehemently with the next.
Media outlets, desperate for ratings and eyeballs (read: advertising revenue), overhype flawed research, shamelessly using click-bait headlines.
The end result? The average person and passionate health-seeker, alike, become lost in the maelstrom of conflict: endless suggestions, unyielding dietary rules, overhyped promises, and shameless fear-mongering concerning food.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that some researchers have sounded the alarm through the years:
“It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor.” (2009)Dr. Marcia Angell — Harvard, former editor New England Journal of Medicine
…or this quote:
“The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue.”Dr. Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet*
*The Lancet is the world’s best known medical journal
The point, here, is not to be unthinkingly anti-science. Instead, it’s to see the fact that, of all the research being conducted around the world, perhaps none is as difficult to administer, or as compromised (due to profit-motive) as nutrition & food research.
Mega-corporations fund studies every day, looking for marketing fodder both in favor of their products and in opposition to competitors.
But the profit-motive isn’t the only barrier to scientific clarity. The nature of the human body — in both health and disease states, and especially with regards to the complexity of the human gut microbiome — is so complex and unique person-to-person, that too-general recommendations about food and nutrition are doomed to fail.
In other words, the bigger the dietary rule, the more likely it is to fail.
There is no consensus about the best diet for each person. What does this mean?
Let’s cut through this fractured, splintered dietary landscape — and find tools to identify the best diet for you.
So… IF Food Matters Deeply…
…Do ExtremeDiets Promote Health?
Common thinking concerning food may sound like this:
There are so many well-intentioned food movements.
What most of these diets are actually doing is something that isn’t readily apparent at first glance:
They each restrict the way foods are eaten.
Remarkably, what more and more people are finding is this:
Restrictive diets don’t address the root cause of illness.
People are discovering every day, that these old ways of thinking about food have run their course — and can even cause problems down the road. To combat modern problems with a) over-restriction, b) undereating, or c) hyperfocusing solely on food is proving ineffectual.
These days, everybody knows food is important. It’s so recognized that we’re often taking things too far, even to the point of being harmful.
Too Much Hype?
What we’re seeing these days is an excess of both hype and scare tactics when it comes to food. On one hand, too much praise. On the other: too much demonizing.
Restrictive diets always fall into this trap of too much praise for some foods, and too much demonizing of others.
Yet extreme diets are exploding in popularity — perhaps out of necessity: Previously-normal foods are suddenly becoming highly intolerable for large numbers of people — likely related to our declining gut health.
The most troubling part of all this? Two things, actually:
Restrictive diets often mask symptoms rather than solve the underlying problems. To make matters worse, these diets often lead to deeper and deeper food intolerances over time.
Restriction usually begets more restriction.
What matters most about food is that we know what it is capable of. With that knowledge, we then can use it properly — for maximum energy, enjoyment, recovery, and longevity.
You’ve completed Why Food?! We’ve discussed some of the problems with restrictive diets (including the mistaken beliefs that can fuel them).
Ultimately, the best solutions for longevity involve tackling the root causes of disease — which very often reside in the gut microbiome and the variables that affect it– rather than endless iterations of dietary restricion.
I know this journey intimately! Perhaps like you, I bounced around for years. Trying every diet. Seeing some initial results, then lackluster results — and even general worsening as my body became more and more depleted, and my gut health continued to worsen.
Nutritional deficiencies developed. My food intolerances worsened. Low-carb diets contributed to my hypothyroidism. Vegan diets seemed to bring on environmental sensitivities (sick building syndrome).
All in all, there is a lot to be learned — and, often, unlearned — from the endless labyrinth that is dietary advice.
With this foundation — a cessation of food avoidance in lieu of improved digestion — we can press forward, toward great health, greater dietary freedom, and the incredible dream of how deeply good each day can be.
Are you stuck in dietary restriction? Are you interested in fixing your gut so you can tolerate diverse foods again?
Perhaps you’re feeling the heavy burden of “all the things you have to do to improve your health.” I know that feeling!
What I try to describe, on this site, is freedom from all that. I don’t believe feeling pressure leads to good results. Most strict diets result in feeling encumbered — from a heavy load.
We must trust that any right path will have a sense of freshness to it. It doesn’t mean there’s no effort or discomfort — but there’s a feeling of “rightness.” And that usually leads to a clear mind, a lighter body, an unburdened spirit.
Keep looking for that spirit, for that energy, for that momentum. If it feels heavy, nothing good is going to come of it. Keeping things light, fun, curious, and full of ease — even when it doesn’t at first seem natural to feel those ways — can bring your health higher even faster.
Perhaps it’s helpful to mention: I’ve been there, too.
Having to avoid restaurant food. Very limited diet. Feeling like I need very specific foods to feel passable. Thinking, obsessing, stressing about food virtually all day — I have been there.
Now, I eat whatever foods I want! I eat happily at restaurants, and enjoy deeply what people serve me as a guest.
After well over a decade of heavy dietary restrictions (some helpful, some not), and infinite time and energy exhausted thinking about food — I don’t take this freedom, this progress, this lightness, for granted.
Best of all, my new dietary freedom is here to stay. It’s sustainable.
My body can handle diverse foods again. I’m confidant yours can, too!
This completes ‘Why Food?’
To continue, select ‘MACROS.’
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