A question I get very frequently is- what then is the perfect diet? How should I eat such that I can meet all my nutritional needs and hopefully, look awesome and be lean and strong?
In order to tackle that question, let’s look at what I feel are the different levels of healthy eating.
For level 1, you are a total newbie to nutritional eating. You don’t care about what you eat and you feel 5 KFC meals a day wouldn’t kill you. YOLO, you know. You also hate drinking water and feel like soda is the best choice. Very likely you are also skinny because if you are bigger sized, everyone around you would be on your case condemning you and judging you into change. But because you don’t look like the societal definition of ‘unhealthy’ outside, nobody really says much. You may not be big sized but you have some sort of skin problem- probably acne or bumps on the back of your arms. If you are male, most parts of you may be slim but your tummy is round and pudgy. On the other side of the spectrum is your body which has so successfully created so many fat cells to prevent the toxins from reaching your internal organs that you struggle daily with obesity and fundamental things like moving around or even breathing.
For level 2, you have some sort of awareness but you don’t do much about it. Either that or you are trying to be healthier (more likely you just want to lose weight) so you decide to go on a detox, or a cleanse or experiment with one diet after another. If you are at 2A you probably know lots about nutrition and you are swinging between being vegan and being paleo or some sort of ‘healthy’ diet out there. You categorise food into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and feel bad when you overstep the ‘boundaries’ you drew up for yourself.
Most of the time, people are in between levels.
And now we come to what I think is the perfect diet.
The perfect diet is one that is sustainable and tailored specifically for you, at that moment, for that day. It is one that has NO LABELS. Which means that you wouldn’t follow a diet plan written in a book or call yourself vegan, paleo, vegetarian etc because a book said so. No, you would not eat meat because you care about the animals that are dying, not because you want to be skinny or because it’s what vegans do. You might not eat grains and refined carbs because you have experimented and feel that you are better off without them but you wouldn’t label yourself as ‘paleo’ just because it’s yet another diet to try.
When you follow a diet and label yourself as such, you are giving up ownership of your own diet and life. Choose to not eat grains because you want to, because you feel you function best without it, not because a book on paleo told you to do so. Take all the advice that all the diet books in the world give and customise it to yourself. Take ownership of your own health. When you give up ownership of your own nutritional needs, you hop from diet to diet thinking that it’s the diet’s fault when you don’t get the results you want. You are always searching for the answer, out there when in fact, all the help you need is within you. You have the power to be lean, to be strong, to be healthy and it’s in taking ownership of your health. It is not healthy at all if you started a diet to be ‘healthier’ and then hate yourself for having crossed some sort of boundary. Maybe you consider yourself a high carb vegan and you accidentally ingested a piece of cheese and spent the whole day hating yourself.
The moment you feel your ‘diet’ is ruined is the moment you need to come clean with yourself- you aren’t on a lifestyle change. You are still riding high on the diet mentality. There are no good and bad foods. Just eat for what you need.
I don’t know what diet you may be on right now but I want you to think about yourself for the moment. Maybe you aren’t vegan or vegetarian or whatever. Maybe you are just seeking health. You want to be in a better condition because you know what you are currently doing to yourself isn’t the best.
Okay, breathhhheee. Now think about who you are and what you do. You are definitely human so you need vitamin and minerals and these are found in abundance in different coloured veggies and fruits so that’s it. Step 1- your diet will consist predominantly of fruits and veggies. Are you a marathoner? A triathelete? Or do you work at an office? If you engage a lot in sports, you need carbohydrate sources for quick energy (I’m not going into how the body can supply energy even in ketosis. That’s just too much work). But how much do you need? Do you want to get them from fruits and veggies or do you want to add them in the form of grain based carbs? Are you just jogging or doing HIIT? You also need protein. Are you going to get them from beans and plant sources or animals in accordance with your beliefs? You also need good fats. Where will you get them from? YOU ALSO NEED PLAIN WATER, not more sugar- drink your water guys 🙂
Different people will have different dietary needs. Perhaps you are a recovering anoretic so load up on the nourishment you’ve deprived your body off. Perhaps you are diabetic. Perhaps you are pregnant. Or breastfeeding or weight training. Everybody is different and every day is different. For myself, there are days where I don’t do much activity (just sit in front of the computer) so I load up on fruits and veggies and smaller amounts of grains because I still need vitamins and minerals. I feel ungrounded and hungry without grains so even though there a ton of research out there that says grains irritate your guy lining, I’ll eat them and be happy anyway. Likewise, I love peanut butter and most research says peanut butter is a great source of protein but peanut butter (and cashews :() cause me to binge so I try to stay off them even though I LOVE THEM SO MUCH. T.T I’m pretty sure one day research will say fruits and veggies ARE BAD! Don’t eat them. Then what are you going to do? Would you be horrified and just jump ship or would you be so assured and confident in what is best for your body that you would know all those years of choosing to eat all that you have eaten was made with a mindful choice?
I guess what I’m trying to say is that don’t outsource your health. The perfect diet is not found in some book or supplement or machine out there. It’s in the deep awareness of yourself and your needs and most importantly, it is sustainable. Eating is supposed to be intuitive but we’ve complicated it in all sort of ways, turned a beautiful act of social bonding into an arena to be judged. Nobody can or should judge you for whatever you are eating (nor should you judge others) whether you are vegan or paleo or having McDonald chicken nuggets one day or a salad the next. You only need to be true to yourself about your choices. Eat first for what you need then for what you want and over time, you’ll realize that your body will crave things that are naturally good for you. There will never be the sense of restriction, ever.
At the end of the day, I just want to remind you that eating is such a small small part of life. It’s an energy giver FOR life. Which means that you just ingest the food and it fills you with energy to go out and do other things. Eating shouldn’t BE life. It shouldn’t be something you agonise over, worry about, judge yourself and other people for. Your next diet plan, next juice cleanse shouldn’t be the first thing on your mind every morning when you wake up. Neither should you miss out on life just because you’ve restricted yourself in some way. Healthy eating does not equate healthy living. Healthy eating is a subset of healthy living. Because let’s be frank here. The person at level 1 who eats junk like it doesn’t matter is probably living a healthier life than you if all you do everyday is obsess over eating the ‘right’ foods and the best ‘superfoods’.
You know how they say the perfect job is one you don’t need to take a vacation from? Well, a perfect diet is one you never need to cleanse from. Everything in moderation and balance. Fill up on real food that meet your nutritional needs and have some (sweet potato) chips on the side if you want to.
Just eat for what you need, then what you want and go out there AND LIVE. There is a whole life waiting for you.