There is no magic diet. No magic pill. No magic cleanse, smoothie or shake. There are no shortcuts. Anything that claims to be is one of two things: dangerous to your health (in either the short or long term) or unsustainable. In either case, that shortcut winds up being a waste of time, energy and money, and probably has a negative and taxing effect on your body. We aren’t meant to constantly go on and off diets. Doing so takes a toll on our metabolism and immune system, two of the most important functions in weight management and overall health. Instead, we are meant to maintain a balanced and consistent pattern of eating that fulfills the nutrient needs of our bodies, never putting us in the position to have to go “on a diet.”
Diet. It’s a word we’ve probably either seen or heard 100+ times in the last week alone without even realizing it. So first, lets define it. The definition that probably comes first to mind is the one we need to abandon. It usually involves a restriction of either a type or volume of specific food or macro nutrient (carb, fat or protein). But the idea of a caloric or food specific restriction misses the point. The most important aspect in getting to our health goals both inside and out is food quality. The only diet we are meant to follow is the human diet: what we, as animals, are intended to eat.
HUMANS V (other) ANIMALS
Every animal in the wild has their own diet. Certain types of prey or plants that they eat and convert into the fuel necessary to survive. Humans are no different in that we too have our own designated diet determined by our genetic make up and DNA.
But here is where we do differ: Animals actually follow their physiologically set and demanded diet, because they have no other choice. They live off their environment. We, on the other hand, live off fast food, artificial sweeteners, processed foods, caffeinated sugar water, genetically modified foods and many other harmful products.
Now, when we take a look at things like disease and obesity, it seems to all make sense. It becomes clear why humans are the most disease-stricken species on the planet. Eating poor makes us sick, which makes us poor. And I can’t think of two other things that hurt our quality of life more than lack of health and lack of wealth. So now that we can all agree that we are not designed to sustain an artificial diet, what should our diets look like?!
1. The More Greens, The Better
This is as close to magic as you’re going to get. Greens do reduce inflammation in the body, induce fat-burning cells, reverse disease (such as diabetes and heart disease), aid in gut health, therefore immune system function. Need I say more!?
Also, the darker and leafier the greens, the better.
PLEASE watch Forks Over Knives on Netflix if you need any more convincing.
2. Minimize Allergens
We love our grains and dairy. However, the main components of each seem to disagree with a large percentage of the population. The gluten in most grains and the lactose in dairy products can trigger a number of undesirable reactions that damage us internally. Over time, the recurrence of these reactions in our digestive system, which is most closely linked with our immune system, alters our cells and influences disease.
3. Keep It Simple
Engulf your body with lean meats/fish, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Simple doesn’t mean boring. There’s millions of ways to prepare chicken, turkey and fish. The goal is for this pattern of eating is to be sustainable. All of these food options are stomach- and digestive system-friendly and nutrient dense, aiding cell health.
Quality over calories!!
4. Don’t Skip Meals
We don’t just walk, talk, exercise, work and think naturally. The breakdown of food into energy allows us to perform these functions. Skipping meals robs our body of what fuels our functionality. Whether or not we have the fake fuel of caffeine in us, going extended periods of time without food drops blood sugar and energy levels. Over time, the constant spike and drop of blood sugar from skipping meals followed by overeating hinders the body’s ability to respond to insulin, putting us on the fast track to diabetes.
It is no coincidence that foods that can be picked, grown, gathered and (for the most part) hunted are the healthiest for us. We are animals. And before we got a little too “smart” for our own good, we ate what our bodies demanded from our environment, not things created in a factory or altered genetically for more efficient mass production.
We most certainly have not adapted to an artificial type of diet; it is evident by our bodies’ rejection of, and eventual illness from, certain foods. In truth, we are eating ourselves into disease and early death. But it is never too late to reduce health risks or even reverse disease through nutritional changes. So learn about food and its production, the digestive system and improve the quality of food that you put in your body. I recommend following Eric Edmeades and Dr. Mark Hyman, two experts in the field who inspired many of the suggestions in this article. Finally, please be mindful of the long-term. Your diet today will most certainly determine the health and happiness of your future self.
Brian Johnson grew up in Nyack and attended the University of Massachusetts. This blog post was originally published on his blog, The Balance of Being.