Recently I've been thinking a lot about what a healthy diet truly is. In my training to become an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach I studied over 100 different dietary theories and diets. In school we heard lectures from dozens of leaders in the field of diet and health from major universities like UC Davis, Harvard, and Yale, and from leaders in various dietary theories ranging from Atkins to vegan. Each one of these experts gave strong and compelling arguments and evidence to support their approach. I am not a disciple of any one theory and I believe there are many valid healthy choices we can make. The science of nutrition is really pretty young, new discoveries are made constantly; I find it fascinating to follow the science. There are some basics to a healthy diet that I believe are fundamental; drink more water, eat less sugar, less processed foods & avoid hydrogenated oils altogether. But beyond this I think the best answer on what a healthy diet is: it depends. We are all unique; there is no one size fits all.
Some of my family have recently enthusiastically adopted a new diet where they have excluded all things gluten, wheat & dairy. While they don’t have specific medical reasons for this diet they are feeling better since following it. I love them dearly and am so happy that they have taken an active role in their health and are feeling healthier. I personally don’t follow a gluten free - dairy free diet but I believe that if this diet makes you feel healthy & happy, or if you have sensitivities to gluten or dairy for example, then it’s a great diet for you. But, perhaps because they are new to their chosen lifestyle, it sometimes is seems that our visits are now more focused on discussion and judgment of ‘healthy’ vs. ‘unhealthy’ food and less about enjoying time with loved ones and sharing a delicious meal. It feels at times like a war against what’s perceived as ‘bad’ food and it has me thinking about the role of food and of love in our life.
Dr. Bernie Siegel was one of the lecturers in my studies, there is a quote from Dr. Siegel that has stayed with me, “Don't do things to not die, it doesn't work”. Dr. Siegel’s message was that love is one of the most powerful forces in our life for our health and happiness, love for ourselves and love for others. He believes that illness can sometimes be brought on because we don’t love our life or our bodies. He said he believed that our bodies love us and are simply doing what we ask. When we don’t love life our body responds to our wishes. It’s an interesting thought. His message was to pay attention to your heart. He told us that when you wage war against something you empower it. He said listen to your heart, if you don’t like something, eliminate it from your life. When we love ourselves and others we will be healthier. So, don’t hate ‘bad’ food, love ‘good’ food! Don’t wage war on illness, love life. It’s an interesting way to look at it. I think it is one that makes a huge difference on our health and happiness.
Clearly, if we feed our bodies a diet of highly processed factory foods, soda pop and candy bars we aren’t showing it, or ourselves, much love. But I wonder if zealous adherence to a particular dietary theory is sometimes more about battling unhappiness and a war with life? If that is the case is it really a healthy diet? Could you achieve a better outcome if the focus is shifted to a love of life and enjoying delicious healthy food? I believe selecting the right healthy diet for yourself and your family should be about enjoying food, life and the people you love. And if someone you know and love decides a different diet than yours is best for them, respect their choice even if you disagree with it, love and support them.
This Valentine’s Day take a moment to reflect on love, for yourself, your body, and the precious people, animals, and nature that surround us. Take a moment to be grateful. Then ask yourself what could you do to show more love for yourself, others, and our planet?
Here's To Our Health!
Shirley Makela, AADP INHC
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