If you are remotely interested in a healthy diet, you’ll most likely have read dozens of experts claim they know the perfect way to eat. I can totally identify with the fact that when you find a formula that makes you feel really great, you want to share it with others, shout it from the rooftops. This is a beautiful thing because it comes from a well-intentioned place, and as long as we keep it positive, I think it can do no harm. Where it gets dangerous though, is when we start to demonise foods, or become negative towards opposing approaches. I’ve seen this tendency grow a lot recently, perhaps exacerbated by the pervasion of social media, and I think it’s a dangerous habit to be tempted into. Here’s why:
1. We have to remember that all our opinions are formed by context; this not only includes the evidence that we have amassed ourselves by eating certain things and seeing how they work for us, but in a wider sense context influences the information that surrounds us. It’s important to remember that any piece of research, no matter how thorough and correct, has its limitations. No trial can be exacted on every single situation, on every single person, from every single point in time. We do the best we can with the information that comes to us, but it’s super important not to isolate one stream of thinking and take it as law, especially at the exclusion of everything else.
Solution: Ask yourself, if there was a change in the societal status quo and everybody stopped eating the way you ate, would you carry on as you are? If the answer is yes, that’s when you know you’re on the right track. This is when you know you’re doing what’s best for you in a really genuine way.
2. Often, clinging to one school of thought comes from a place of fear . We worry about what would happen to us if we step outside the guidelines, what if we fall off the wagon, what if there’s a ‘better’ way out there. But we stick to what we’re doing because we’ve spent so darn long getting to this way, and it’s exhausting. This is a totally valid way to feel, and we’ve all been there. But we also need to (myself included) remember that teeny tweaks in our diets are not the be all and end all. There’s nothing to be truly AFRAID of. It’s just food.
Solution: Keep doing what you’re doing. Just don’t let it get to the point where you’re convinced that it’s the ONLY way, ever, for everybody. You don’t eat red meat? Don’t look down on those who do. Avoid grains because they make you feel horrible? There are plenty of people out there who thrive on them.
3. The feeling of having the answers is a lot more comfortable than the realisation that we don’t. Leaning towards the former is rife when it comes to food because it’s an area in which so many of us feel OUT of control.
Solution: It’s important we don’t judge ourselves if we sometimes feel the need to be controlling with our food; it’s human. Eventually we want to get to a place where we can recognise this need for control, and stop it from playing out in various ways, like judging others, judging ourselves, or even feeling superior because of the choices we make.
At the end of the day, we are in a constant state of change. Things are constantly shifting. We must not get stuck in a place of convincing ourselves that we have the one and only answer. This ongoing practice is an exercise in humility, and actually a very empowering one. You’ll have heard this be applied to many other topics, but it’s the same with food really. I for example am a vegan now, and in the beginning I was constantly monitoring myself to make sure I didn’t shove it down other peoples’ throats. Just because it works for me, I am well aware that it isn’t some sort of Holy Grail. Over the years, I got comfortable in the uncomfortable idea that there isn’t an end point. I even opened myself up to the idea that eating a plant-based diet may not suit me through all the phases of my life, and that’s ok. It doesn’t diminish the effectiveness of what I’m doing now.
Let’s respect eachother enough to trust that everyone is trying to do the best for themselves, as are we. It’s important that we see differences in approach as a strength to us as a community, rather than a threat to us as individuals. You’ll start to see that with this outward respect will come a hell of a lot of inner security and calm.
With respect to you all,
(PS. As a final thought, if you are in a position where you are able to scrutinise others’ food choices, you fall into an extremely lucky, small minority of people on this planet who not only has access to plentiful food, but can also turn it down without worry)