Somewhere in our quest for The Perfect Diet, we have lost sight of one very important fact: we are all different. If no two people are exactly alike, how could there be a magical “one-size-fits-all” diet that will cause us all to simultaneously lose weight and get healthy?
This elusive diet that we are all striving for is not realistic. However, I do believe each of us can find a diet that fits our unique needs.
Here are 4 factors you should consider when tweaking your own diet for optimal health:
1. Personal Health Issues
Knowing your own health issues, especially food allergies and intolerances, is the most important aspect of finding the right diet. No matter what anyone else says about a particular food, or even a whole food group, you must make food choices based on your own unique body.
If you’re allergic to dairy—don’t eat it. That should be a given. But sometimes things get more complicated than that…
Everyone would agree that leafy green vegetables are healthy, right? Unfortunately though, eating raw leafy green vegetables may need to be avoided by people with thyroid issues due to the naturally occurring goitrogens. Does that make kale an unhealthy food? No. It just means it may not be right for you while you get your thyroid back to optimal health.
2. Physical Needs
Your physical needs are different than mine. Our size is different; our metabolism is different; even the way we digest food is different. So why would we all follow the exact same meal plan with the same amount of calories and grams of carbs? It doesn’t make sense when you really think about it, does it?
I don’t count calories, but I know that my body seems to do best when the highest percentage of my daily calories comes from fat, then protein, then carbs. If I need an afternoon boost, fat is what I eat. My husband, on the other hand, needs carbs when he gets home from work. I used to frown upon it when he would get home and eat a muffin rather than a handful of nuts, but then I realized he was listening to his own body’s needs.
As a young woman who has struggled with disordered eating, I usually try to separate food from emotions. However, I do think the connection between food and emotions should not be ignored. I also believe it is possible for there to be a healthy connection between the food we eat and our emotional health. The situation gets tricky when we put our health aside in order to feed our emotional state. But if you’re someone who has a healthy relationship with food, then it is important to accept and even nurture your emotional relationship with food in a positive way.
For example, if having raw milk cream in your coffee every morning just satisfies your soul, then allow it in your diet–assuming you don’t have an allergy, of course! If you want to follow the paleo diet in every way except that you will enjoy consuming raw cream and aged cheeses, then do it.
Confession: I am not a cultural expert. I’ve travelled a bit, I love languages, and before I met my husband I had planned to get my degree in International Relations. But I do know that culture is an important factor to be considered when discussing food and diet.
When you read the plethora of information on the web about what to eat and what not to eat, it can feel overwhelming and condemning. You may feel pressure from your own culture or even us “health nuts” to eat a certain way. Whichever pressures you feel, I hope that you can take an objective stance and decide what feels best to you. If it’s culturally important for you to eat or not to eat certain foods, then be confident in that decision.
If you eat intuitively by listening to your body, then you can ignore the critics and be confident that you know what your body needs. There may be no “Perfect Diet” out there, but you can discover precisely what you need to be your best self.
What do you think?