I was at a dinner not long ago while traveling with a group of doctors. These doctors were alternative medicine practitioners, and each considered lifestyle and diet a very important factor of healthy living. They were also practitioners that practiced what they preached – each with unique diets and eating habits. One adhered to the Paleo Diet (AKA the ‘Caveman Diet’) which is based on the premise that modern humans are genetically adapted to the diet of their Paleolithic ancestors and that human genetics have scarcely changed since the dawn of agriculture, and therefore that an ideal diet for human health and well-being is one that resembles this ancestral diet. This means they mainly ate fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, vegetables, fruit, roots, and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils. Another was on a Raw Food Diet, in which almost all food is uncooked, and generally plant based. Another gluten-free, and another stipulated nothing with any sugar or sweetener. It took 15 minutes to order for a group of 8, and I’m pretty sure we were the waiter’s most difficult table of the night. Not because anyone was unpleasant, but because these diets and restrictions made ordering a normal meal at a fine restaurant a nightmare.
There are so many diets out there, some extreme, some based in science, and some based on random beliefs and superstition. Yet when many of us choose to believe in any one single type of diet, we can take it to the extreme, only to give it up shortly thereafter. I’m guilty of this myself. I’ve gone without red-meat for a time, cut dairy out completely, and have tried high protein, high carbs, high fat as well as the counterpart a number of times. And while some of these diets have helped me feel healthy and improved my general sense of well-being, in the end, they did not work because they are not practical.
So what’s the best diet of them all? The diet of moderation. By that, I mean eating healthy, doing your homework and knowing what foods are healthy and which ones are not, but allowing yourself to eat most foods in moderation. That dinner with the doctors – I had dessert and a glass of wine – knowing it’s not exactly healthy, but it had been weeks since I had either. Also, if you broke it down, the benefits of resveratrol in wine as well as the stress-relief and release of endorphins while I enjoyed that dessert can be seen as a healthy choice. I enjoyed my meal and the company, and had no guilt in my choice, while I’m pretty sure the others there did not enjoy it as much and questioned whether their dishes were prepared to the exact specifications and the possibility the waiter may have missed something and added something with gluten, or sugar, or a processed ingredient.
Food not only should be used to sustain, but to enjoy. We should be grateful for every meal, and not limit ourselves to a very strict list of what we must and must not eat. So many people today place such high value on diet, yet smoke, or have so much stress in their lives, or have emotional baggage they carry with them. Diet is just one aspect of life and health, and we should enjoy our food and always eat wisely, but never to an extreme.
Of course I believe we should all stay away from processed, engineered, fried, and sugary foods – but every once and a while, it’s OK to practice moderation and allow yourself a cheeseburger or a dessert. If the rest of your life is in balance and you take care of yourself on all levels; body, mind and spirit; then diet doesn’t have to be a chore.
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