There is an overwhelming amount of diet and health advice out there, much of it is totally conflicting, scientific evidence is not always what it seems and it isn’t easy to know what to believe.
What should we do with the plethora of information? Do we just give up? Ignore it all? Pick one and stick with it no matter what? Crawl under a rock and hide?
Is this blog post going to add to your confusion or claim to have all the answers?
NO WAY! (at least I hope not)
If you listen to one piece of advice in your lifetime I hope it is this one:
DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU.
There is no one size fits all when it comes to people. No one particular set of interests, fashion sense, sexual preference, career, favourite holiday destination…. There is also no one size fits all approach to heath and wellness.
The best thing you can do is learn to listen to your body. You are the expert on you.
As you learn to tune in to what your body is telling you it will become easier to find the right combination for you. I eat and live the way I do because that it what makes me feel best at this point in my life but what makes you feel good and what works for your body might look different. So tune in to things such as:
- How are your energy levels?
- How you are sleeping?
- Is your mood stable?
- Are you experiencing anxiety?
- Are you coping with daily stressors?
- How is your digestion?
- Do you feel bloated, have a sore tummy, nausea, need to run to the toilet all the time or haven’t been in several days?
- Is your skin clear and your mind clear?
- Can you concentrate well, sit still and be calm?
- Are you getting headaches, asthma, joint pain or other physical issues?
- Has your drug or alcohol use increased?
These things will give you a clue about how your current lifestyle is working for you.
Learning to notice physical sensations in our bodies also helps us to identify the effect that different foods, situations, behaviours, people and environmental triggers have on us. This too can help us work out what we need to do. (If paying attention to bodily sensations feels too overwhelming for you then seek help from a therapist. This is often the case when we have experienced trauma.)
If the answers to these questions suggest that some tweaking is in order then don’t panic. Take one step at a time and make small changes so that you can monitor how they affect you. Consider options such as:
- Removing processed food, gluten, dairy, sugar, meat, grains, coffee, alcohol, eggs, soy, raw food, cooked food, fermented food, ….. or adding some of these in. Make one small change and maintain that change for at least 2 weeks to see what effect it has. Keep tweaking until you feel good. Enlist the help of a naturopath, nutritionist, health coach or integrative gp to work these things out or to test for nutritional deficiencies or intolerances if you need to. Ignore other people’s opinions on what you are doing!
- Changing your exercise routine – add some in, take some out, try something different. Find something that you enjoy that also involves moving your body in some way. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it is something. Exercise to improve your mood and your general health, not to lose weight. More is not always better.
- Adding in stress management strategies. Find what works for you. Meditation, breathing, yoga, tai chi, walking, essential oils, music, going to bed earlier, eating your lunch away from your desk, spending time with friends… Again, what works for each person will be different. I cannot stand most guided meditations (except these ones) but I am learning to sit for a couple of minutes and create my own form of meditation and I have really noticed the difference this makes to me. I love a really physical yoga class but for others something more restorative works better. There are heaps of different breathing techniques out there. Keep trying things until you find what works for you.
- Seek help if you need it. Psychology, acupuncture, kinesiology, massage, reiki, chiropractic… the list of options is huge and again, there is no one size fits all. Keep searching until you find what you need and until you find the particular practitioner and style that suits you. By all means ask for recommendations but feel free to ignore other people’s judgements about what you are doing. I love a bit of woo woo hippy stuff thrown in among the science, others think I am nuts – their issue not mine!
Most importantly, think about what works for you at this point in your life. Becoming stressed over cooking everything from scratch, affording all organic food (who can do that?) trying to meditate for an hour everyday or fitting in a gym class isn’t going to improve your health. Stress is one of the most surefire ways to watch your health decline. Equally, guilt over food isn’t helpful either. Eating something that doesn’t serve you well isn’t the end of the world. Enjoy it and move on.
Think about the big picture, work out what works for you, do the best that you can, do your own research when making decisions and remember that the ONLY expert on you is YOU.
And one last thing – keep listening to your body. Things change over time. Keep making changes as your body and your circumstances change.
I would love to hear your thoughts about this.