Does Your Diet Define You?
These days the way you eat can be as defining as the groups you belong to. You can find immediate kinship with someone if you find common ground in the way you eat. Certainly, many new parent friendships have been sparked right on the playground as you bond over your kid’s food allergies or aversions.
Food is such a hallmark of being social creatures. And food has become a modern way of social identification. Think about the vegetarian movement (PETA is darn near political!). Or the fierce online dogmatic debates on what is “Paleo.” Today food is more than what you eat, it’s a social club you buy into.
Let me ask you: how do you think your diet defines you?
And it’s no wonder that food holds this kind of charge for us. We are a melting pot of different cultures and we bring our respective food traditions with us. Food ties families and communities together in a strong way.
Many people are aware they need to make a change in their lifestyle to improve their health, especially when it comes to their diet. This is a powerful opportunity to change not only an individual’s health but the entire healthcare system. There’s an obvious health crisis that won’t be fully healed until our nutritional status and food system is addressed.
But with so many changing dietary trends to follow, it can be downright overwhelming and confusing to know the best way to eat.
It’s this passion that has motivated me for close to three decades to learn from the leading experts in the fields of nutrition, biochemistry, and medicine. I’ve traveled the world to uncover the ancient principles of some of the world’s traditional peoples in order to understand what makes the most impact on our health and well-being.
My research and understanding have culminated in my new book Glow15. If you’re familiar with Glow15, you know about the importance of autophagy — the fundamental process inherent in every cell that has the ability to prevent aging because it keeps your cells acting young. By employing the following principles you’ll burn fat, reduce your risk of chronic inflammatory diseases, activate your autophagy and keep you looking and feeling your best at any age:
1. Fat First, Carbs Last
2. Intermittent Fasting
3. Protein Cycling
Making change can be hard. That’s why.
There are a lot of barriers to navigate and negotiate while taking on new lifestyle habits. It’s easy to stay in the familiar zone, even if it’s not serving your highest good. Staying in discomfort has a certain amount of comfort attached to it. Change can be risky and scary. And misinformation about food and diet is everywhere, quickly leading to overwhelm and confusion.
I like to start with where you are now. So how is your current diet serving you? Why do you eat the way you do? Perhaps it has to do with time and convenience, personal and family schedules.
Do you eat similar to the way you grew up eating? There may be some ingrained habits that are hard to break. Perhaps your habits support the way you eat, and maybe your physiology supports the way you eat.
When you have a gut microbiome that is out of balance and populated by unhealthy gut bacteria due to stress, toxicity overload, and hormonal imbalance, you will be influenced to eat in a certain way to keep those bacteria alive and functioning, even if they aren’t serving your highest health goals. I know it sounds strange that tiny little organisms can have so much influence over how you eat but amazingly, they do. There is no question about tending to a healthy gut to improve the foods we gravitate towards.
Our gut bacteria aren’t the only impact influencing what foods we eat.
External factors like education, access, and relationships influence the kinds of foods we eat immensely. As I mentioned earlier, food, culture, and social ties are incredibly strong. Making the kinds of changes you need for yourself may threaten your relationships and how you see yourself.
Fear of making a dietary change that may interfere with your social life — work, friendships, family, and community is a very real thing.
Maybe it happens when you go out to eat to celebrate your girlfriend’s birthday, at a family holiday celebration, or while accepting a new friend’s dinner invitation.
Do you find it easy to let them know that you do and don’t eat certain foods? Are you comfortable voicing your preference of where to go out to eat when you know the others in your group don’t share your same preferences?
Most of the stress, fear, and judgment that comes along with making changes to our diet and lifestyle really stem from the need to be accepted and approved by our peers and loved ones.
The strong propensity we have for needing approval from others comes from very deep biological wiring around feeling safe in a group. We are social creatures. If our ancestors went against the grain of what their tribe, community or family was doing, they wouldn’t have fared well on their own if they were ostracized from the group. Even though we live in a very different environment today, the risk of being cast out still lives within our DNA — you don’t have to look farther than a middle school girl’s clique to see the need to belong can feel like a matter of life or death.
No wonder that the social pressures around food would be a big reason that holds people back from making changes!
Thankfully, with some thoughtful inquiry around our behavior, we can engage the processes of our evolved frontal lobe to make different choices.
If you know you need to make dietary and health changes but you’re noticing fear around the personal and social implications of it, here’s what you can do to help navigate this:
1. Understand the deeper reasons and biological wiring for being triggered by someone else’s disapproval of you or your choices.
2. Practice letting someone else have their opinion of what you’re doing while not taking it personally. Realize that their opinion is really about them and not about you.
If you find friends or family playfully teasing you about how you are eating, you can always respond in a similar joking way. Perhaps underneath their joke, they are kind of curious about what you are doing. It might be an opportunity to share what you are learning and how it is impacting you.
For the people who are giving you a hard time for real, you can respond with a little more firmness that lets them know you are making these choices because your health is important to you. When you speak from your own experience and let them know about the changes you’ve noticed within your own health, you’re more likely to get a receptive response.
At the same time, notice your own thoughts about what someone else is eating. Do you feel the need to educate them on the “right” way to eat? What is underneath this? Do you secretly judge people for how they choose to eat?
Letting go of the idea of there being one right way to eat can liberate you from another’s judgment and can also free you from the judgment of your own thoughts around the choices another person makes. And yes, sometimes that judgment is directed towards yourself, which is the most harmful of all.
We all have to find our own way in this maze of information and experience is really the only true teacher in finding out what works best for us. The stress that judgment creates (whether it’s coming from another person, or it’s you doing the judging) creates emotions and therefore internal biochemistry that your body then has to process. Why not use that energy for the work of cellular repair, waste removal, looking beautiful and living your best life? I hope you will join me in my humble quest for constant discovery of all the options available to us to heal and live our best life.