By Joseph Accursio NP
Another highly contentious and fad-driven aspect of wellness is also among the most misunderstood, and most feared– the dreaded “diet.” Let’s have a conversation and attempt to sort through the misinformation and come to a new perspective on what’s for dinner.
The first thing on the agenda is the familiar and unpleasant concept of DISCIPLINE. It can’t be avoided, so we’d best get to it. What you eat, where you go, how you move, how you think – this is all a matter of discipline. And that discipline cultivates good or bad habits. Consider the garden analogy: if you plant a garden and let it “take care” of itself, you end up with a weed bed. If you take a disciplined approach, weed it, water it, care for it, you will end up with an abundant harvest. How does this relate to diet?
A “diet” is a long-term proposition. It’s what you eat, not what book you’re reading on what to eat for the next few weeks. Fad diets and short term eating adjustments are rough on the body and produce nothing in the way of real results, just like going to the gym once every two weeks will make you excessively sore and produce nothing in the way of real fitness. We are all aware of this fact, and yet we’re still easily led away by the next flashy computer ad or TV commercial.
There is no substitute for paying attention to what you eat and making good choices. Period. Make it an everyday thing; an every time thing. We’ll skip the discussion of “cheat days” and failure, because that’s the wrong perspective. You should, and can, enjoy eating well. And I promise that you will feel and function better.
Another popular aspect of nutrition is the “superfood” trend. Every few years, it’s the next big thing that purports to provide abundant energy, sharpen mental acuity, increase libido, take away wrinkles, cure cancer and generally turn back the clock. Remember Noni juice? How about the current acai craze? Goji berries? Probiotic water? Tumeric? Kombucha? Kefir? Tiger nuts? And right up there with these quick fixes are things like cleanses, alkalinity diets, gluten avoidance, ketogenic diets…the list goes on and on.
This is not to say that some of these foods aren’t beneficial, and that certain aspects of programs and cleanses aren’t useful. I regularly enjoy (catch that key word, enjoy) many of these things myself. It’s also not to say that the irresponsible way that many of these things are promoted isn’t potentially dangerous. But the idea that a single magic nutrient or certain program is going to turn your life around is a sales pitch, not a scientific finding.
One more point of discussion related to “diet” – diet programs. Weight watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, Medi-fast. The functional part of each of these systems remains the same – taking in less calories. There is definitely something to be said for this, because the first problem with the traditional American “diet” is that we eat too much. But more striking is the core reason that people meet with great success on these programs – discipline. Because they connect their wallet to their willpower, they achieve success in a way that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to. The importance of a lifestyle change has been converted into cash. This bears great consideration – if there’s nothing to lose, there’s probably nothing to gain. In the case of these folks, they would be wasting their money if they didn’t follow through with the program.
The truth is that it takes major effort in many different areas of life and - most important of all in every endeavor - a robust support system, if we hope to make any meaningful changes.