Well, It Depends …
Yesterday a friend was telling me about his digestive woes. In the 15 years I’ve known him, he’s ended up in the ER with GERD, gall bladder problems and acute pancreatitis. In general, his digestion just doesn’t seem to be the strongest part of his constitution. He asked me, “Why don’t you have these issues?”
I replied, “Why don’t you ever get headaches?,” an issue I’ve struggled with for years. Why do I get sore throats when he almost never does? For that matter, why is my skin olive and his light? Why is my hair thick and his thin? Because we all live in different bodies.
As a yoga teacher moving into my 28th year of teaching, I’ve observed and taught thousands of people. Not once have I come across an alignment principle that applies to everyone. The same is true for diets.
It stands to reason that a particular diet may benefit one person and be incompatible for another person. I quit eating meat in 1978 and haven’t looked back. I spent about 10 years as a vegan before being advised by my acupuncturist to introduce eggs back into my diet once or twice a week. Since I stopped eating meat, I’ve never craved it—not once, not even bacon.
But I know people who tried a vegetarian diet and it didn’t work for them. They felt weak and tired without meat, and revitalized when they ate meat. When I ate meat, I felt heavy and tired, and my guts ached constantly. Different people, different bodies.
Whenever a new diet philosophy hits the news, I read about it with interest. Having given up meat at a time when very few people recognized the value of plant-based diets, I’ve always taken an interest in nutrition. While I’m not a nutritionist, I’ve logged many hours studying nutrition and diet on my own. But I always question the concept that a single dietary philosophy will work for everyone, whether it’s low-carb, Paleo, Mediterranean, gluten-free, or vegan and vegetarian.
So I was interested to read this article from The Atlantic about Dr. David Katz at Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. Like me, Katz shuns the idea of one-size-fits-all diets that attempt to simplify humanity’s complexity and tell us what we should all be eating. Rather than focusing on specific diets—eliminate this and add that—Katz advocates for eating “real” foods, foods that are as close to their natural, unprocessed state as possible. This includes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and not too much sugar.
You’ve probably heard this before, countless times. There’s a reason for that; it makes sense. Like Katz, I agree with Michael Pollan’s famous diet prescription: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Simple, but it leaves a whole lot of wiggle room. What this means is we all need to take responsibility for our own diets. What works for you? What doesn’t? Pay attention to the after-effects of what you eat. How does a particular food affect you physically, mentally, emotionally and energetically? Keep in mind that what works now could change as you move through your life. My advice is to follow Pollan’s advice and enjoy your exploration.