What Diet is Best for Health? Dealing with Confusion & Perfectionism Around Nutrition

Red Beetroot with green leaves - 6 ways to love your liver

So I know this article isn’t all “10 steps to becoming 10 years younger by yesterday” (for anyone who came here to find out how to do that, I’m sorry but it isn’t possible) but I think the content is valuable and so I encourage you to read on. I think you’ll find it valuable too.

You Aren’t Perfect Yet (But You Can Be)

I listened this week to a GREAT and really thought-provoking Hey Katie Lee Facebook Live in which Katie discussed the life coaching and self-improvement industry and talked about some of the damaging messages the industry can perpetuate. Some of those messages include:

  • you aren’t enough
  • you know don’t enough
  • you don’t have the answers
  • you aren’t perfect yet (but you can be), and,
  • if you don’t do X, Y, or Z, you aren’t going to find success, or worse, you will fail

The outcome of these messages is that you can feel you have SO MUCH MORE WORK TO DO. You find yourself always looking for the next step (in a long path to some perfect version of yourself), you spend no time enjoying the present, you stop appreciating the progress you’ve made, and you lose perspective on how well you’re already doing!

I love self-help and coaching books and blogs (on such topics as meditation, relationships, nutrition, online businesses, introversion, marketing, relaxation, even perfectionism – oh, the irony), so this really resonated with me.

What Does That Have To Do With Nutrition?

The nutrition industry is not immune to some of the concerns that Katie Lee outlines about the coaching industry. The nutrition industry definitely participates in the ‘noisy shouting machine’ that is the internet.

I mean, there is a lot of nutrition wisdom available on the internet and many expert, credible sources of information, but there is also a lot of marketing, a lot of media “gloss”, a tendency to emphasize what makes one diet different from another, a sense of possible diet and health perfection if you just follow the right ‘rules’, and ultimately, a lot of confusion about what to eat to be healthy.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m a holistic nutritionist! I believe there is immense value and necessity in therapeutic and root-issue focused diets. If you have specific health goals, or illnesses/conditions like autoimmune diseasePMS, infertility, acne, PCOS, diabetes, or IBS (and so on), there are additional and targeted nutrition and lifestyle steps you can take to address and improve your health concern. That’s where working with a healthcare practitioner, like a holistic nutritionist or naturopath, can be really beneficial in giving you the extra guidance, support, and information that you need to move towards vibrant health.

But I’m speaking to the group out there who want to prevent disease and protect good health, and who also identify with the tendency to absorb those messages of “not doing enough” and of “eating a perfect diet.” The group that can find themselves becoming a bit obsessive about nutrition. Raise your hands if that’s you. I know it can be meBut a perfectionist, fear-based eating strategy that comes from thinking you aren’t doing enough does not improve your health; it only stresses your body and your mind. And the competing soundbites only get more confusing.

That might be why I liked the article – Can We Say What Diet is Best for Health – so much. When you read it (either in full or summarized below), it feels like a bit of an exhale. You can look at your eating from an objective distance, drop the confusion and noise, and absorb the key points that really make a difference.

(NOTE: If you are finding that your eating patterns are starting to interfere with your ability to live your life, and you worry you might be developing obsessive and unhealthy health habits, please read some information on orthorexia and consider visiting an appropriate healthcare practitioner to discuss your concerns).

Can We Say What Diet is Best for Health?

Can We Say What Diet is Best for Health is an article authored by D.L. Katz and S. Meller. It evaluates the nutritional strengths and drawbacks of a variety of popular eating approaches including: Paleo, Mediterranean, Low Carb, Low Fat (which in this article includes Vegetarian), and Vegan. The article was published before the Ketogenic diet become immensely popular, but I doubt that the the conclusion would change even if it were included.

After noting that advertising and promotion tends to emphasize the differences between the diets and not their commonalities (which adds to nutrition confusion), the article suggests that there are in fact compatible health-promoting elements among all of the different diets. They are:

  • limited refined starches
  • limited added sugars
  • limited processed foods
  • limited intake of certain (harmful) fats
  • emphasis on whole plant foods, with or without lean meats, fish, poultry, and seafood

So what’s the conclusion? Can we say what diet is best for health? The article concludes that yes we can and it looks like this:

A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention and is consistent with the salient components of seemingly distinct dietary approaches.”

Take a deep breath and read that again. It isn’t flashy and it isn’t fancy and it isn’t particularly exciting. But I find it reassuring and kind of calming. It’s something to grab on to if you’re feeling overwhelmed and uncertain. It’s something to come back to if you’re feeling hard on yourself, or feeling those perfectionist tendencies creeping in.

To Sum It Up

Ultimately the right diet for you is the one that you feel good eating! It’s the approach to eating where you feel balanced and energetic, where you are able to achieve what you want to achieve, and where you feel you are able to maintain your nutrition goals without creating or falling into obsessive habits, and without losing pleasure and joy in food and in the journey.

Remember to congratulate yourself on any positive changes you’ve made. Encourage yourself to make additional changes from a place of love and excitement and empowerment. Stop following any blogs or social media that make you feel stressed out, panicky, ‘less than,’ or like you need to be perfect. And as Katie Lee says, remember to give yourself credit: you may already be doing better than you think!

© Emily Joldersma, R.H.N. Eat Well, Live Vibrantly

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