by Matt Stone.
Okay, okay. Be warned. This is going to be an episode of the pot calling the kettle “black” of unprecedented proportion. I’ve written, by my best estimate, 2.5 million words over the past 5 years on the topic of health and nutrition. Excessive yes. But perhaps it has taken me these couple million words to realize that words themselves, when it comes to health, our dietary and lifestyle choices, and that kind of thing – too many of them, is more of the problem than the solution.
Ugh, even that last sentence is too wordy. What I mean is…
People are reading about, hearing about, thinking about, and analyzing their personal health practices more than ever before. The internet has taken our civilization from one that was neurotically fixated on what it was orally ingesting and how many calories it burns on any given day, and turned it into a gooey blob-like creature that gobbles up health books and websites and exercise products until health has become existence itself. People have become mad, and are increasingly defining themselves by the diets they eat, supplements they swallow, and secret Russian workouts they endure. Even wheat is thinking about going gluten-free.
Nowhere has this become more evident than on the nutrition front. Dietary choice has eclipsed old-fashioned fornication as the center of many people’s most dominant conscious thought. I mean, who has time to daydream about sex when there are life and death eating decisions to be made multiple times per day? Hey, when you’re not “cleansing” or having a “cheat day,” it takes a lot of thought and effort to be on a gluten-and casein free, low sugar macrobiotic vegan raw Paleo Ayurvedic ketogenic Warrior diet!
Physiologist Ray Peat wrote in 1993, near the dawn of the “information superhighway…”
“If we added up all of the special ‘avoidance’ diets, no one could eat anything. Many people are ruining their health by avoiding too many foods.”
What? You think I included this quote because he seems to sum this problem up quite succinctly? Hell no! Flash forward nearly 20 years and Dr. Peat’s own diet has been whittled down to milk, orange juice, raw carrots, oxtail stew, and oysters. This guy’s no dummy either. No list of the top 10 minds in the fields of nutrition or physiology would be complete without his name on it. But lack of intelligence or study or analysis is not the problem. A surplus of information is.
We’re drowning in thought about what we eat. The biggest danger is that, in intellectualizing every morsel of digestible material that makes its way into our stomachs, we drown out our own body’s signals and physiological needs.
Body: I’m not thirsty, and have peed 12 times today already.
Brain: Must drink 8, 8-ounce glasses of water per day!
Body: I need a lot of food right now, preferably melted cheese on bread.
Brain: Only 18 more days until this “juice feast” is over!
In the process we often become socially isolated (big disease risk factor) and experience frequent feelings of anxiety and stress (big disease risk factor) about what we eat on top of the constant background stress of modern life. This doesn’t even touch the unknowable consequences of losing the joy of eating, replacing this joy with cold, drab, intellectual calculation.
Anyway, I don’t expect this small spark of an idea to overcome whatever thorough programming you’ve received via your own pursuit of health information. What I can say is that I could either prosecute or defend just about any known food that you may fear or worship. At the end of the lengthy tunnel of dietary perfection, which I feel I have reached after meticulously reading over 300 books on the subject, hundreds of blogs, and thousands of articles and studies, lies nothing. Absolutely nothing. It’s empty.
There really is no food that doesn’t have drawbacks or downsides. There is no diet that doesn’t have serious limitations and dangers. Eating itself damages our bodies. Not eating damages it even more. And even if there was some ideal diet, strict adherence to dietary purity is far from being a consistent trait amongst centenarians and others who everyone would recognize as possessing exceptional health and vitality. Author Linda Bacon has cataloged 75 studies showing that restricting your eating somehow leads to increased rates of disease, obesity, or both. Parents who interfere with their children’s eating end up with children that are fatter and sicker in just about every study examining such a thing.
Instead, I encourage you to save your time, money, and social life and stay, or quickly get, out of the perfect diet game. Keep your mind from getting entangled with thought about what you are eating aside from the absolute bare basics (like, you know, if eating peanuts put you into anaphylactic shock, you can make the conscious decision not to eat them).
Health is a state of mind. Health is about having the adaptability and flexibility to go with the flow of a dynamic and passionate life. Health, or sickness, is about the total sum of all thoughts, experiences, genetic tendencies, and a lot more than whether or not your eggs are juiced up with extra omega 3 fatty acids. So relax. Reconnect with eating recreationally. Or as I say again and again…
Eat the Food!