Monthly Archives: April 2012

Don’t listen to anyone, including me.

The latest link passing around my Facebook page leads to an article about “the feeding-tube diet“—a woman who had her doctor insert a feeding tube so she could get wedding ready.  Why don’t you write about that? more than a few of my friends asked.  And I suppose I have some thoughts on it, mostly having to do with the fact that we’ve got a society as a whole that’s taught us to set arbitrary ideals for ourselves and then make ourselves miserable in the pursuit of the supposed happiness that we’ll feel once achieving said goals.

When picking through the New York Times’ health section, however, I noticed this little gem of a segment that most people seem to have overlooked: A Room for Debate piece entitled, “Do We Need More Advice About Eating Well?”

Good question, New York Times.

The different debaters raise various points—some that no amount of information is useful if you’re unable to apply it (ie, for those living in “food deserts” or for those without enough time and resources to prepare healthy meals),  some that deeply ingrained behavioral patterns prevent us from applying the knowledge we do pick up, and some that we still don’t have quite enough information available (ie, what type of sugar food contains or whether foods are genetically modified). 

Then famed registered dietician (yup, you can get famous doing anything) Marion Nestle argues, “Of course Americans need more information about eating well. Otherwise we wouldn’t have an obesity problem.” She explains the problem: “People are bombarded with conflicting advice, much of it from sources with a vested interest in selling particular foods, supplements or diet plans. Nutrition studies tend to focus on single nutrients, making their results difficult to apply to real diets.”

Which, I suppose, is what I see the most of at our gym—I mean, we’re a luxury club with spa services and state-of-the art equipment.  There’s a summer’s farmers’ market a stone’s throw away, a Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s within walking distance, a few less pricey grocery options also within range, plus an abundance of CSAs and the like.  And, let’s be honest—if you can afford the gym’s monthly fee, you can probably afford some or all of the above.  Living in a food desert is not an issue.  So we have a lot of people who struggle to apply the knowledge they have and rebuild their habits, in part, because, it’s hard to make sense of all the information out there.

Eventually, though, we have to figure out what works, who to listen to, who not to, and so on.  How else do you make headway in this whole “getting healthy” thing?  When reading the latest advice, you may need to do some further research—or at least look at the advice with a grain of salt.  Here are some rules of thumb I came up with to help decipher all the health hubbub:

1) Keep it Simple, Stupid
Michael Pollan coined the term “nutritionism” to talk about our culture’s fascination with nutrients rather than whole foods—ie, avoid carbs, avoid saturated fats, B vitamins give you energy, etc. A larger part (if not the majority) of nutrition research and reporting focuses on the effect of specific nutrients on the body.  Except nutrients in foods come packaged together with other nutrients, which will invariably affect how they act in our bodies—thus, a banana is not one giant potassium pill, nor is a salmon simply a swimming conduit of omega-3 fatty acids.  If you follow every bit of advice out there—Should I eat fat?  Should I not eat fat?  Is fruit bad for me because of all the sugar?  You’ll never be able to eat, because every week we get new research that contradicts old research.  Chances are, if you focus on eating a variety of whole foods—things that recognizably came from a plant or an animal—you’ll meet nutrition and nutritionism guidelines—if not by this week’s standards, then by next week’s.

2) If at all possible, find the original research.
Yes, journal articles can be monstrous to read.  Usually, though, even the abstracts can give you a better idea of how to interpret the results of the research, and those come fairly boiled down.  Yoni Freedhoff illustrates why going to the source can be beneficial both here and here.  Both blogs talk about news coverage of recent research—the first about a study that supposedly shows that chocolate makes people thinner, the second that white rice causes diabetes.  The two articles received a lot of press when they appeared, but the actual studies were fairly shoddily done.  The chocolate study was simply the result of 975 men and women filling out questionnaires about the frequency with which they eat certain foods, to help with looking at the non-cardiac impact of statin drugs.  The study only controlled for fruit and vegetable intake, mood, saturated fat intake, and amount of activity.  They looked at the average BMI’s based on how frequently the person supposedly eats chocolate each week, and voila:  Chocolate makes you thin!  …Except it doesn’t, actually.  People with low BMIs more readily admit to eating more chocolate than their heavier peers, but at best that shows correlation, not causation (and even then, self-reporting regarding diet is fairly unreliable research).  I’m not going to go too much into the white rice study here, but it’s the same idea—the research actually doesn’t support the lofty claim that the media presented.   But how sensational is the headline, “White Rice May Increase Risk of Diabetes in Asian Populations , But Because Researchers Missed Some Major Control Factors, More Research Is Needed”?

3) Ask if there’s money to be made from a health claim.
And who’s offering the advice.  If the Dairy Council funded a study on calcium, the reports may be skewed to get people to drink more milk.  A new “super” food or nutrient means more supplements, more ways to modify existing processed foods to make money (eg, yogurt with added fiber), more magazines filled with special recipes using said ingredient.  It’s hard for big business to make more money off of “Eat more whole fruits and veggies” than they already do, but fiber and antioxidants and vitamin XYZ can be packaged and sold.

4) Consider how the advice relates to your great-grandma’s life experience.
Assuming Great Grandma lived a long and healthy life.  If not, think of another relative who lived a long life in a previous century.  Do you think they avoided butter like the plague?  Probably not, but she may not have used an entire stick to cook collard greens for dinner, either, because she didn’t have a Publix down the street to buy another pound block from; she had to wait for the stuff her (or her neighbor’s) cows produced.  Did she drink a chilled glass of pomegranate juice every day? Once again, likely not, but maybe she had access to better quality fruits and vegetables that afforded more nutrients.  We often talk about eating foods that our ancestors would recognize as food to avoid processed junk, but think about health advice and consider how it relates to what we know about those living before nutritionism and heavy food processing: ie, people have been eating bread for centuries, but maybe not the quantity or form that we see it in today.  If they got by without living entirely gluten-free, chances are you might as well—but you may be better off not eating it in the jumbo quantities we do today, and try to keep it out of foods that don’t need it, because maybe your system is getting overloaded from the excess.  Perhaps more simply, be especially wary of all-or-nothing nutrition advice—you need this supplement or avoid this food altogether.  Instead, consider it as a way of looking at moderating your diet in certain areas or looking for deficiencies in others.

5) If you decide to try to make a change based on diet advice, allow yourself time to get out of the “honeymoon period.
Psychologist-types discuss this phenomenon called “cognitive dissonance,” which basically amounts to how humans respond to conflicting feelings and emotions.  The best way I had a professor explain it to me once was if you’re on the fence about buying something, then you buy it, your brain will change how your perceive the purchase so you think that you really wanted it—basically, to help you overcome the ambivalence that came with spending the money on something you felt only so-so about initially.  When you jump into a plan—say you decide Omega 3 fatty acids seem pretty cool, so you’ll buy one of those expensive-ass bottles of Fish Oil Supreme pills from the local Vitamin World, or say you decide that those chicks in Skinny Bitch seem to know what’s going on, so you’ll try being vegan even though cow was your favorite food for the previous 20-odd years of your life—you’re initial reaction to making that commitment will likely be to look for ways to prove that you made the right decision.  You may even encounter the placebo effect, where whatever you think is a problem will get better simply because you want the nutrition change to make it better.  Now, I’m not saying you can’t trust that the healthful change will be more healthful—eating more vegetables will likely make you poop better, and you may enjoy organic produce more than the factory-farmed stuff.  Just remember, if you follow the advice, your brain probably wants you to feel like it’s working.

Weeding through health news headlines can feel overwhelming, particularly because there are pieces of wisdom amidst everything.  In general: take all of it with a grain of salt (But not too much.  You don’t need that much sodium.)

You say, “tomato,” I say, “That’s bad-ass.”

A girl I’ve known for many years now as That Chick Who Does Everything That I Would Do If I Were Slightly More Athletic and Less Afraid of Competition posted some pictures of herself doing New and Different Athletic Things—namely rolling tires as tall as her—and, as usual, I had one of those jealous moments where I thought, Why don’t I roll large tires around? What kind of mediocre fitness have I been doing up ‘til now?  I’ve come to terms with the fact, of course, that these types of feats aren’t meant for me.  The last time I took a boxing lesson, the most bad-ass athleticism I’ve attempted, I left in tears.  Note, too, though, that the last time I took a strength-training class involving very light weights taught by one of my best friends, I also burst into tears.  Yes, I’m a bit of a pansy. Anyway, all of this is to say that normally I stalk her Facebook page to allow myself to live vicariously through her triathlon victories and sparring with various large, heavy objects, then go off to do the same ol’ pushups I normally do.  You know what?  It works for me.  We all get our jollies somehow.

Anyway, we’ve talked a bit recently about the fact that she started taking some medication that caused her to gain weight, and how it’s been a bit of a mind-fuck (my language, not hers) because she’s always been the person who’s very conscientious about nutrition and exercise and, at points, been struggling to stay out of the land of overly-restrictive eating disorders.  Now, all of a sudden she’s overweight and boom—she has this physical body that contradicts the internal identity she’s held since her teen years.

Now, I don’t know the specific details of her health at this point, but from what I’m seeing on Facebook and hearing in our general conversations, she’s still “healthy”—I mean, hello, moving massive tires, people!—but because we do often focus on body shape and body fat to gauge health, it made me wonder how we as individuals do quantify health for ourselves.

And I’d like to put emphasis on this word, “ourselves.”  Once, I got into a discussion with a friend about another friend who’d undergone significant weight loss (20 or so pounds) and general lifestyle changes in the time we’d known her.  I’d been arguing that the third party still didn’t necessarily have perspective of what it’s like to really alter your lifestyle because even when she was “unhealthy” she was “healthy” by others’ standards—she never, gasp, wore pants that were a double digit size, for instance, worked out regularly, understood proper nutrition, etc.  She’d never been so unhealthy that she had to really shift her mindset to get healthy, or, perhaps more importantly to me at the time, she’d never been in a position where her appearance caused others to stigmatize her for her perceived healthfulness or lack thereof.  To me, she was a skinny fit girl who just didn’t live up to her really high standards of skinniness and fitness.

The friend I was talking to responded with a strong argument: even if it doesn’t seem to others that the girl in question was unhealthy, in her own perspective she was unhealthy and out-of-control from her norm.  And as much as I’d like to make believe size doesn’t matter ever, I know that my body is a different shape when I’m taking good care of myself and when I’m not taking care of myself—although by some people’s standards, both versions of me might still seem “healthy” or both “unhealthy.”  The only person anyone can gauge herself against is her own self. (And, on that note, the only person one can judge fairly is herself as well.)

Similarly, the moment that drove me to start exercising—and I’m not entirely sure I understand my logic to this day—was sometime after my first year of college.  I’d gained a lot of weight my freshman year from a love of bagels with peanut butter, Baby Ruths, and watching every episode of Daria on my computer between classes.  Anyway, I gave blood while visiting my parents on some break or another, and when the nurse ran the typical vitals before throwing me on the chair, she took my pulse.  “Wow,” she said.  “Do you run? Your pulse is 60. You must be in good shape.”  Since I was in the worst shape of my life, healthy by no stretch of the imagination, I wondered what would happen if I actually got off my butt and started running a few days a week.  Turns out my resting heart rate hovers in the high 40s during the day when I take care of myself.  60 beats per minute means my body’s undergoing stress.  It’s not good or bad; I come from a people with sluggish hearts.  But, my point is: our measures of health are relative, whether you talk about size or other methods of measurement. 

That friend I mentioned in the beginning presents an interesting question, then: when you’ve gotten to know certain signposts of health for yourself—whether you weigh X pounds, have Y blood pressure, can run Z miles in a row—and something shifts so those signposts are no longer relevant, how do you figure out what’s healthy at this point?  Women often see this shift as they age—My metabolism isn’t what it used to be is a common refrain, as is My arms used to be so toned, but now I have these turkey wings.

One philosophy that I ascribe to is the concept of Health at Every Size, in part because the focus of those who practice HAES is that following healthy habits ultimately helps improve health, regardless of changes in weight.  In an article for the Huffington Post discussing HAES, researcher Linda Bacon writes, “Compared to control groups of people on weight loss programs, people who accept themselves and their bodies as they are tend to exercise more and eat better. They do better medically, on blood pressure, cholesterol, insulin sensitivity and similar measures, and feel happier in the long run. They adopt longer-lasting exercise habits. And guess which group weighs less, two years out? Neither! In the HAES study I conducted, both groups ended up with weights where they started, albeit with the dieters having endured another wearying and health-damaging deprivation-loss-regain cycle.”

Which leads me to ask: how often are our measures of health actually byproducts of health, the results or symptoms of maintaining healthy habits?  We come to assume that if we put in a specific amount of change in the health vending machine (aka, our bodies), we will get our treat of choice (waist size X/blood pressure Y/body fat  Z)—if I do this much cardio every day and eat this kind of salad for lunch, my body will respond in some predetermined fashion.  We expect a regimented, “if, then” sequencing where we can predict the outcomes easily, and therefore use the presumed outcomes as our measure of our progress rather than looking at the factors we can control and measure—the dietary choices, the exercise, the amount of sleep, and so on.  And, for the most part, this method works, as long as we know our bodies well, know how they function when we treat them properly and how they function when we don’t.  Sometimes, though, the outcome does come in an unexpected form, like those study participants who stayed the same weight but improved their insulin sensitivity, cholesterol, etc.

And, frequently, a wrench gets thrown in the way—a medication that causes weight gain, or bone spurs in your feet that make the running and step classes you used to love unbearably painful, or a downward shift in the metabolism that happens with age—and you have to reassess.  Are you really that much less healthy than before, or did the conversion formula, the way your body turns input to output, change?  How do you know whether you need to change your habits—maybe they weren’t good enough, maybe you were just sliding by in the way that 20-somethings can—or do you need to change your understanding of your body?

The US Department of Health and Human Services explains health maintenance simply: “The more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to get the disease.  For instance, if you eat healthy, exercise regularly, and control your blood pressure, your chances of getting heart disease are less than if you are diabetic, a smoker, and inactive.” (page 4)  In other words, each little piece adds up.  And while one factor may shift, that doesn’t mean all the others are suddenly negated.

Oftentimes I’ll see seemingly fit and healthy women in the club, and they’ll talk about how unhealthy they’ve gotten recently.  We’ll do their measurements, take their blood pressure and maybe do some strength and cardio assessments, and, guess what!  They’re still healthy, just not healthy for them.  But consider this: according to the World Health Organization and the National Institute of Health, the healthy range of body fat percentage is 21% to 33% for women between 20 and 40, 23% and 35% for women between 40 and 60, and 24% and 36% for women over 60. These ranges are fairly broad, so someone who measures her health by her body fat percentage could go from, say, 21% body fat to 27%, and still be considered healthy by general standards, while she may have gained a clothing size or two.

Even considering the “healthy habit input” rather than the “output,” we get a fair amount of wiggle room for what’s healthy.  According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the recommended amount of physical activity is between 20 to 60 minutes of exercise that gets your heart rate up to 55 to 90 percent of its maximum 3 to 5 days a week.  (Governmental guidelines are more vague: 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week.)  Fun fact: using maximum heart rate to determine aerobic fitness is not an exact science—some people can function at a higher heart rate than expected by equations, some lower, or some can be right on par but take much longer than average to recover from exertion.  So, once again, I may still work out 45 minutes a day, 3 days a week, and be healthy by standard guidelines, but I may not exercise at the same intensity, or maybe I used to work out 60 minutes 5 days a week. 

In short, there are many ways to gauge health and fitness, from person to person, but also within our own standards, over our lifespan. Recognizing this variability ultimately makes health more accessible—what’s healthy for your personal trainer may not be exactly what’s healthy for you, nor what was healthy for you two or ten years ago may be healthy for you now; this isn’t an excuse to slack off on the exercise front and just eat donuts. Instead, acknowledging strengths, weaknesses, and obstacles allow you to better set realistic goals and maintain motivation along the way. 

So: How do you judge your health?  What form has “healthy” taken for you over the years?  Where have you done well, and what could you do better?

How to eat

This blog on the “Eocene Diet” got me laughing on April Fool’s Day.  The buzz in fitness circles these past couple years has revolved around the Paleo diet—ie, eat like a caveman because our digestive tracks and bodies haven’t evolved much since that period—and this blog pokes a bit of fun at the logic.  “The Paleolithic era represents only 5 percent of the time that shaped our primate genome– 95 percent of primate evolutionary history occurred prior to the Paleolithic. The Neolithic period, since humans domesticated plants roughly 10,000 years ago, accounts for only 0.02 percent. Therefore, we are not well adapted to eating grains, legumes and dairy, and we aren’t well adapted to eating meat and starch either. Our true, deepest evolutionary adaptations are to the foods that sustained our primate ancestors for the tens of millions of years prior to the Paleolithic.”  In short, we should stick to eating raw fruit, raw leaves, and live insects.

Here, mind if I pick my lunch out of your hair?

The Catch-22 in training is that for any good fitness routine to be effective—particularly for those focusing on weight loss—one needs to also focus on nutrition; crappy dietary decisions can completely reverse even the most stellar workouts. Many folks who work out recognize this fact on some level, and often turn to the same professionals who design their workouts for advice on the other half of the picture.  Our gym—and I imagine more than a few others—are pretty strict, though, with regards to what trainers can and can’t say to clients in the matters of food.  Most certifications have some basic nutrition involved, but nothing to the extent of what, say, a registered dietician has.  In other words, if you’re wondering about a list of protein-packed foods to include in your diet, then we can probably give you some ideas, but we can’t diagnose your food intolerances or tell you if that supplement is going to give you as much energy as that article you read says.

When you consider all the hubbub about diets or “superfoods” or whatever exciting trick brings optimal health, and how much contradictory information exists it’s understandable why fitness professionals should tread lightly when talking about nutrition.  Low carb? High carb?  Vegetarian? Bacon-lovers anonymous? Given that the media tends to underreport what nutrition research actually says, it’s hard to tell which viewpoints are most “correct.” (Check out some interesting articles on the concept here and here.)

Growing up, I spent a lot of time reading the nutrition books my mom left lying around.  I was a book worm, and the people in the case studies were kind of like characters in short stories, so I inevitably learned a lot of information about the popular nutrition advice of the moment.  Depending on the period, you could walk into our kitchen, rifle through two or three cupboards, and probably figure out the latest word on what to eat: for a while, canola oil and fish chilled in the fridge alongside omega-3 eggs while walnuts and fish-oil pills hid in the cabinets (actually, I’m pretty sure all that’s still there), or buckwheat flour replaced regular flour when we went gluten-free (BEFORE the current gluten-free kick, I’ll have you know), or xylitol and coconut oil replaced the sugar and other cooking fats.

You know what I ended up learning?  No one food, no one school of nutrition thought, is going to fix your life or make you lose weight.  My family still struggled with the same issues they did before—borderline diabetes, depression, autism—with or without the offending foodstuffs.

When I entered the fitness industry, one of the hardest things to swallow was listening to folks talk emphatically about this or that diet or lifestyle as a cure-all.  It’s a fad! I wanted to yell at anybody who started on about gluten-free this or raw-food that.  How are you so naïve? In five years, it’ll be something different! Yet whoever touted the regimen would act like their plan of choice was entirely different from the more common fad routines—Atkins or South Beach or The Cookie Diet—simply because it’s a fad that caters to fitness elite, trainers and athletes, rather than less athletic populations.

That’s not to say that the nutrition regimens didn’t work for them.  I’ve met more than a few ladies who have some pretty intense GI issues when they ingest a few particles of regular bread or soy sauce or whatever.  For others, raw foodism makes them feel the most light and healthy and energized they ever have. They may stick to these plans for the next five or ten years, for the rest of their lives, or for only a few months.  They’re not wrong. There are a lot of good bits amidst everything: for instance, Paleo preaches eating mostly whole foods, as they’re found in nature, which, to be honest, doesn’t sound like a terribly bad idea when you’re trying to decide between a highly-processed microwaveable meal or a salad you threw together with some fresh veggies, chicken, and seeds.

Hell, futzing around with the latest food fads and super foods actually is a great way to figure out what helps your body best, if you’re willing to listen—when trying to eat a lower-carb diet, I learned, for instance, that skimp on mid-day carbohydrates, I’ll inevitably drop into an exhausted state where I feel like I’m drifting through sludge.  More than one green smoothie in less than twenty-four hours will give me so much stomach pain that I can barely move from the fetal position.  Meat makes me fuller than non-meat protein.  And so on.

Once, a year or two ago, I was talking with a coworker about a client of hers who was trying to learn how to eat healthier, and in the process of cutting out her daily cup of hot cocoa, replaced the drink with a Dunkin Donuts coffee with cream and sugar.  My coworker explained to her that the two drinks weren’t much different nutritionally, the girl changed her habit, and, in that same manner of reworking the rest of her diet, ended up losing something like 30 pounds.  Other clients of hers, though, would hear the same advice and still not change their habits markedly.  Sometimes, people do just need to know what to eat, and how to apply it to their lifestyles.

Oftentimes, though, it’s not enough.  And that’s why trainers giving nutrition advice gets so sticky, why reading about the latest super foods or nutritional powerhouse or diet breakthrough doesn’t actually change that many people’s health long-term.

You see, much of our focus has gone to what to eat, as though there’s some precise combination of foods that will solve our problems and make us healthier people.  But as much as these plans are telling us to eat this or don’t eat that or do this in this combination or at this time, when they work, they’re also showing us how we eat.  When you’re trying a new diet or lifestyle, you become hyperaware of how those foods affect your body—a level of consciousness you may not have engaged in when you were drinking a venti Frappuccino every afternoon at 3.30.

Most of us have heard the rule, “Don’t eat after 8pm” (or 7pm or 9pm).  You’ll hear different logic about what it means—some say it’s because you don’t burn the calories off when you sleep (not really true), some say because you’re just more likely to eat junk food or mindlessly munch at 9pm than at 9am.  I lean towards believing the latter because of my late night noshing tendencies (yes, I’ve gained weight from eating too much at night before, but only when I stress eat chocolate, not when I have late dinners.  In other words, when I eat above and beyond what my body needs for the day).  Because of my experience, I never gave much mind to the “rule” because I knew that it was a bit subjective.   On the rare occasion I tried to follow it, I would inevitably find myself pouring a bowl of cereal ten minutes after the cut-off point.

Then I had an a-ha moment after offering to close the gym a couple nights—When I’m up and around later, I’m just more likely to eat than when I go to bed at my usual grandmotherly time of 9.30 or 10pm.  It’s as though my body realizes I’m not in my pajamas, am instead cleaning machines or reading food blogs or whatever is keeping me up past bedtime, and wants me to fuel myself with lots of carbs since I’m not giving myself sleep.  Now, when I get munchy at night time, I don’t think, “DON’T EAT THAT CUPCAKE, SETZER!” I think, “Wait. My body’s up too late and wants more energy.  Can I get my butt to bed, or do I need to figure out a food/caffeine action plan to keep me sane until I can go to sleep?”

It’s nuances like this that get lost when we focus too much on what the latest food plan or diet says.  Getting back to my conversation with my friend, yes, sometimes people do just need to get in the habit of eating fruits and veggies at every meal or learning that half a pizza may not the most nutritionally sound lunch choice.  But often times, we hear, “Don’t eat past 8pm,” and don’t consider why we’re in a situation that we eat so poorly at night.  Sticking to rules is a lot harder when you don’t know the logic behind your body’s workings, why people suggest you have these rules in the first place.

Why the continued focus on these precise rules and plans?  Because it’s easier.  Change what you buy at the store, eat at these regimented times in these regimented meals, and presto-change-o, you’re a skinny, athletic person.  It also puts the locus of control elsewhere: it’s the food that’s the problem, not me.  It’s a lot harder to cope with and respond to, say, the fact that you binge on chocolate every night after a late shift, only to realize that whenever you consciously try to change that habit, you have a tiny little voice in your head yelling, But every other time you’ve tried to be healthier, you’ve failed!  And gotten fatter!  Take that, Fatty McFatterson!

Even the information that’s out there about discovering the nuances of how our mind and body work with food often oversimplify the problems.  Take emotional eating. Before you eat, most common advice says, figure out what you’re feeling.  Are you lonely?  Call a friend.  Are you sad?  Watch a funny movie.   Etc.  Along that logic, if I come home from work and feel stressed, I should do something to relax.  But what if I recognize that I’m stressed, yet don’t feel like I have a right to be stressed because my workload is so light compared to others’?  What if the stress I feel is not because I’m working too hard, but because I feel incompetent at what I do?  I’ll go take my relaxing bath, and then still break into the Cadbury Mini Eggs.  I may recognize the emotion, but not reflecting on the root cause of the emotion changes how I would respond to it.

Yet, of course, that’s too complicated, too personal for a nutrition doctrine meant for the masses.  And it should be.  We get back to the same point I started with, about trainers having to watch the advice they give to clients: sure, we can tell you to eat more vegetables or protein or whatever, we can even tell you to follow Paleo this or Raw Food that, but there are so many pieces involved with the individual’s relationship with food that we can’t snap our fingers and fix.  Finding the right eating plan for yourself means figuring out where your obstacles lie at the moment—are you honestly just clueless about nutrition, or are you living a lifestyle that doesn’t promote healthfulness, or do you have some underlying emotional issues that need responding to?  And so on.

The next time you hear about the latest diet idea, by all means, read about it, research it.  But rather than simply eating like a caveman or avoiding all cooked foods, consider what these plans are meant to tell you about yourself.