Is There a Secret to Health?

I watched the Documentary No Impact Man.  It’s the story of a family who decided to try to have no net impact on the environment for one year.  They went HARD CORE.  They gave up all transportation except walking, bikes and scooters.  They turned off the electricity in their New York City apartment.  They used cloth instead of toilet paper.  I mean they went hard core.  He was very clear that he was not saying that everyone has to do this, just that he wanted to draw attention to the problem, live a life in alignment with his principles, and encourage people to do what they can.  Still, I looked at my recycle bin and felt woefully inadequate.

I wonder if people feel this way about their eating.   So many extreme diets and food plans are shoved our way – we are told that the secret to health is to:

  • give up all carbs
  • eat no wheat
  • eat no dairy
  • eat reconstituted soy protein bars and shakes 5 times a day
  • drink a thin chocolate laxative drink twice a day
  • eat a diet predominantly comprised of food made of a breakfast cereal
  • give up all processed foods forever
  • eat vegan
  • eat macrobiotic
  • eat a raw foods diet

It can make you doubt that basic, balanced, healthy eating can ever work.  I once allowed myself to be talked into a “cleanse” during which I gave up wheat, gluten, meat, sugar, caffeine and dairy for three months.  I did not feel good.  I did not lose weight. I did feel like I was back in my eating disorder.  That experience helped me decide that I was going to find a way to be healthy and sane.  I eat very well, I exercise a lot, I am in great health.  If my occasional fast food lunch kills me 6 months early then I can accept that.  I talked before about what happens if I’m wrong and I die of fatness.

So may I suggest that if you feel like you’d like to be healthier, just be healthier a little at a time.  Check in with your body, if you don’t feel good after eating a particular food maybe eat something else.  It doesn’t mean that you have to commit to a strict eating plan for the rest of your life. Feeling thirsty?  Have some water.  It doesn’t mean you have to drink 250 ounces of water today and spend the night on the toilet.  Feel like going for a walk?  Go.  Don’t try to plan how you are going to workout for the next seven years, don’t wonder if it will really burn enough calories to be worth it.  If you think you’ll feel good if you go for a walk,  just go.  If there are habits that you want to start, start one at a time. Celebrate small victories.

I still think that there is a place in the world for a life of making lots of healthy choices and some not so healthy ones, remaining balanced and  healthy not just physically but mentally as well.  It’s just a suggestion.  It’s certainly not as sexy as all those “lose 100 pounds in 2 minutes by eating only steamed lettuce and shrimp” diets, but it works for me.

11 thoughts on “Is There a Secret to Health?

  1. Once an old doctor sent me to a nutritionist to help me lose weight. She was hard core. Pack lunches for the weekends when we were running errands. Oops, I have three kids and was working–I had no desire to pack a lunch. It was much more convenient to eat out. I was eating regular mini meals–which is really the way I “should” eat because I feel better then–and she told me it was too much and I wasn’t going to lose weight.

    Oh, but I was. I got so discouraged because I wasn’t being “good” enough that I just gave up.

    Weight Watchers affects me the same way. The thought of spending the rest of my life calculating points makes me cringe!

    Another wonderful, thought-provoking post! Kudos!

    xo Susie

  2. Good post. I’d just like to add one more “secret to good health”: good genes.

    With the knees, hips and back I was born with, no amount of healthy eating and exercise can get me anywhere near normal. In my small family, two sisters had bad hips and knees; of their two daughters, one is fine, the other is me; and the daughter of the daughter who is fine is heading for a hip replacement one day. I have two boys and am hoping that their Y chromosome will protect them from this architectural curse.

    Anyone got some extra good genes to give away? Please! I’d be really thankful.

  3. Ragen

    Love your blog! I’m new to your blog so I may have missed it in a previous post but do you have some words I can tell people when they tell me “yea but what about what your weight is doing to your knee joints, hips etc. You’re gonna pay for that later shen you’re gonna need knee replacements earlier from the extra weight”. Thanks!

  4. I think that if more people were able to eat “normally” (as defined here by nutritionist Ellen Satyr) our country would freak out and the diet industry wouldn’t know what to do. Our country’s relationship with food is so messed-up that it’s no wonder people crave some sort of strict guideline, even if it’s one that’s clearly unhealthy.

    1. I totally understand what you are saying – that’s how I was at first, I didn’t trust myself at all and I just wanted somebody to tell me what to do! Thanks for the comment and the link.


  5. There is a Daoist saying that I really like:
    “There is good and there is bad. But the only evil is in trying to force change.”
    I have always objected to “cleanses” and their like because they embody forcing change. You definitely have the right path laid out here- subtle course corrections.

    1. I object to cleanses because they force me to spend the day in the bathroom and they make me have severe abdominal cramps! I already have IBS so abdominal cramps are a pain that I try to avoid.

  6. Ahh, this post came at the perfect time for me, just as I was wondering today “Is there anyone left who doesn’t have crazy food rules?” Imagine being a dietetics student (as I am) eating a home made red velvet cupcake around a bunch of other dietetics students and having them look at you as though it had actually been made from blood. Am I crazy (or is it just my HAES perspective? Which apparently also makes me crazy) that makes me aware of how pronounced the food-fat-phobia has gotten in the last few years? Since I dropped out of the eating-disordered-dieting-insanity-world, I can’t tell if it was always this bad or if it’s just hitting new moral panic heights right now.

  7. Great post, as always! It’s just been so utterly freeing, since I jumped off the insanity bandwagon! I no longer join in the apology sessions — “I don’t normally eat like this but we all deserve a treat now and then, right?” — being said while adding .00132 ounces of fat free dressing to a small salad…. I now choose wisely as often as I can, and refuse to flagellate myself when I choose less wisely. I must do some non-scientific research to see if the incredibly reduced instances of stomach trouble is related to less stress around food!

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