Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others. – Buddha (563 BC – 483 BC)
The tricky thing about trying to figure out the best way to eat is, as obvious as it sounds, we’re all different people. Some of us are short, some tall, some top or bottom heavy. Some are skinny as rails and some (maybe most of us) have a few pudgy spots. We’ve all met someone who eats and eats, but seems to burn it right off (which can be annoying if you have the metabolism of a hibernating bear). Some differences we can see, like body shape, height, or size, and some we cannot, such as lung capacity, heart rate or sleep requirements.
Often when we think about the “right” way to eat, we focus on what makes people alike – what does “one person” (us) need to do to in order to succeed? What should “someone” eat or avoid? Short of getting a prescribed diet from a nutritionist or medical practitioner, it turns out that the way we learn about food – all of the information and advice we’re “fed” – basically comes in the one-size-fits-all variety.
The enormous variation among the world’s billions of individuals means that some of us are unable to tolerate certain foods while others can eat almost anything we want and do just fine. Some people thrive on milk and milk products, but others have classic “lactose intolerance.” We now know there is a link between food preferences and tolerance and genetic makeup, which affects our health and disease risk.
When you identify and accept as a starting point your natural and distinctive eating patterns and forget about some ideal – the “right” way – then you are on your way. In other words, just like the warnings regarding automobile fuel efficiency, your mileage will vary!
Even our unique, personal eating style is in a constant state of change. Almost everyone can think of some food they avoided as a child – maybe spicy or sharp foods like garlic, cheese or coffee – that they now enjoy. Sometimes it goes the other way so that a meat-lover goes vegetarian or suddenly a food allergy or sensitivity develops or disappears.
As we live our lives, we change and along with it, our eating patterns and preferences change. Rather than consider this a problem, like we’re aiming for a moving target, it’s useful to think of it as an opportunity to help shape ourselves. We become what we eat and the more we are in tune with what that is, the more we know who we are and how we have become this way.
There is no formula that works for everyone all the time. There is nothing automatic about eating to create health and happiness, which you will learn is for the best.