In the past eighteen years working in healthcare I’ve seen just about every diet imaginable come through my office door.  Vegetarian diets, vegan diets, south beach diets, Atkin’s diet, ketogenic, macro-biotic, wheat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, raw food, live food, no food, you name it!  The diets are endless.  First off, I am not a nutritionist.  Let’s just put that disclaimer out there right now.  Sometimes I wish I was fully trained in nutrition, because food really is health, and we are what we eat, and we could all use a little more education in this department.  So, with my limited knowledge in nutrition, here is what I tell my patients:  There is no one perfect diet for everyone.  Listen to your body.

Some people can eat meat, others can’t.  Some people can tolerate dairy, others can’t.  Some people can eat wheat, or gluten or yeast or butter or a pint of ice cream, and some others can’t.  My best advice to anyone wanting to eat a healthy diet is to first pay attention to how they feel after they eat.  You are the only one who can really figure out what foods make you feel good, and what foods don’t.  It took me a number of years to realize that when I treated myself to a coffee and a muffin at the local cafe it would hit my body like a gallon of rocket fuel, and that coffee/carb combo together made me not only feel like a cat on a hot tin roof with, but would give me this insatiable hunger about an hour later, followed after that by extreme tiredness.  Once I realized what was making me feel nutso in the late mornings, it didn’t take much for me to kick the coffee/muffin habit.  I’ve always preferred tea, and so does my body, but I have to admit there were a few distinct Americano eras in my earlier days.  Now I know, if I get a hankering for a nice cup of coffee, I’m better off taking that one straight or with a full meal, but never with a muffin.

So my biggest advice on diet is to pay attention.  To you!  You are the only one living inside that body, and you more than anyone knows how your feel after eating certain foods.  Food allergies can wreak havoc on your body and cause a whole host of symptoms that are best treated by avoiding eating the food you are allergic to.  If you have chronic skin issues, respiratory issues, chronic allergies or sinus issues, it would be wise to take a harder look at your diet, as many times these types of conditions can be related to a food allergy or intolerance.  It’s much easier to treat a food allergy by not eating the food than by treating all the health issues it can cause.

The other major factor around dieting that I am not super fond of is the stress of it.  Stress is hands down the biggest contributor to our health problems.  Eating should be a joy.  Food is life.  It should be yummy.  We shouldn’t just eat to feed the machine but to enjoy it.  To feel nourished.  Extreme dieting causes stress in my opinion.  And, oftentimes there is a nutritional imbalance happening with rigid intake of food.  Sometimes people get so caught up taking so many things out of the diet:  meat, dairy, gluten, wheat, protein, fat, carbs, etc…that they aren’t even paying attention to whether their bodies like or feel good with those foods.  Now I’m not at all against being educated about what certain foods do to you, but changing your diet radically because your best friend is on the diet, or your uncle, or your boyfriend, doesn’t mean that diet is appropriate for you.

So I call it the Listening Diet.  Listen to your body.  Pay attention.  Awareness is your best healthcare tool.  The more we learn how to take care of our body the way it wants us to, the better we will feel.  We are extra privileged in the United States that most of us have access to a huge array of food at the grocery stores.  Travel to a third world country and see their food choices and you will realized how lucky we are.  The biggest issue we have as Americans is making good food choices.  With so many options out there, it can be overwhelming to figure out what to eat.  My suggestion:  eat a varied diet, eat vegetables, eat fruit, eat in season when you can, and eat organic if you can.  But that doesn’t mean eat organic gummy bears instead of conventionally grown spinach.  We have to weigh our choices from many sides of the equation.  Health doesn’t come from one thing we do, it comes from all the things we do.  One choice at a time.  Choose to feel good.