Everybody eats food. Life revolves around nutrients, whether you are a meat-eater or a vegan, a blue whale swallowing banks of fish, or a tiny bacteria feasting on a pile of shit. Access to nourishment orchestrates nature's dynamics and serves as a primary driver of evolution.
Innovation empowered humans to gain control of their food supply and conquer their predators. Hunting spears and agriculture pulled the species out of the wild into the semi-civilized structures of modern society. An encounter with a hungry carnivore on your way to the grocery store is unlikely anymore. The species is better off, for the most part, although food security remains a problem for many around the world.
Increased food selection and availability became a byproduct of this evolutionary step forward. The big concern for those privileged with easy access shifted from eating for survival to making the right dietary choice. Every level has a new devil.
Food can either enhance or deter someone's health in this stable environment. First-world humans now have too much opportunity, which enables a vicious cycle of ill decisions and division amongst themselves.
This article will examine the problem of modern-day nutrition and provide an alternative strategy for any individual seeking change and performance through the content of their plates.
21st Century Health
The epidemic status of chronic diseases throughout the last century highlighted the importance of food for sound health, but nobody can agree on the right ratio of the same three macronutrients. Experts contradict each other on all media platforms while followers fight amongst themselves, turning nutrition into a bloody spiritual battlefield.
Disputes in both dietary science and folklore are abundant, even within the same ideology. Some say sugar is responsible while others claim overindulgence of saturated fats and calories, GMOs, gluten or fast-food depending on who you ask.
A quick trip to the health section at a local bookstore reveals a plethora of contradicting solutions from proficient authors, all backed by fancy titles at the end of their name, before/after pictures, and jaw-dropping testimonials. Judging a book by its cover can prove to be quite tricky faced with so many choices, but the collection falls short when compared to the wealth of knowledge found on the world wide web.
The rise of the internet sparked an unprecedented widespread of information. Anybody linked to the big invisible network can access knowledge on any topic through a pocket-sized device in a matter of seconds. The digital platform would stagger even the most creative minds of the Renaissance, yet spreads confusion and swell division.
An entire spectrum of opinions is presented together on the same stage for the first time in history, bypassing the lengthy processes of editing, censorship, and printing. This clusterfuck of data is a gift and a curse for users. Anyone seeking guidance on nutrition and health can access all sides of the story to make an educated decision on the matter, so long as they understand the content. The pile of opposing studies available can still overwhelm even the most avid scientist.
Online content also fails to help those without any prior scientific training, who can quickly get lost in the sea of complicated terms thrown around by alleged experts as they confront each other, then get scared off by the vitriol spewed in comment sections.
A gap remains between the right information and those who need it most. This void allowed healthcare to grow into a trillion dollar industry. All users regardless of educational level are susceptible to fall victims of savvy marketing tactics and industry-funded propaganda amongst such chaos.
Individuals invest hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in solutions ranging from professional consultations to diet books, expensive treatment, seminars, and quick-fixes, yet global health continues to decay at an alarming rate.
So why does this epidemic thrive despite all modern advancement?
A closer look at the path followed by someone who fails to improve their health with nutrition could provide insight on the matter. Here is an overview of a typical dietary journey.
Stage 1—The Epiphany
Everybody learns differently. One person might look online and rate a strategy's validity through their research. Another will hire a dietician or attend a seminar without asking questions. The selection process happens unconsciously based on the individual's personality and budget. Many make their decision through external cues such as the presenter's physical appearance and scientific background, or the strength of the testimonials, amongs many others. The next stage begins when the person gets hooked on a strategy.
Stage 2—The Honeymoon
The honeymoon phase of a diet is much like a romantic relationship when the partner takes on a divine status at the start. The individual becomes infatuated with the narrative behind their new plan, they follow every rule and guideline with surgical precision and will rave about its wonders to everyone around them. This stage lasts anywhere from a few days to months, even years for some. Small changes within 5-10 lbs might occur initially.
Stage 3—Reality Check
Reality sets in, motivation fades, and the strategy fails to reap the promised outcome. People often compare themselves to other's successful results or the image they conceived at the start of the journey and lose hope. The disappointment halts their efforts and sends them down a spiral of bad habits. All weight loss during the honeymoon phase comes back with a vengeance.
Now, some individuals do thrive upon the implementation of a new food strategy, but why does the vast majority fail to stick to the plan? Are people as weak-minded as many health professionals make them out to be?
A solution that only benefits a small percentage of the population is subpar at best. Perhaps the time has come to ditch the old outlook on nutrition and update our knowledge.
The problem lies in the packaging. Experts preach nutrition as the holy grail, the ultimate solution to all health problems, a promise instead of a tool. They make you dream of the mansion with a beautiful, well-told story to sell you a hammer.Add the several marketing tactics designed to influence people into spending money, and you have a recipe for disappointment.
Take a look at some of the prosperous health and fitness brands out there. You will always find the six principles of influence described by Robert Cialdini in his best-seller Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion?
Every detail is calculated to entice spending, from the giveaways to the testimonials and expert opinions, a hot deal that is about to expire or limited stock available. All these psychological cues act on the brain's survival devices to convince you the product is the best thing since sliced bread, and that you need it right now.
Now, everybody selling something is after your money, but not all of them are crooks. Make sure you are aware that you are buying for the right reasons, and that you know there might be a timely process before you ever get to see the promised results.
The world is nutrition marketing also uses pictures of seasoned athletes and fitness models who have nothing to do with the average customer subscribing to a fat loss plan. Impressive before and after photos can be deceptive too. Not all of them are photoshopped, but somebody else's results do not guarantee success. You never know, maybe the brand paid the subjects to do nothing but workout, eat and sleep for six months, an unrealistic context for the overweight, stressed out nine-to-fiver.
Experts create the same heaven and hell duality seen in religion. They set a physiological reality for the body and specific dietary guidelines to be followed at all cost. Any deviation from the plan will fail to induce the desired. This all-or-nothing principle fails to acknowledge the complexity and individuality of the human body.
People expect heaven through devotion and fear sin like the plague, which creates a state of obsession that hinders them from thinking for themselves.
Anybody who can guarantee you how your body will react to a diet strategy before you even try is a psychic. You are better off asking for the winning lottery numbers. The truth is nobody knows, and scientists started to scratch the surface of a massive iceberg on the individuality of people's responses to food, from blood sugar to the trillions of microbes that populate your digestive tract and your genetics.
A 2015 study published in the prestigious scientific journal Cell found the same "healthy" food impacted people differently. Participants aged 18-70 ate standardized meals consisting of an estimated 50g of carbohydrates with bread, butter, some fruits and chocolate. The experiment lasted a week, where they measured their blood sugar and recorded their every move throughout the day.
Personalized Nutrition by Prediction of Glycemic Responses (Cell, 2015)
Subjects had to sample their stool then store the swab in the freezer until transfer to the lab for DNA and microbial analysis within three days.
So, one scientific paper does not prove anything. Data collected from questionnaires filled by subjects can be dubious, the sample size is small, but the feces and blood sugar measurements tell an honest individual story. Further research is needed to expand on the matter.
These findings suggest the time has come the great minds of this world need to go back to the drawing board and rethink the human body. The old models of nutrition and health seem obsolete as chronic disease ravages the population with no sign of stopping. History shows consensus is lengthy to shift but is an inevitable reality for most theories. This world must shed its old skin and evolve, yet again.
The revolution starts with you this time. Become a scientist about your health and let your body guide the motion with a first-person nutrition strategy. You are in power, but you have to pay attention. Eat food, then listen to your body speak and adjust accordingly. The days of blindly following rules and guidelines as you wait for the image in the mirror or the numbers on the scale to change are over. Your body is the voice now.
Here is a theory: Health is a reflection of the complex dynamic between your physiological systems.
Nobody needs a scientific paper to know that sleep quality impacts the following days' energy levels and mental acuity, or that digestive symptoms such as daily explosive diarrhea and constipation rarely correlate with well-being. Chronically elevated stress levels sap energy and libido voraciously. Psychological acuity functions such as focus and creativity fade when these factors go haywire.
All these systems operate together to produce your life, and they leave plenty of clues for you to gauge their condition as you apply a new food strategy. Fluctuations of these vital health metrics are measurable, even without any lab tests. You experience these physiological processes all day long.
The first-person perspective makes you perceive an outcome, not one. You answer questions instead comparing yourself to an ideal. The answers are data for you analyze and fine-tune the strategy; trends will dictate action. The following examples provide a brief overview of these different systems functioning in harmony:
How does this nutrition strategy impact:
- My sleep quality?
- My ability to fall asleep?
- My digestion?
- My daily pooh frequency?
- My pooh's quality?
- My energy levels upon awakening?
- My energy levels at 2 pm?
- My ability to manage stress?
- My focus?
- My creativity?
- My mood?
- My workout performance?
These metrics build a clearer picture of the progress happening inside. Do you think your body is going to change for the better if all the variables move towards the wrong direction?
You might be progressing more than you think. Somebody with tunnel vision on the mirror or the scale might miss the fact that the new food strategy improved sleep quality and energy levels, cues that something inside started working as it should and that results are imminent. The stress created by the obsession with an image that has not yet manifested shadows this inner-progress and eventually exhausts all motivation and resources.
This information could be the difference between persistence or abandon. Your diet becomes the product of experimentation. Studying your data will allow you to ditch the wrong food and sustain your dietary efforts, a personalized map if you will. The insight will guide your choices and lead to your holy grail - the right ratio of different foods for your unique physiology.
The strategy is moldable to your specific context. Everyone has different standards and motivation levels. Hardcore human guinea pigs like Tim Ferriss go all out and invest in various lab tests and mobile device technology to keep track of everything. I learned a lot of about myself after getting my stool analyzed at the Genova lab. You can record your stats in a journal or an application like Track-Well. A simple excel sheet suffices to track your health metrics.
Your data changes the conversation on nutrition. You justify your actions on solid, measurable foundations instead of relying on blind faith in a storyline. The body shapes your narrative. Nobody in their right might can argue that a food strategy which improved your mental acuity, stress levels, and sleep quality is wrong for you.
The body becomes the centre of your universe. All debates amongst dietary ideologies are irrelevant in the light of your data. Personal experience enlightens you far more than the mythology behind a specific ratio of nutrients.
Pick the diet that appeals to your senses through the platform on which you learn best. Some people prefer podcasts and books; others invest in health professionals or seminars. Elaborate a plan to apply its principles in your unique context. Budgets and schedules vary considerably amongst individuals. You might need to order from food service or buy in ingredients bulk and prepare everything yourself. One hundred people can apply the same strategy in a hundred different way.
You can go full-on and flip your whole life at once or change one habit at a time so long as you keep your sight on fluctuations in the metrics mentioned in this article throughout the process. Both tactics have their pros and cons. You will most likely fail a few times and have to make all sorts of tweaks along the way. Lasting results take years to build, remember. Your nutrition journey is a lifetime project, not a 90-day challenge.
The most significant revolution in communication since the invention of the printed press is underway. Take control of your health with a first-person food strategy. Access to knowledge and like-minded nutritional explorers is unlike any other era in history; the power is in your hands to maximize this 21st-century privilege and evolve as a human.
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