Don’t you just love how we justify everything? I can’t wait for a new research study to report that people who ate one serving of Oreos and Reeses Peanutbutter Cups per day for 30 days experienced better sleep and more active sex lives than those who didn’t. A dream come true. (Please note this a facetious example and not an actual research study…that I know of.)
We can justify that any food is good for us or bad for us – it just depends on our priorities.
Food Is Not Good Or Bad (except for poisonous berries…those are bad)
In another article, Everything You Eat Is Bad For You, we discuss how easy it is to find the negatives in almost any food. This can leave us feeling defeated and confused.
We need to eat; but if there are negative aspects of every food available for purchase, what on earth should we buy?
It all boils down to what we value and what our goals are.
Wine is a perfect example of a food that has obvious negatives (alcohol and sugar content) and studied positives (antioxidant and cholesterol regulating content).
It is clear that drinking a bottle of wine each day after work will make any person feel lousy over time and give the liver and pancreas a run for their money. However, it is encouraged that a glass of wine be consumed each day in order to reap the studied health benefits.
So, how many glasses should we drink to maximize the health benefits without risking any health losses?
No one knows this answer with certainty!
Health Is Like A Pendulum (with a dynamic equilibrium)
Health is like the pendulum of a clock. When the pendulum is moving, time ticks on. When the pendulum stops, time stops. Balance, therefore, is not achieved by reaching an equilibrium, but by continuous movement about an equilibrium. And in our reality, the equilibrium is dynamic.
Though there is a fine line between what is beneficial and harmful, finding that line is not necessarily the key to good health and, therefore, should not be our focus.
Instead, we should focus more on our overall patterns of behavior and whether our behavior aligns with our personal health goals.
We can listen to the scientists, nutritionists, magazines, and our mothers all we want. Everyone has an opinion with justified reasoning why we should or should not eat certain foods and how much is enough.
Ultimately, we have to make our own decisions about what is acceptable to put into our bodies and how much is acceptable.
Decide What Foods Are “Too Extreme”
Instead of a “bad” list, it is useful to make list of foods that are “too extreme” to consume. This narrows our “swing” about the dynamic equilibrium of health.
Examples of foods that can easily go on the “too extreme” list:
– Items that contain partially hydrogenated oils (because our bodies aren’t great at breaking them down, so they clog our arteries and make us real fat fast)
– Items that contain mostly hard-to-pronounce ingredients (that make the items seem more like a science experiment than food)
– Items that contain too many extraneous ingredients (that make us wonder if we are actually buying the food that is advertised on the front of the packaging)
Decide What Foods Are “Within An Acceptable Range”
Instead of making a “good” list, it is very useful to make a list of foods that are “within an acceptable range.” These are foods that fall within the “natural swing” of our pendulum. Examples include:
– Whole grains
– Blah, blah, blah
We all know what foods fall “within an acceptable range.” These are foods that provide energy and nutrient support to our natural bodily functions. They are foods that make us feel good and allow us to do more in life.
The big problem is that we get bored with these foods because the “too extreme” foods seem way more exciting.
We discuss this problem in another article, Eating Donuts Is Like Skydiving For Taste Buds; but for now, let’s focus on our acceptable range.
When we know what our personal health goals are, we can more clearly set boundaries for what foods are acceptable.
What are your health goals? Now look in your refrigerator. Does the food in your fridge align with your goals?
Right here, right now, define your food boundaries. Based on what is truly important to you, clearly state which foods are not acceptable for you to eat.
Be realistic and specific. Don’t say that all junk food is off limits. Specifically state which foods are off limits. Just pick two or three to start. As you get the feel for your health “swing,” you’ll be able to make more adjustments.
(photo credit: uncalno tekno via flickr cc)