Veganuary seems like an appropriate time to reflect on the feeling that nowadays we seem to face constant pressure about what and how to eat, be it vegan, paleo, keto, sugar free, dairy free etc. All of them have their own dedicated followers who swear by a specific plan, and many of them are also backed up by scientific research and doctors’ endorsements. But if everyone is saying that their path is the right one, who should we believe and how do we go about choosing the path that is right for us?
To further complicate matters, there is a multitude of lifestyle brands, such as Noom and the recently rebranded Weight Watchers (now WW) which leave us faced with yet more decisions concerning our lifestyle rather than just our food. Whilst it makes sense to take a more holistic approach to our wellbeing, do we really need more companies promoting their apps and ‘tailored’ guides as the ones to follow? I for one have wasted many hours filling in all kinds of personal information in an attempt to unlock the key to healthy living only to find I am being asked for an exorbitant monthly commitment with no guarantees, or it is just too complicated to keep the app updated with my every movement.
It started off so simple. A few years ago I decided to become vegetarian for the sake of the planet and to reduce the potential nasty chemicals that I was possibly ingesting (depending on which research trail you believe). I have since adopted (at different times and for various reasons which I won’t go in to here) a sugar, yeast, grain, cheese, caffeine and potato free diet. The outcome? Confusion!
So, recently I began to reflect on reasons for my diet choices. What exactly am I trying to achieve? Feeling healthier, weight loss, less fatigue, helping the environment, reducing my carbon footprint, supporting local producers, sustainable living and the list goes on. This got me thinking about the solution to my initial questions. In order to decide which, if any, of the diet and lifestyle plans we are overwhelmed with on social media to choose, we must first address our intrinsic needs and wants.
Now I must add here, that this is not intended in any way to be a dietary guide, merely a tool to enable clearer thinking when bogged down by the guilt. Guilt that we inevitably burden ourselves with when we read endless posts and view endless pictures of the healthy sugar, dairy and meat free ‘it’s so easy’ lives.
It is not so easy, well not at first and it certainly doesn’t provide an easy fix to weight loss or fatigue, slow and steady wins the race for that one. But before we jump head first into the diet pool that looks the most appealing, we must first answer why we feel the need to change our diet or lifestyle in the first place and what we expect to get out of it. It is as simple as listing the reasons down on a piece of paper. They can be as many or as few as we like, but they must be honest and achievable for us. If we have a family, as I do, think about the impact on them. Reducing our children’s sugar intake can only be a good thing, but completely stripping out the parts of their diet that contain sugar, starchy carbs and nitrates can make for unhappy children and crazy parents.
Start by considering these three key questions:
- What motivates us to change our current diet?
- Do we have the capacity to incorporate the change into our lifestyle?
- And finally, what outcome do we want to achieve? Are we trying to save the planet, reduce sugar intake, become more organised in meal planning or make a stand against animal cruelty?
Creating our list is a potentially endless task, but it should not be time-consuming or taxing. The goal is to focus our intentions and demonstrate that once we have achieved that focus, we can then move on to mapping our identified needs against the requirements of each diet plan. Even then it is not to say that one path alone is right; in order to save the planet and reduce sugar we might be more suited to selecting components from the low carb high fat approach of the keto diet, but as a vegetarian or dairy free.
Put simply, we should invest a little time to really think about the consequences of making changes and create a clearer mindset before we allow ourselves to fall in love with the life presented on xxxx insert social media of choice.