For the past few decades our society has experimented with a lot of different diets. Novel foods came onto the market, new ways of preparing foods, new technologies and what could have worked to our benefit, has for the most part worked to our disadvantage. Our weight problems today and chronic lifestyle diseases are proof of that.
As we proceed forth in this new decade, we seem to be done with any short term diets when it comes to our health and weight loss. We want real health, long term solutions and are instead adopting lifestyle dietary changes. As the trends change, as we grow in knowledge, as science progresses forward and as we continue to evolve consciously, there appear to be 3 distinct groups forming today that center around health and nutrition.
These lifestyle dietary approaches are the Moderation diet, the Plant-based diet and the Paleo diet.
If you are a regular reader of this site, you know that its whole premise and that of my work is optimal health. I know though, that what we eat is only a piece of the puzzle of our overall health and wellness. Our emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions must be taken just as seriously if we are interested in thriving in our most natural state of optimal health. Therefore in light of this, in the following article I wish to shed some light on these three dietary approaches so that you may view each one from a broader perspective. When we expand our perspective and gather wisdom consciously, we are then equipped to make the most appropriate choices for ourselves, instead of being swayed by the interests of others, make decisions based on ignorance or on a lack of knowledge.
Exploring the Moderation Approach
The most common approach to food today and one which has existed for most of the 20th century, when it comes to what we should eat, when and how much is what I call the Moderation approach. You know people who follow this well, as they are all around us. In fact, you may be one of them. Those who follow this paradigm when it comes to nourishing themselves are the ones that hold the idea of “everything in moderation” as the basis of their food choices. The degree of variation within this group is huge and includes those who don’t give much thought to their food choices and rely on the SAD diet, to those who consider themselves health conscious, but with moderation in mind.
Those who eat within the Moderation paradigm will make food choices based on personal preferences, tastes, convenience, habits, traditions, allergies or intolerances. They can include foods from every group in their diet, be they plant or animal products and in every form, be they natural or processed. Certain foods are usually only omitted if one has an allergy to it or dislikes its taste, etc.
When it comes to examining this way of eating from a nutritional basis, it is very hard to do mainly because the variation of choices is so diverse within this group in how people feed themselves, that almost each case needs to be examined on its own merits. What is certain is that the more processed our diet is, the worse our physical, emotional and mental health is. In the end, the biggest flaw with this approach that can cause many to suffer unnecessarily is that there is no universally standard definition of moderation and many people eating this way can be doing themselves a lot of harm. We have learned too much about nutrition and how it affects our bodies over the past few decades to hold onto a misleading idea. Although I cannot support an “everything in moderation” way of eating, it is in no way my intention to change anyone’s choices, especially if you feel they are working for you. I always encourage people to follow and do what makes most sense to them, as long as it is done from the most conscious and educated approach.
Exploring the Plant-Based Approach
While plant-based eating has been around for thousands of years, starting with some ancient philosophers and religious groups, it has definitely become an increasing trend over the past few decades in our Western world. Plant-based eating does include all those who fall into the vegetarian or vegan groups, but it may also include those who generally speaking eat a plant diet, with some small or odd amounts of animal food products. The sure and steady increase of this dietary approach can be attributed to the science that supports this way of eating as one of the healthiest for our body and health.
However, my theory for the rapid increase goes even beyond that as I credit the current awakening on our planet and expansion of our consciousness for choosing this lifestyle. We have begun to think beyond the body and simply meeting its basic survival needs to thinking how what we nourish ourselves with impacts all aspects of life on this planet, from the animals butchered for food to the starving human populations in other countries and everything in between.
Plant-based eating includes eating a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes and fungi. Plant-based eating is generally followed by those who are very health conscious, those trying to heal some condition(s) and/or those interested in optimal health. However it is also followed by those who are only interested in animal welfare, not realizing how their food choices may be affecting their health. While the focus is to eat foods which are in their as natural as possible form, there are nutritional downfalls to this way of eating. Certain vegans or vegetarians will rely on processed plant food or heavy grain diets which are both devastating to our health.
There is no doubt in my mind that for this day and age, this can be the healthiest way of eating for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual balance, but only if it is approached in the right way. The emphasis must be on real, whole, natural food first and foremost, with the bulk being fruits and vegetables, then all the other plant foods. Any grains eaten must be whole and unprocessed; any animal products eaten must also be 100% natural and from sustainable and ethical sources.
To me, if one wants to attain optimal health and balance between the mind, body and soul, this is the only way of eating that makes sense. It takes into account our health, the consequences of our actions on all life and nature; spiritual peace and maturity; and our energetic nature beyond the physical body. I didn’t just pick this way of eating for myself and my family, or for helping and teaching others on a whim. It came after lots of scientific and experiential research, but above that it came after a major personal expansion of consciousness. And while I can teach others about it, unless one is ready on a deep personal level to experience the fullness of what this encompasses, what I or others say about it will have little value or lasting impact.
Exploring the Paleo Approach
The Paleo diet from the term Paleolithic, is a dietary approach that attempts to mimic what we believe in society ancient man lived and survived on. In the midst of the health and nutritional breakdown today, many are captivated by this ancestral way of eating usually due to having had enough of the nutritional games, misinformation and manipulation out there, as well as wanting something real with which to turn around personal health.
On a surface level the Paleo or Stone Age approach to eating seems very credible when it comes to health and nutrition benefits. The basis of this diet is to eat as close to our original hunter-gatherer ways as possible. The emphasis is on natural foods only, while avoiding all processed foods. This means eating only natural meat (no factory farmed meat), and fruits and vegetables—basically anything that can be hunted or gathered naturally. There is no inclusion of dairy, grains, beans, processed oils, salt or refined sugar as it is believed that these only came about due to modern man’s evolution in agriculture and are not a natural part of our eating. As with the other two dietary approaches, various degrees of the Paleo diet are common. Some take it very seriously and only consume the foods mentioned, including the meat in its raw form, while others choose to include some nuts, seeds, beans and/or grains, while others yet completely skew the premise for this diet.
With these nutrition foundations in mind, from a scientific and nutritional perspective only, I can definitely attest to the benefits of taking out things like dairy and refined sugar, going natural and focusing on lots of fruits and vegetables. I also credit the idea that if one is to eat meat, it be only from natural, wild meat and not factory farmed meat. If one is eating a Paleo diet based on factory farmed animals, they are defeating the purpose of the diet as nutritionally the meat is very different. Meat can be a part of a healthy diet, but only if it is eaten from natural, wild sources and alongside a natural, high fiber diet. As with the other dietary lifestyles, many people interpret it to mean whatever they want it to mean. Many people eating this way do not realize that it is much more likely that ancient man’s diet was heavier on what can be gathered, rather than hunted and try to use it as an excuse today to eat lots of meat. Common sense will tell us however, that our ancestors would eat most of what is easier to obtain.
When it comes to the complete exclusion of grains and beans, I find it a rather basic and incomplete part of what we know about these two food groups today. At the core level, both are technically seeds and so naturally they should be included in this “gatherer” ideology. Why it isn’t, is because many people do not realize that grains do not need to be cooked. They only need to be soaked and/or sprouted to be eaten, with some actually being fine raw as they are. We know today that grains have the problems they do because of how they are stripped nutritionally, processed, cooked and how they have been bred to grow. We know that organic, soaked and sprouted grains have a completely different nutritional profile, increased digestibility and nutritional benefits. For these reasons I do not feel that grains and beans, which are both very valuable plant food sources should be ruled out completely. In the end as with the above approach, if it is done correctly, it can be a nutritionally sound way of eating and serve a good purpose for one’s physical health.
On a deeper level however, the Paleo diet has one huge flaw to it that for me overrides any of its nutritional or health benefits. It fails to take into account any evolution. I am not even talking about physical evolution, but mental, emotional and most importantly spiritual evolution. There is a saying that goes something like, “only look backwards, if that is the direction in which you want to go”. This is exactly how I feel about this dietary approach – that it is a rather backwards or primitive approach to our complete health and wellness. We need to give our bodies some credit for adapting to the digestion of grains for example. One can argue that grains were just as much a part of our survival, as meat was. The fact that we have ruined them today, is a whole different story.
Secondly, we are in the midst of a planetary spiritual and consciousness awakening. While thousands of years ago it may have been needed to hunt animals and live based on a survival instinct, it no longer is today. Today many of us have risen to a higher level of awareness and evolution. We understand that we are not above animals; they are not here to serve as our slaves, any commodities or tools which we control for our personal, selfish purposes. We are here as guardians, and responsible guardians do not infringe on the free will of another; they tread lightly on the planet, trying not to disturb nature’s intricate balance. Every animal in nature has its role as to what it consumes. Our gift as conscious human beings is that we get to choose what we want our role to be and we have great examples in nature from the peaceful herbivores to the violent carnivores. Today we understand that animals—all animals—have the right to live out their own natural life course, without needing to be tortured or killed by us. What is more so, is that we know today without a shadow of a doubt that animal products are in no way necessary to thrive, or even to survive.
However, until we change this conditioning within us, we will fail to see the truth within our hearts. As I mentioned above, a plant-based diet will not make sense, it will even most likely fail in some way for us, unless we change our conditioning as to what role animals serve on this planet, never mind in our health. As long as we continue to choose to see animals as a mere commodity to serve us, we fail to open our hearts to the fullest expression of our being. In the end is it a better way to eat from a health and nutritional perspective than how most in the Moderation group eat? Most definitely, but unfortunately it falls short in that it undermines our compassionate potential as human beings.
It never ceases to amaze me how much debate and confusion what and how much we should eat causes most people today. I find it rather sad because I know innately we each know and this could be so much easier if we just tuned into our inner being; if we only became conscious about these topics and stopped operating on a societally conditioned auto-pilot. While you may not be sure yet which food choices or dietary approach is right for you, one thing is for sure – personal food choices have become a sensitive topic for many today. Instead of focusing on the differences though, we can all benefit by focusing on the similarities. What is common across the groups is that more and more people want real, whole, natural food. While small arguments can be made about some of these, we know for certain that processed food has led to the destruction of our health and weight. So regardless what category you fall into, be sure to base your diet on whole, natural food as much as possible.
I know what is right and what makes sense for me without a shadow of a doubt. While I enjoy the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual benefits of that, I do not know what is right for you at this time in your personal evolution. You have to find that out for yourself. I also know that I can help those who are genuinely interested in pursuing optimal health and nutritional excellence. If one of course has no interest in health or nutrition and is happy eating and feeling the way they do, I never impose on changing that. It is only if one is seeking a different approach that advice should be given and the nutritional basis examined.
And so in sharing with you how I feel and my final stance on this topic is that you always need to do what you feel is right for you. However, do so responsibly and consciously considering all aspects. Listen to your body and work with it to tell you how it feels, what it needs and how it should be nourished. Listen to your mind and be analytical about any kind of health or nutritional advice you come across, and discern with wisdom. But above all, don’t forget to listen to your heart and soul and take into account what will give you the most inner peace.