Choosing a Healthy Diet

September 13, 2004

What is Healthy Food?

Just what is “healthy food”? Ideally speaking, healthy food can be defined as natural foods: plant foods that are grown either organically or biodynamically, and animals that are pastured and raised naturally. Natural foods that have been processed and prepared by traditional methods, including fermenting, marinating, drying, etc., also are healthy foods.

Healthy food does not include foods that have been grown, raised or processed through genetic experimentation, chemicals, preservatives, hormones and other unhealthy measures adopted by corporate agribusiness conglomerates. These methods of raising food, while able to sustain the human species to some degree, do not even warrant argument against natural methods of food production, because history, science, tradition, and common sense have already set the record straight on this issue.

Every now and then, we find ourselves wondering about the wisdom and healthfulness of modern food production and their marketing spin, but most of the time the “science” goes unquestioned by an unwitting and obedient public. But we are right to wonder. Profit-driven production methods and the pseudo-science that backs their dubious achievements with spurious claims is commonplace in today’s market—and the more we educate ourselves about these practices, the better off both we and our future generations will be.

The healthiest foods for all human beings are those that are raised and grown through natural methods and time-honored traditions.

One might argue that natural foods too are exposed to environmental toxins on a regular basis, or that organic guidelines can sometimes be non-specific, or that the water used in the growing process of naturally raised foods may contain toxins. In many places, this is true; unfortunately, that is the state of the planet, at this point. But adding additional chemicals, preservatives, growth hormones and the rest just compounds the problem. Naturally grown foods in a semi-unnatural environment are still superior to those grown in that same environment with all the added toxic ingredients. Therefore, for the best food capable of supporting health, as much as possible and as much as is realistic for you, consume organic and biodynamic foods.

Traditional Differences: The Real and The Make-Believe

One of the best criteria for determining whether or not a food is natural is to use an historical perspective; where or how a food shows up historically or in a traditional context helps to clarify the issue. The further back in history a food goes can determine and define how effective and useful the food has been, especially if the food is still in use today after thousands of years.

Even in this context, we will often find some natural processing methods involved with certain foods. Grains, for example, have been processed by soaking, fermentation and grinding to make a wide variety of porridges, breads and noodles for thousands of years throughout the world. This form of processing does not involve the use of chemical preservatives, however, and is perfectly natural and healthy. Another example of natural processing occurs with fermented vegetables. Pickling is a traditional and natural method of food processing that offers numerous health benefits.

Today, however, these and other traditional methods of food preparation are artificially mimicked in the commercial food industry, where inferior products manufactured with chemicals and preservatives are the norm.

Substituting the Substitutes

Well-known plant- and animal-derived commercial food products crowd the aisles and overstuff the shopping carts of today’s consumers. Some of the most widely consumed groups of processed foods are cold cuts, hot dogs and processed cheeses. While often containing the by-products of actual foods, these products essentially are highly processed food “substitutes.”

The same also goes for the substitute foods some people call “modern natural foods.” These “natural” versions of substitute foods are those products found in natural food stores that are designed to look and taste like substitute food products found in commercial grocery stores. Items such as soy “tofu” hot dogs, fake bacon, soy sausage and soy cheeses are food products, and not actually foods per se: highly-processed products made from by-products of soybeans, mostly soy isolates, that offer little to no health benefits. Long used as filler for pet foods, these fake food ingredients, usually processed with chemical solvents and other unhealthy processing methods, are now used to create ”natural” food substitutes that resemble the commercial food substitutes that have become so familiar to most of us who were raised in Western cultures.

One has to question why someone changing to a healthy diet would want to reproduce the non-food items of his past with more “natural” versions of non-food items to begin with. The original processed animal products do not offer the natural nutrition of real naturally raised animal foods, and the soy versions offer even less benefits and are not healthy substitutes for real food, no matter how we look at it.

In the case of the various new-fangled “meat” products, the use of nutritional science derived from traditionally consumed soy products (miso, tamari, etc.) is often used to support highly processed soy foods. This practice of nutritional indoctrination is deceptive and misleading, yet unfortunately it permeates both the commercial and natural food industries. The same science is applied to substitute meat products. Processed beef parts with nitrates and preservatives in the form of, say, bologna is no substitute for air-dried, grass-fed beef, and the two cannot be qualitatively compared just because the bologna has animal parts in it. Healthy, real food is just that; it cannot be substituted with imitations. If you’re going to eat these kinds of foods and quality is important to you it is far better and healthier to eat real sausages, real hot dogs and other similar real meat foods made from real, grass-fed, naturally-raised animals, free from chemicals and preservatives. So why would some of us want to include these and other food substitutes in our diets in place of real foods?

Who Is Choosing Your Food For You?

Familiarity, convenience and indoctrination are three important reasons for choosing certain foods. Many of us have been raised on processed foods. Cold cuts, hot dogs and other processed meat protein sources. These convenience products were and still are the mainstay of school lunches and weekend cookouts for many people. These modern foods offer convenience, are easily preserved through chemicals and refrigeration; they don’t require cooking and, most of all, they are designed and promoted by large companies whose sole purpose is profit, with little concern for public health—as evidenced in the quality of the majority of these products. That aside, many of us were and are raised on these processed foods, and they have become strongly familiar to us, both to our senses and to our biochemistry.

In many households, these processed animal products have replaced the traditional whole roast chicken, roast beef, lamb, duck, fresh fish or other traditional healthy animal foods; in other households, these traditional animal foods are simply given less priority and consumed less frequently. In the last few years, many health-conscious people have discovered the unhealthy qualities inherent in processed meat products and have stopped eating them. At the same time, though, many have also stopped eating traditional animal products, opting instead for the alternative diets and lifestyles offered by health food or natural food diets.

Knowing an advantageous opportunity when they see one, the soy industry recognized the need for plant-based protein sources in the rapidly growing trend of natural diet followers, and in the financial growth of the natural-products industry in general. The growing variety of soy-based protein pseudo-foods that resulted, along with a massive marketing effort including scientific backup, quickly permeated the commercial and natural foods marketplace. The effort to influence the masses with their new soy-based meat substitutes is an ongoing campaign, but is now joined by others: new meat substitutes made from fungi and other ingredients are being used to create still more artificial substitute foods, and these are all competing in the race to flood the marketplace with new products for public consumption…in other words, to take the place of real food.

So far, the greatest impact of these pseudo-foods has been in the diets of health food enthusiasts—ironically, the very people whose original philosophies and ideals, along with their founding fathers’ and mothers’ commitment to quality, were centered on the importance of quality in growing, processing and manufacturing of whole foods!

While the marketing of these new products may have misled many vegans, vegetarians and other health food enthusiasts to believe they had a greater variety of healthy protein sources with which to help balance their diets; the products also struck a familiar chord from the past. Followers of natural diets no longer had to pine for those processed meat products of their pasts: now they had substitutes! The new ersatz versions tasted just like the foods they’d left behind, plus they were low in fat and cholesterol and, let’s face it, they were convenient, too. So convenient, in fact, that for many naturalists, these new substitute foods have come to comprise as much as 50 percent or 75 percent of their diets. Sometimes even more.

Unfortunately, this is not a good thing, and I say this with great respect for those who are attempting a true vegan or vegetarian diet based on whole foods, as well as from my own experience as a teacher and counselor of whole-foods nutrition. Some of the well-documented health problems resulting from this imitation-food phenomenon include: hypothyroidism and other hormonal problems, loss of hair, pallor of skin, loss of muscle tone, fatigue, digestive distress and a host of other problems. According to some researchers, some of these problems may be irreversible, yet advocates of the soy protein myth and other fabricated “health” products are quick to quote numerous scientific articles touting the benefits of these imitation foods.

Who is behind these scientific articles? And what is their real agenda? One can also find numerous scientific reports touting the benefits of vegetable oils on cholesterol, heart disease and other health problems—but scientific evidence can also be found that shows these same polyunsaturated vegetable oils contribute to these problems. To anyone willing to take a close look at the science of nutrition, it becomes clear that nutritional science, like so many types of “expertise” today, has a price. Not only that: just about every product on the market, be it natural or non, has two sets of conflicting nutritional data—one version to support it and another to debase it.

Convenience foods were designed to make life easier for modern civilization. We all can certainly use a little more convenience in our lives, but the commercial line of these pseudo-food products have resulted in the unbalanced tradeoff of diminished health and vitality for convenience. In addition, the natural versions of these convenience foods are no better than the original ones they were made to resemble.

This serves as a valuable lesson for all of us: nutritional science alone should never be used to make healthy dietary choices. Due to the influence of industry agendas, conflicting data is rampant in nutritional science. In fact, before even considering the “scientific evidence,” it makes sense to first use common sense and look to tradition. Only then can one be free from the quagmire of confusion created by nutritional science.

It is common for modern nutritional science to have no basis in nutritional traditions; it is far less common for nutritional traditions to have no basis in nutritional science. Therefore, one should exercise caution when believing scientific reports on nutrition that lack a basis in traditional nutrition. Learn to make your own choices for yourself and your loved ones using tradition, commonsense and science.

The Whole Story

Two of the greatest barriers that often stand in the way of discovering our dietary needs can be found in deeply entrenched habits and beliefs about food and nutrition. Habits and beliefs about food, while different in meaning, are both linked with that invisible umbilicus that feeds and nourishes the ideas and concepts that created them in the first place: our appetite. Therefore, when choosing how and with what we will nourish ourselves, it is of utmost importance to constantly challenge our concepts and beliefs through other sources of information and traditions.

When using scientific information, we also need to seek both sides of the story. For example, current nutritional science states that tomatoes are one of the foods with the highest content of lycopene, a substance said to be highly beneficial to health. Because this information has come from what most people consider a reputable source of scientifically published papers, it is quickly assimilated as a new belief. For many, this means they can translate this newfound data into a habit or reason for eating lots of tomatoes: to do so means assuring that they will get all those healthy benefits lycopene has to offer.

However, the very same science responsible for the isolation of lycopene in tomatoes has also isolated other not-so-healthful, toxic alkaloid compounds that have been adversely linked to the very diseases lycopene may help to prevent! When both sides of the available nutritional science are reviewed, we come up with something like this: Tomatoes have a powerful substance that might help protect us from disease, but they also have other toxic substances that may contribute to disease. Thus, we have scientific data on a food that is both helpful and harmful—but only the helpful is emphasized for advertising purposes. We could go on with detailed scientific reports supporting both sides of the story, but the point of the matter is this: when making food choices, it is best not to form an opinion based on one source of information alone, regardless of who or what it is.

I use tomato as an example because it is a food that has become common and widespread in just the last hundred years or so. While its history as a global food has been only recent, tomatoes and people have adapted to each other; tomatoes are now one of the most popular and commonly consumed foods. For many people throughout the world, these unusual fruits of the nightshade family are consumed in some form or other and recognized as highly suitable to a nutritious diet—and now, with the science of lycopene backing it, even more so. But simply because we have discovered a food that seems to suit us or can be supported by scientific research does not mean it is something that should be eaten all the time, as has become a common habit for many people. The idea that, “if a food is good for you, then it is good to eat more of it,” is not a wise dictate to uphold. More does not equate to better, regardless of the food in question.

The tomato is not the only food that carries potentially harmful components; many other healthy plant foods do as well. Many plant foods contain toxic lignans that can serve as protective mechanisms for plants. This doesn’t mean one should consider tomatoes an unhealthy food, nor any other traditional food for that matter; it means that we should be well informed about a food and its historical uses before we formulate a belief based on a single component that could lead to a regrettable habit of excess based on half-truths promoted for the sole purpose of profit.

These same one-sided nutritional science agendas can be found with other foods as well; coffee, chocolate, flax oil and soy are just a few. The need to discover our personal dietary requirements is a matter that takes time, information, common sense and some experimentation.

Eat Globally

Experimentation with food is not something to fear, nor is it something one should do with careless abandonment. The best way to begin experimentation is through traditional and ethnic cuisines. When approached in this manner, exploration of new foods can not only be an adventure, it can also be a most enjoyable and rewarding experience.

For example, ethnic cuisines often include spices and herbs—seasonings long known and proven to have health benefits among traditional peoples. Many people have had little experience with some of these properties and flavors. Even people within many ethnic groups have experienced only their own foods and seasonings. It is important for all those living in our modern century to experiment with global foods, to find those with time-honored traditions of health and healing and to support the continuation of these foods through their original seeds and sustainable agricultural practices.

Global foods offer the most extensive choices for establishing a healthy diet. Experiencing other people’s traditional foods can give us deep insight into ourselves and other people’s cultural patterns, philosophies, cosmologies and rituals, since food has always played a profoundly important role in the lifestyles of traditional cultures.

Truth or Dare

Not only can we experience newfound health benefits and new tastes when incorporating global cuisines in our diets, we also experience new textures. Some of these may be familiar, yet the familiarity could be in relation to a current unhealthy food habit. Replacing this unhealthy food with a newly discovered healthy food or foods having a similar texture can help satisfy the desire for that texture and open new doors to better health. Yes, even food textures can define how we make food choices!

Are you one of the many people who have the deep inner urge to crunch? A potato chip, corn chip, cracker…anything you can put in your mouth that crunches when you bite into it? Even worse, do you need to crunch so everyone in your immediate environment can see and hear it? Are you even aware you are doing it when you do it?

Once, while attending a pre-celebration dinner after one of my lectures, a young, rather vivacious young woman came up to me and began talking to me while crunching on crackers and dip, crumbs falling out of her mouth as she spoke. I tactfully maintained my composure as she interrupted a conversation between me and a close friend of mine. My friend, known for brazenly speaking his mind, stared at this cruncher in disbelief for a moment, then asked her how in the f— she thought anyone could understand a word she was saying with her mouth full, and how disgusting she was. He then walked away. The young woman’s response was, “What did I do?!”

This is an example of how powerful an influence food textures can have on developing habits and food choices. While speaking with one’s mouth full is not proper etiquette, in this case it wasn’t the full mouth so much as the fact she had to continue crunching in front of us and everyone else while trying to converse.

Rarely are our food habits formed by sensible and conscious choices; more often than not, they are formed through an individual’s belief or through someone else’s belief. This can come in the form of popular diet books, a health practitioner’s charisma or expert opinion, the identity found through the camaraderie of a group of like-minded people or other very common sources that we have all been influenced by, to some degree or other. These other influences, positive or negative, often include parents and relatives, peers and friends.

Whoever or whatever the influences on your dietary choices are, it is important to question how realistic they are for you.

One of the most powerful influences on our food choices today can be found among diet groups. Let’s consider the example of group influence on our dietary choices.

Choosing The Natural Path

My experience with natural food diets has shown there are two primary reasons for choosing one of the many types of health food diets.

The first reason is public exposure of the intolerable and abusive treatment of factory-farmed animals, along with the chemical processing of these products and their resulting poor quality. One would be hard pressed to argue in favor of the negative effects on one’s health from consuming too much processed and refined foods laden with preservatives. However, these facts can also be misconstrued to mean that any and all farmed animal products are detrimental to health.

Many vegetarian crusaders, intent on the elimination of the atrocious practices involved in raising factory-farmed animals, are either blinded by their cause or simply unaware of traditional methods used to raise animals for food and of the important role naturally-raised animal products have played in a healthy traditional diet for many thousands of years. This one-sided perspective has lead to many extremist reactions against the human consumption of any and all animal products. While this point of view is prevalent in many natural diet philosophies, it is most evident in the plant-based raw foods groups (there are animal-based raw foods groups as well) and the vegan groups. Ironically, it is within the vegan groups that we find the most extensive use of imitation animal products made from highly processed soy, fungi and other ingredients.

The second common reason for choosing a natural diet and lifestyle is as a way to define one’s personal identity. Human beings have a long history of identifying strongly with a wide variety of lifestyles. Religions, professions and other cultural factors have long offered ways in which we can develop identities to which we can “belong” and with which we can label others and ourselves. Identifying with a particular diet group and even becoming a proud model for and example of what it represents is a common path to distinction in today’s world. For many, the need to be part of a group with high ideals is very important and many diet groups offer unique combinations of philosophies and lifestyles. The foods that make up a particular diet are often used to feed the identity of an individual; at the same time, those foods prohibited by the diet are often the ones that end up actually defining the individual.

Even if diet groups with leanings toward moral, spiritual or philosophical agendas are your thing, you still need to examine whether or not you are thriving while nourishing yourself with your chosen approach. It’s easy to find support in sub-culture diet groups such as raw foods, vegan, macrobiotics and others, but it is just as easy to lose this support if you question or challenge leadership or the basic dictates of the regime, or if you stray from the path. Intolerance of dissension, criticism, and even persecution are common within such groups. Knowing this in advance can be helpful for those exploring new paths to health with diet groups.

Another vitally important thing to know about diet groups is that when health issues arise, whether concerning oneself or others, it is essential to search for consistencies within the group before accepting stock answers from experienced group leaders. Nutritional deficiencies are common in natural diet groups and can manifest as hypothyroidism, loss of libido, loss of menstruation, premature aging, premature hair loss, arthritis, extreme weight loss or weight gain, and more. It is not uncommon for nutritional deficiencies to be addressed as a “cleansing experience,” a “period of adjustment to the new diet” or as caused by “straying from the diet,” or even criticized as being symptomatic of ineptitude or a lack of understanding. While some of these assertions can be true to some extent, if several cases of similar deficiencies show up among other followers in the group, it is important to consider making improvements and changes in your diet.

In fact, it makes the most sense to look for these problems first, before diving headfirst into something that could cause more problems than what you began with. Look first at the children, as they tend to be the first to be adversely affected by nutritional problems. Be cautious, stay grounded and remember that while there can be many health benefits and much to learn from diet groups, your safest approach will be one where you seek out the rational and traditional aspects of the diet and avoid the extremes.

Reality Checks

Here are a few tips to help get you through the often-confusing experiences of natural diet hopping. Start by asking yourself the following questions.

Does your diet consist of a wide variety of wholesome natural foods?

If you are interested in health, and not just weight loss, you need to consume a diet consisting of mostly natural whole foods and not pre-packaged artificial products, which may in the short term help you lose weight but will do little to support your health. Contrary to what many people think, not all fad diets are “health food” diets. Quite the contrary, most modern fad diets are comprised of fake foods loaded with preservatives and designed for the sole purpose of addressing the issue of overweight. Fad diets that are based on natural foods, on the other hand, should at least be made up of real foods, although this is not always the case, either.

When a diet is said to be comprised of natural whole foods, it is important to understand that this does not mean natural “designer foods” that contain a natural ingredient or two but cannot be found anywhere in a traditional setting before 100 years ago. So far, modern food technology has not been able to improve on traditional natural foods, other than in the capacity to store foods through refrigeration and packaging. The addition of synthetic vitamins and nutrients to factory-farmed foods grown on depleted soils is not an improvement, nor are faster growing times or fatter animals derived from growth hormones, unnatural feed and inhumane animal treatments. For the most part, while some natural diets can lack important sources of nutrition commonly found in most traditional diets, natural foods based diets are good places to begin one’s journey to better health.

How much of your diet is comprised of “substitute foods”?

Having already established the importance of a diet based on natural foods, we will approach the remaining questions and comments from the basis of a natural food diet. Substitute foods can be classified as foods that offer little quality nutrition but are eaten for fun, to satisfy hunger, to satisfy emotional states; junk foods or binge foods that are not on your particular diet (and if they are, then they may not necessarily be recognized as junk foods). For convenience, we can break down substitute foods into two categories.

1) Commercial substitute foods: packaged pastries cakes and cookies, ice cream, candy, fast food, soda, chips, some deli foods, flour products (breads, bagels, rolls), processed dairy products etc. Now, you may be thinking that this category does not apply to you, because you are on a “natural diet.” Well, maybe they do not apply to you—but most people following natural diets of all types frequently indulge in large quantities of these food products.

2) Natural substitute foods: soy products made from soy protein isolates, soy milk, non-dairy ice creams and cheese substitutes, margarine (all types), candy, coffee, nutrition bars (containing soy, refined oils and synthetic vitamins), packaged foods (cookies, chips, breakfast cereals, etc.) made with soy, safflower and canola oils. There are more, but these are the ones most commonly consumed in large quantities by natural food enthusiasts. These foods are found especially in natural food stores, yet they can also be found in specialized sections of most grocery stores.

Keep in mind that this is simply a reality check and not some harebrained idea about making you either perfect or guilty of dietary sabotage. We all enjoy the freedom to explore and indulge in things that are not always beneficial to our health. While this rarely poses a problem with any healthy diet, a quantity of insalubrious foods, along with the common misunderstanding that some of these foods are healthy, compared to traditional foods, can and often does contribute to problems.

Going back to the question, “How much of your diet is comprised of ‘substitute foods’?” we can get more specific: What percentage of your current diet is made up of these foods: 10 percent, 30 percent, 50 percent, 75 percent, 100 percent? What can be said about these percentages?

If you answered “10 percent,” congratulations! Your diet is probably quite balanced and satisfying on many levels. It is perfectly normal to consume things that do not fit your ideal diet; everyone does it.

If you answered “30 percent” or “50 percent,” either you are confused about what is truly healthy for you, or your diet is lacking important nutritional sources, and you may be unconsciously or consciously trying to compensate for a lack of higher quality nutritional sources. This isn’t going to work. Before long, you will begin to notice a decline in energy, and possibly other negative symptoms as well. Your diet needs some serious revision.

If you answered “75 percent” or “100 percent,” you are fooling yourself: you are not eating a healthy diet. Not even close. It is time to start over.

Is your diet fulfilling the promises associated with it?

While you might think your diet is special as compared to others, when it comes to “diet promises,” yours is exactly the same as all the other health diets. Healthy diets promise the following: youthful appearance, weight loss, increased energy and vitality, beautiful skin, optimal nutrition, minimal cravings, improved digestion and more. These are reasonable promises that a truly healthy and balanced diet (along with moderate exercise and a positive attitude) should be able to fulfill, no? I think we can agree on that.

So, what do you think? Has your diet fulfilled or is it fulfilling its promises?
If you have been on your diet for four to six months, there should be no reason why many of these criteria should not be starting to manifest in a positive light, unless you are seriously lacking exercise or very negative about life in general. Granted, if you are suffering from chronic digestive disorders and have been for ten years or more, it may take a while before you are happy with your results. Even so, a healthy, balanced diet should result in some noticeable improvements within a relatively short time. The same goes for the other promises. If your diet is what it promises, you should be getting results.

Let’s consider one of the above promises: increased energy and vitality. This one is a major appeal for many people choosing a new diet. How does yours fare in that department? Has your diet given you more energy and vitality on a regular basis? Hmm, think about that one carefully before answering. Got your answer? Good…

Now: remove coffee, tea, chocolate and all other stimulants from your diet and answer the question again. Uh huh. I know I may not have gotten you with that one, but I guarantee that I got at least 75 percent of those reading this article. These stimulants are a good barometer with which to gauge the “increased energy and vitality” factor of your diet. The more you need of these stimulants, the less your diet is fulfilling its promise. Again, I want to emphasize that these foods used in moderation do not define dietary characteristics—but when they comprise a large percentage of your natural diet you are obviously dealing with false promises and will at some point have to face the reality check.
What keeps you inspired to stay on your diet?

Is it convenience? Have you figured out simple ways of incorporating the essentials into your lifestyle, or is your diet simply something you return to now and then for reassurance in some area of your life? Do you need your diet to help define who you are—a vegan, raw foodist, a macrobiotic, Atkins? If so (even if only partly so), what does this definition do for you? Is it because you have made many friends through your dietary choice, and these friends make up most of your world? Is it because some admired celebrity proclaimed his or her allegiance to the diet? Is it the philosophical leanings, e.g., animal rights, a peaceful world, non-violence, free love? How about weight control, energy and the other reasons mentioned above?

Whatever your reasons, it is important to consider whether they still apply to you at this stage of your life, and how those reasons weigh in as priorities compared to the essentials of a healthy diet.

Essential Perspectives For Those on a Healthy Diet

1) Foods that have been consumed by traditional peoples for thousands of years and have contributed to robust health are not impure, bad or “less spiritual” than other foods.

It is very common for some diet programs to outlaw certain traditional foods and preparation methods based on a particular agenda. Grains, beans, animal products, cooked foods, raw foods and fats are some of the foods and preparation methods that can be taboo in some diets. Avoid judging real foods with simplistic terms such as “good and bad.”

The question of what is healthy food is not a black or white issue. While you may choose to follow the dictates or ideals of a particular diet, always remember before making a judgment about any traditional food that there is the issue of quality to consider. People have thrived physically and spiritually for thousands of years on the very foods that may be taboo to your current diet.

Furthermore, there is no evidence that quality sources of these taboo foods, in and of themselves, when used in a balanced and healthy diet, have caused the problems your regime might accuse them of causing. Because many people judge food based on “good or bad” does not mean this judgment is correct.

For example: “Fat is bad.” Not true. Fat is essential for metabolic functions, among other things. Some fats are very efficient at assisting in these functions, whereas others can inhibit these natural functions and are generally harmful to the human body. You always have a choice as to what you eat and do not eat, but be careful not to get caught up in the bad food–good food “diet agenda” to the point where you think you are better than someone else because of your newfound “diet identity.”

2. Know your limitations and habits, understand balance, and remember, “more is not necessarily better.”

This applies to any food. Falling for the “more is better” idea leads to extremes and contributes to eating disorders and a host of other problems.

What is familiar from the past will tend to be brought into the present. Be aware of how your old habits influence your new diet. For example, someone may have had a habit of eating a bag of potato chips for lunch with a soda. On his new diet, he eats a bag of “natural” potato chips with soymilk or a “natural” soda. This is not an improvement over the old diet.

Another example would be an individual whose past eating habits, consisting of large amounts of cold deli foods and iced beverages, have contributed to chronic constipation and digestive distress. On his new diet, he brings the same familiar pattern to the “natural” deli and does the same thing as before with better quality foods. While the quality of the ingredients has changed, the eating pattern and habit has not, so the digestive distress continues unabated.

Other past influences one must be careful of bringing to a healthy diet include food fears, emotional eating (eating to compensate for emotional distress), fanaticism and obsessive-compulsive eating. Some “natural diets” can actually contribute to these problems—so be careful.

3. Question your beliefs.

If you are not thriving on your diet and do not feel well, question everything about the diet and your practice of it until you find out where the problem lies.

It is okay to question the diet and the philosophy. In fact, it is essential that you do. Don’t let yourself get to a place in your health where you will regret what you have done. Be prepared to make changes in your diet. Dietary changes are inevitable. Some of these changes may require that you explore and embrace ideas contrary to your present beliefs.

Remember the diet promises list.
Most of all, give yourself permission to enjoy a wide variety of wholesome foods and celebrate life!

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