I wait tables most weeks and because of what I eat, I discuss my eating habits many times a day. For this reason it hasn’t made a lot of appearances in what I write here on the blog. However, seeing as it is such a huge part of my life and because diet in general is such a huge component of our health, I believe it’s time to take that step and delve a little bit into what we eat, and how elementalism can be used to establish a healthy diet.
The word diet itself is not usually a pleasant one. I personally do not enjoy the way the word is misinterpreted either. We are always “on a diet”, we can never be “dieting”. The food we eat makes up our diet, and regardless of what that it is, it is still our diet. We cannot “go on a diet” because we are always on a diet. The question is, how do we make it a healthy diet?. It is one of our primal needs, and our bodies naturally look for sources to supply it. When we eat our body releases dopamine to encourage us to find more food just like the other animals of the world. When the food is unlimited, however, our biology tells us we need to consume what we can, in order to store excess for later. This concept leads U.S citizens especially to over-consumption because our food is always “unlimited.” .
So how can we stop ourselves from over-consumption if it’s linked to our biology? If this had a simple answer obesity wouldn’t be the epidemic it is in the United States now. What works for me is a combination of two approaches. These two approaches are: Redefining Food for myself, and understanding how calories are used by the body.
Calories In, and Calories Out
Understanding how calories are actually used by the body, and what a caloric deficit looks like for your age, weight, and activity level is crucial. No matter what your idea of healthy weight is, you need to know roughly how many calories your body burns in a day, and how many you typically eat. There is no secret to weight other than calories in and out. It is the direct transfer of energy. Sure there are plenty of things that affect the way you absorb calories, or influence your metabolic system, but regardless of what those are, you only gain weight if you burn less calories than you consume, and lose weight if you burn more. This is a fact, and it is the singular most important aspect of weight management.
Coincidentally September and October of 2019, when I first became vegan, were the months in my life that I weighed the most at 6’0” 208lbs. I never thought of myself as overweight. In fact I don’t really believe I was at a necessarily unhealthy weight. I see myself now, and can see how much healthier I look compared to photos and videos of myself then, but this version of myself wasn’t even in my 5 year plan at that point in my life, and in this way, weight was a symptom of a much larger issue that I couldn’t understand until I was on the other side of it.
Defining “Food” and “Healthy Diet”
This brings me to the second approach that is necessary for me: redefining what I understand as food. Now, the CDC defines a healthy diet one way, but there are still things on that list that I can’t even consider edible anymore. It sounds absurd because it is. The absurdity stems from how far removed we are from real food, and requires an equal action to rectify in our lives.. If we stop viewing things that you don’t want to eat as food, then we will no longer eat them. Easier said than done absolutely, but it works for me, and I believe that it will work for others too.
The biggest example of this working for me was in October of 2019, when I made the transition from Octo-Lacto Vegetarian, to Vegan. The urge to drink milk and eat cheese didn’t just magically go away when I decided to stop eating them, my body was physically addicted to them. It felt akin to caffeine or nicotine withdrawal, two things I was already familiar with. After researching why this was happening, I found that dairy products activate our opioid receptors, and while it is minimal, it is noticeable when you go from getting most of your daily calories from dairy to none. Once I realized my body was actually craving this substance, I began to see it as something other than food. I was able to perceive it as a toxic, and addictive substance like tobacco, and only after that did the cravings begin to disappear. In fact, in my day to day life, the smell of asiago cheese has made me wretch when caught off-guard by it, something that the 2018 version of me would have devoured with a grin.
After noticing my perspective shift on dairy products, I realized I had already done this before when I became vegetarian in August of 2016, which differed from the first attempt in 2015 because I finally began to see animals as extensions of consciousness, instead of a food product. Because of that, I stopped viewing animals, living or dead, as food, and I no longer looked at a plate of animals and wanted to eat it.
My focus on the elements in holistic health showed me that a healthy diet demonstrates a large portion of the influence of elemental earth. Our diet is our routine, it is the foundation for our bodies, our lives, and our health. Holistic and vitalistic ideas on health always support a major focus on maintaining a healthy diet because it is believed, in most of those traditions, that our physical health is a direct result of what we put into our physical body. The interconnection of elements became even more evident to me as I removed things from my diet that were hurting my spirit and emotions though I didn’t realize how much until after. Even my mental space was clouded and distracted by what I had been taught to eat by society, compared to what my subconscious knew I should be eating.
It is not my plan to change you, or the person you love being. If you love yourself I only want to empower you to do that more. This article is only a way to expand on something I discuss frequently in my life, and hopefully share a helpful perspective on something every one of us can relate to. Though I have many hours of accredited holistic study on healthy diet and nutrition, I am not a dietitian or nutritionist. These ideas worked for me and continue working today and it is my hope that they could also work for one other person willing to read and practice them.