Last week I had a rant about diets and how people develop a relationship with diets built around guilt and shame then came to the conclusion that I will just eat whatever food is good for me.
This week, I’ll share how I work out what is good for me.
Forgive me, these aren’t well formulated theories. They are thoughts, opinions and observations that I just spit out onto a blog on the day. Perhaps I’ll do a Masters in Psych and actually explore my theories a little more, find evidence to substantiate them, do a few experiments and even write a thesis on them but until I make that a priority, you’re stuck with my random ideas.
Before I tell you my formula, I’d like to ask you to stop for a moment and think about how and when you judge whether or not food is good for you.
Is it by the way it looks (packaging that looks good or says it’s good / plating)?
Is it by the way it smells?
Is it by the texture in your mouth and the sounds it makes when you chew it?
Is it by the taste and all the different flavours you like and/or are used to?
Is it any or all of the above?
Is there anything else? eg. the people you eat with, the location you’re eating whether outdoors, picnic, restaurant, at home that influences whether you think that particular food is good for you? Anything else? What you read or hear others say is good food?
And once you’ve swallowed your food and finished your meal, is that when you sit and make judgement on whether or not it was good or did you make that judgement while you’re eating and tasting it or maybe long before you’ve eaten at all?
What about after the eating? Do you use anything else? Any other aspects of your experience to judge whether or not the food was good? Or does judgement on whether it was good stop once you’ve eaten?
Now I’d like you to consider this. Food takes an entire journey with you. You think about it, you search for it, you grab it, it goes into your mouth, into your stomach, travels through your intestines, part of it goes to feed and nourish your body and the rest comes out the other end, then you flush it away and forget about it. If you consider the entire journey of that food and use your experience of that entire journey to judge, you may find that you would have a different opinion of whether or not that food was actually good.
So here is my formula for judging whether food is good for me physically:
Good going in + good going through + good going out = ALL GOOD
Anything else is “ERROR” which means it needs some fixing or adjustment. Pretty simple right?
Here are some applications of this formula:
Bad going in…. the rest of the equation doesn’t exist = ERROR
a) Allergies. Looks good, you stick it in your mouth and bam, your entire body gets inflamed, you can’t breathe. Spit the food out, get a needle, go to hospital.
b) Instant rejection. Either looks, smells, tastes horrible… one of your senses rejects it, it could be rotten, it could be nauseating so you either avoid it completely or try it and then spit it out.
To fix the ERROR – these are foods you must eliminate completely from your diet. Search and DELETE.
Good going in + Good or Bad going through + Bad going out = ERROR
a) Immediate. It tasted good but within half an hour you’re running to the toilet because it’s making a speedy watery exit from either or both ends. Your eyes, nose and mouth may have thought it was good but your body knows best. It says.. NOPE!
To fix this ERROR – take note of and eliminate the offensive substance from your diet in future.
b) Not so immediate. It’s great going in, you don’t feel anything as it’s going through but it’s pasty so you need an entire roll of toilet paper, or rock hard so you feel like you’re going to bust a vein in your forehead, going out.
To fix this ERROR – add more fibre and/or water to your diet along with that food. Use the Bristol Stool Chart to figure out what a good healthy poo is and adjust your fibre and water intake accordingly.
Good going in + Bad going through… the rest of the equation doesn’t matter = ERROR
This can range from any number of things. Your body is your biggest feedback system and will tell you when something’s wrong through itchiness, excessive thirst, gas, acid reflux, tiredness, irritability, swelling, sneezing, coughing, headaches, stomach ache, dizziness and bloating. Basically, any discomfort or pain is a signal, a symptom. Unfortunately these are all the things people ignore or just pop pills for!
Here’s what happens when you don’t deal with the above as important. All of them are a form of mild inflammation ie, your immune system has been triggered to deal with things that you have allowed to enter your system. When you don’t consider those notifications as important, they pile up and they get worse. They turn from mild irritation into intolerances. Organs can no longer do effectively what they were designed to do because they’ve been inundated and eventually diseases develop over a number of years. That means you’ve ignored the symptoms for years!
I know, it’s an over simplistic explanation of a complex integrated system so let’s stick to the point. Any feeling of discomfort, swelling or pain within 24-48 hours of eating that food means that the food you just ate is triggering something you need to take note of. Everyone is different so only you will be able to tell from your own body whether you should be eating something. It’s giving you feedback all the time, all you have to do is listen.
A couple of things to note:
a) It’s not immediate. Symptoms will not happen straight away and can occur at any stage during the digestive process. Different foods stay in our systems for different amounts of time. eg. digesting fruit vs meat so you must maintain awareness for the duration of that food’s journey. This is where food diaries come in handy.
b) Food is comprised of many elements. Remember that your body’s reaction isn’t to the entire food but to an element in that food. For example, I had a friend who thought she was allergic to eggs full stop. But when she tested, it turned out she was fine with Free Range eggs. Another example is me, I bloat every time I eat pasta or bread. I actually look pregnant. I thought I was wheat intolerant but when I tested, I could eat certain flatbreads that were made of wheat without any bloating and although I’m mostly good with rice, there are times where I eat it and get the same pregnant looking result.
c) Which leads me to this point. Food combinations can create chemical reactions in the gut that are not comfortable. For example, a naturopath once told me that if you combine carbs with protein, digesting them together will always create gas. She had a whole chart of the food combos that worked and didn’t work. So be aware, it’s not always a particular food but the food combinations that can cause you trouble.
To fix these ERRORs- take note of what you ate and then what symptoms you have afterwards and for how long after. Eliminate that food from your diet for a few weeks and then re-introduce it to your diet in small quantities and take note of the severity of the symptoms. Try different versions of that food (like the egg or bread example above) and note what you ate together with. Make note if symptoms increase, decrease or disappear. Eat that food only up to the point where you are not having symptoms. You will know how much that is if you’ve been taking notes.
Now food and emotion. This one’s a toughy. So to make it as simplistic as possible, my equation will go like this:
IF (Food=emotionally balanced, THEN GOOD, ELSE “ERROR”).
I’ve been working on excel a lot so I had to get an IF statement in there somewhere.
Explanation of my IF statement.
Food when it enters the body, alters the chemical composition in the body. The digestive process will trigger the release of different chemicals in various parts of the body including the brain.
Emotions are, simplistically, different combinations of chemicals in various parts of the body including the brain. So, it could happen that eating certain foods will actually create similar chemical compositions that simulate that of certain emotions.
Emotions are also a feedback system that we need to listen to. So, if you find you are stressed or anxious or depressed and by the same token, buzzing, elated, manic, emotionally especially during or after eating, then definitely make note of the food you ate and see if eating it creates the same effect at another time and situation. If it does, then don’t eat that food anymore unless you actually need to boost yourself up or calm yourself down.
Guilt and Shame, mentioned last week. If at any time you feel guilty for eating specific food then don’t eat it. If you keep doing it, then you’ll need to look into that because you’re using food to deal with an emotional issue.
Love and food. I could probably write a whole book on this one. People show love through food, people feel love through food. People are with the ones they love when they eat. People say they love food but really, they love all that happens around the food whether it be social, family, relationships, comfort, celebration, love, fun, reward or whatever else and they’ve hardwired and linked all those things to the actual food.
The problem happens when people don’t eat at all, eat excessively or eat all the things that create adverse physical reactions in their bodies, to compensate for or mask the emotions they feel when any of the things they’ve linked to the food, are missing. With this sort of thing, just like with guilt and shame, it’s not the food that needs to be addressed but the emotions.
So you see, you have both a physical and an emotional guidance system when it comes to nourishing your body. Food is the trigger. The physical and emotional reactions are the symptoms.
It’s true, there seem to be a lot more errors in life than not but that’s the point, it’s the errors that eventually steer us in the right direction, as long as we keep listening and looking out for them and adjusting.
So that’s my formula for figuring out whether or not food is good for me. Put the two equations together and you get this really cool embedded SUM within an IF statement:
IF Food (Going (In + Through + Out)=Physically + Emotionally Balanced, THEN GOOD, ELSE ERROR)
Then you use the errors to guide you to continue to get “GOOD” results.
Having briefly thought about it, I’m quite chuffed with this formula because you can substitute anything else in place of Food and the formula will still work! For example Work, Relationship, Life, Business Deal etc.
Legend. I always wondered what my contribution to the world would be. I think I just found it. The no longer secret formula to leading a “GOOD” ie successful life in the form of a logical IF statement. Oh my Computer Science teacher would be so proud. I wonder if this is what Newton felt like when the apple fell on his head!