When I started my CNC certification program, I was SO excited to learn all the nutrition things! As soon as I received my reading materials, I dove in headfirst.
In a month's time I had learned (in-depth) all about the dangers of preservatives, additives, chemicals, GMO's, commercial animal products, organic-but-yet-still-corrupt-farms, non-organic produce, tap water, trans fats, sugar, gluten, etc. etc....
I was so overwhelmed, and thought to myself, "Well if everything out there is so unhealthy, what the %@*& CAN I eat?!"
I drove myself crazy (as any health nut can probably relate) trying to research every animal that I bought and making all my own bread and salad dressings in attempt to avoid every possible toxin. Gluten? Out. Sugar? Definitely out. Tap water? Sill gonna drink it, but not without excessive guilt.
Ugh. Do that for long enough and congratulations- you have the cleanest diet on planet earth, but not without a side cocktail of anxiety, isolation, and guilt.
Don't get me wrong- we DO live in a toxic world, and the food we eat is not what it used to be. We DO have to bring awareness to what we put in our bodies. But I also believe that a super clean diet is not worth the neurosis that it sometimes costs.
There is still that little voice of guilt in the back of my head sometimes that reminds me of all the imperfections in my diet. Especially being immersed in the health/fitness world, it's easy to get sucked into the latest "restriction" fad. Here are a few things that remind me to eat well but maintain sanity.
- Our bodies are designed to fight off pathogens and eliminate toxins. You don't have to "baby" your body by sheltering it from every possible bad food. In fact, our bodies learn to protect themselves by being exposed to small amounts of toxins and bacteria.
- There's no such thing as a perfect diet. Not only is it impossible to define, but it's just not realistic. Life happens. Cravings happen. Being human happens. Strive for consistency with eating well, rather than trying to get it right every single time.
- Stress about food is still stress. Excessive stress, whether psychological or physical, is at the root of countless health problems. If your strict diet is spiking your cortisol levels, it may not be worth it. I'm not suggesting that you swing the other way and eat whatever you want, but it may benefit you to find a healthy diet that is more manageable.
- (Debbie downer alert) All of us, at some point, are going to pass. Hopefully we all live long and happy lives, and a healthy lifestyle can assist in that. But no matter how clean our diets are, we will still age. We will still die. And even in life, we will still face disappointment, tragedy, sickness, insecurities, and setbacks. Eating clean does not give us complete control over our lives or bodies, but sometimes controlling diet can feel like protection from this harsh world.
As I mentioned above, I'm not suggesting you throw out all your healthy habits because it doesn't matter in the end. It DOES matter. But you also can't live in fear of food. You have to find that balance between "eating clean" and letting it go. I can't tell you what that balance looks like for you. You have to decide which healthy habits are worth the discipline and sacrifice, and which ones are just an attempt to control something and/or feed your own ego.
Don't be afraid of the process. I'm still working on this one...