How to be aware of our type of eating
Dieting is not forever and whenever
Some consider diet as a therapy to heal from disease, others as a maintenance diet and still others as a personal experiment to see what happens by changing dietary habits.
Several dietary approaches have emerged and attempted to determine what would be the ideal diet for all. Marc David, a nutrition psychologist, has changed the way we think about nutrition.
“In the 80s, as a budding nutritionist, I became frustrated and confused by the endless argument of which diet is the best.” says Marc David, founder of Psychology of Eating and author of “Slow-down Diet”.
Vegetarians proclaimed better health and greater happiness, vegans said their approach was even more advanced and offered greater fulfillment, raw foodmen had very compelling arguments and case studies, macrobiotic movement had doctors touting its benefits, while Atkins-like diets or others touted the virtues of meat with convincing results.
So, who is right ? Well, the short answer is: everyone.
Three levels of the way of eating
This is where all three levels of diet come into play. This is a simple classification system that allows different nutritional approaches to be put into a clear and sensible context. The three levels are: therapeutic, maintenance and experimental.
By distinguishing each of these categories, we can obtain important information on how to properly use their particular nutritional approaches, what to expect with them, and how to deal with the confusion and disappointment that often arises when dieting fails to meet our expectations.
And finally, we can consciously choose the level of nutrition we would like to work on, and therefore have a more effective nutritional impact on the body. We will define the three levels so that you can see what I mean.
This is a way of eating that is specifically designed to treat or cure a medical condition or symptom. Examples are diets to lower cholesterol or blood pressure, diets to treat or regulate diabetes, diets for gout, for the victims of celiac disease, diets for people with allergies very specific diets, as well as a long list of popular diets for a host of diseases.
Therapeutic diets often relieve symptoms, sometimes even cause dramatic healing, and are widely used in both traditional and alternative health and healing sciences.
Although therapeutic regimens can be effective in curing, treating, or managing a disease, it does not mean that they will last once the body is healed. Often, a diet provides therapeutic benefits over a specific period of time and loses effectiveness when the natural limits of its healing powers are achieved.
Limited duration of a type of eating (diet)
People often become confused because they have seen the healing powers of the diet, but testify to its loss of effectiveness. They fail to recognize that like any medication, a therapeutic diet is a specific medical intervention used for the duration of an illness. You do not want to continue taking a pain reliever once the pain is gone.
Fasting or detoxing can have some incredible health benefits, but if you fast for a few weeks, you will quickly disappear into another world. The bottom line is that some diets are perfect for therapeutic purposes, but this can often mean “for a limited period of time”. Once a therapeutic regimen has done its job, it is wise to switch to a maintenance regimen.
A maintenance regime
This type of diet can support us in the long run. This is the basic diet used in everyday life, the one that is supposed to keep us in shape. In this diet, foods are chosen for their ability to feed us for long periods of time, and without harmful effects. A maintenance regimen could change over time as the body changes, or our lifestyle changes, or even change our beliefs.
Some crops include rice as a staple, some fish, other olive oil, salads, meats, dairy products, bread, fermented foods, wine, pasta … I think that you see what I mean. Of course, as we must stay attentive to the food pyramid, we can discover that what was good formerly is less so today.
Food allergies and intolerances
Many people, for example, find that they have food allergies or allergies to wheat or dairy products. The key to a maintenance diet is that it is supposed to provide long-term nutritional stability, but at the same time, it is wise to constantly check with the wisdom and analysis of the body that the food we eat keeps our metabolism healthy.
An experimental diet
The experimental diet uses food as an evolutionary tool, a way of playing with the possibilities of what a particular diet can bring to the body. On an experimental diet, we are scientists of our own physiology, asking questions like, “What would happen if I ate these particular foods? How would they affect my body, my health, my energy levels, my work output, and my ability to think? “
All foods that have unproven effects or that we have never used before present an opportunity to explore the unknown, to bring our food a sense of novelty and discovery.
Taking vitamins as an experiment
Taking vitamin supplements can be considered as a way of using diet for experimental purposes. There is evidence of the therapeutic effects of vitamins and minerals, however the use of vitamins for maintenance purposes is a relatively recent phenomenon in human history and largely experimental.
By taking vitamins, pure amino acids or other non-traditional supplements, we are actively participating in human evolution.
Food as an experiment
For many, vegan or Paleo diets can be considered as experimental.
Indeed, the followers of the Paleolithic regimes will tell you that this diet has existed for thousands of years, but to adopt it in our civilization, with our environment and the food we have today, is in the realm of experimentation.
“Let’s try this diet that I have never tried, use it for a while, and see what happens.”
Any food that is new to your body is your own nutrition experience. Seen in this light, we can not use the argument “my diet is better than yours”, or “I have the scientific proof of why my diet is the right one” – and we can simply proceed with it as enthusiastic explorers of our own genetic potential.
The experts are fighting with each other
Indeed, when experts argue over the soundness of their nutritional approach, what often happens is that there is confusion when it comes to the 3 levels of diet. An expert may have sound evidence of the therapeutic usefulness of such diet, but they mistakenly conclude that the same diet has long-term maintenance value.
For example, following a low fat diet can have a profound weight loss effect and a positive impact on cholesterol and blood pressure, but keep the same low fat diet for a year and you could end up seeing very intense signs of deficiencies, fatigue, constipation, dry skin, depressed mood, etc.
Marc David’s suggestion on this topic: “Begin to notice how certain diets or nutritional strategies inevitably fall into any of the three diet levels. Can you see how the three levels can be a useful nutritional tool? “
Now, take notice of your own diet. “Which of the 3 levels would be interesting in my case? And consider that life itself is a beautiful and long experience in food and nutrition.” (Marc David)
Our own laboratory
We are our own experimental laboratory. Let us follow the wisdom of our enteric brain to tell us what is good for us rather than being guided by principles external to us.
Food is not a religion, it is a highly spiritual act that connects us to the Earth and its products. We eat not only the nutrients in our food, but also its quality and energy. We can fetch more from a food through full awareness and gratitude for what nourishes us.
And you, what do you think?
The Slow-down diet; eating for Pleasure, Energy & Weight loss. Marc David. Healing Arts Press. 2005.