One of the biggest misconceptions I had to deal with on my path to finding a happier, healthier lifestyle was a lot of very warped ideas about the importance of food in the ‘good health’ equation. Now, don’t get me wrong: food IS very important, and if we don’t get the proper nutrition our bodies need, that WILL have a big impact on our mental and physical health.
But it’s not the whole story – and maybe, it’s not even the main story. Over the years, I’ve come to believe that people only eat rubbish because they FEEL rubbish. The junk food is only reinforcing the true, underlying problem, that people don’t like themselves very much, and / or are trying to repress some uncomfortable, difficult feelings with food.
But this ‘negative’ mode can continue on the healthy side of the equation too, where people start following almost punitive diets and regimens, and begin to view icecream, pastry and meat as the biggest threat to the world since Bin Laden.
Of course we would all feel much better if we eat healthy most of the time. But negative emotions like guilt, anger, intolerance, control and judgment (all of which come in heaping amounts, on the ‘food fanatic’ side of the fence) are worse for your health than any trans fat or e-number ever could be.
Recently, I read something in Bernie Siegel’s book, Peace, love and healing that really brought this message home:
“A man with cancer who attended one of my workshops took issue with my having said that vegetarians get less cancer. In a letter, he explained his history:
I just can’t seem to let go of the fact that for eighteen years I was a vegetarian and natural hygienist and lived such a pure life (raw foods, exercise, meditation) and this should happen to me. In the Torah there’s a saying that goes ‘Man plans and God laughs.’
I once was on a radio program with Nathan Pritikin. We were debating the merits of which diet , or way of life was better – his or mine. It wasn’t really a debate, but a shouting match… He said ‘don’t eat nuts’ – I said nuts are a good source of protein. He said ‘only eat the whites of eggs’ – I said only the yoke, etc etc etc. He died of leukemia. I contracted cancer. Two schmucks arguing over how many angels can sit on the head of a pin.”
So the broad rule of thumb is this: the most you can keep the food and environmental ‘nasties’ out of your body, the better – but don’t get all fanatical about it.