If you would like to listen to a narrated version of this post rather than read it, CLICK HERE.
I encourage you to read through this entire post because each section gives only a small snapshot of the entire picture I am trying to convey and at the very end, I put them all together so that what I am trying to say through all of this will become clear. Feel free to ask questions or make comments below the post if you want!
My Story (condensed version). Back in 2009, I was turned onto juicing by a friend and also onto a certain herbal course by the same friend—which started me on this journey towards finding good health for myself and wanting to help others as well. Within that same year I took that course in herbalism and detoxification. Learning how to heal the body with methods other than conventional ways really sparked my interest and I loved the idea of using herbs as medicine.
When things finally settled down into a good routine after I had my son in 2010, I decided to take further courses from a school where I learned more about detoxification, natural healing, human biology, and herbs. I took two full courses, finishing them ahead of the class deadline because I was so into it. During this time, I was also digging deeply into research independently in order to get a better understanding of everything I was learning.
After that first taste of knowledge back in 2009, I spent the next 8 years immersed in schooling, research, building up my knowledge of herbs, natural healing and the “proper human diet”. I tried many different ways of eating myself, but because of my schooling I became very biased towards a plant-based diet and even a vegan way of life. My goal was to be completely adherent to this way and I was convinced it would be the only way that healed the various issues that I was dealing with in my body and I was more than sure everyone should be eating this way, no exceptions.
During those 8 years, I was in an out of plant-based eating, trying to find an approach that worked for me within the “rules” of my ideal…but always whole foods, focusing on knowing EXACTLY what humans were supposed to eat for optimal health and longevity.
In 2016 I spent the longest stretch of time eating ONLY plant foods, which was about 6 months. At first there were a few things that had improved, but eventually, my health took a nosedive, and it didn’t matter what I changed within the boundaries of my ideal plant-based eating. It continued to get worse. I will get into the details of that in a future post.
Finally, through a series of small things, I began to look at the dreaded “other side” which I had rejected so long and really listened this time. So, I added animal foods back into my diet and finally found what started working for me and reversed many of the health problems I had developed.
My own health was negatively impacted by the deeply rooted biases I had formed during my schooling and research. And the perspective that I wouldn’t let go of could have done so much more damage to my body had I not let my guard down for just a moment. I am thankful that I didn’t continue blindly following advice from people who don’t live in my body…but other people have not been so lucky…because some health gurus are so convincing.
They seem to have all the research. They seem to have all the proof…all the knowledge…all the understanding and experience. It seems to really work for them. They are so convinced in what they believe that they honestly think it will work for everyone and make you feel like you’re an idiot or scare you that you will ruin your health if you do anything other than what they say.
Hopefully, by sharing what I have learned over the past decade, people might find what works for them without feeling guilty or shamed or stupid for needing to make a change.
Continue reading if you want to find your “perfect human diet”.
The Perfect Human Diet. I wrestled with the phrase “The Perfect Human Diet” for so long. I really thought there was such a thing. I studied and researched, trying to figure out what the perfect diet for all humans really was. I wanted to feel healthy and strong and well in my body after suffering for years from so many issues in my physical body.
I’ve joined Facebook groups, forums, watched so many of the health documentaries, subscribed to YouTube channels, read blogs and books, news articles, scientific research papers and had conversations with medical doctors, nutritionists, homeopaths, naturopaths, and other herbalists. I’ve listened to arguments from vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians, fruitarians, raw foodists, breatharians (supposedly), people who eat keto, paleo style or primal, those who believe gluten and sugar are the devil…enthusiasts of low fat, high fat, low protein, high protein, low carb, high carb…and the list goes on.
In no way does this make me an expert on what all humans should eat but it sure did give me so many different perspectives to look at… and it made me almost go insane!
Carnivore type eaters and vegans alike would have you believe that we are not all so different that some of us require certain food groups and others of us do not. Carnivores claim that ALL humans need meat while plant-only eaters claim that we don’t need ANY animal products. They argue back and forth, present conflicting research which leads to a never-ending and frustrating conversation, they send death threats to each other and some go so far as to tell the opposing “team” that they should go kill themselves. Real mature ‘eh?
Cherry Picking. It doesn’t matter whether you listen to a person who consumes a diet heavy in meats or is a strict vegan, they ALL have their research papers to back up their claims. ALL. OF. THEM. Not just the unlicensed, barely credible YouTubers and bloggers but the doctors and nutritionists as well.
When I was heavy into veganism and plant-based eating and believing it was the only way to good health and saving the world, I thought that the “other side” was the only side cherry-picking. I thought that their research wasn’t complete. I felt like they weren’t looking at all the facts. Even the doctors and nutritionists. Even the trained researchers. I didn’t believe them.
Once I decided to see from another perspective, I saw the cluster fuck that is health research, particularly research having to do with the “perfect human diet”. If a person can’t see the cluster and continues to argue for their own perspective, they are biased and unwilling to understand that there isn’t one absolute truth when it comes to food. Maybe that statement in itself is biased…and I am willing to accept that. But the reality is, if a person honestly wants to see, they can’t help but see the cluster.
It’s visible everywhere. On Facebook, on forums, in the YouTube Comment section…
Two people from opposing views will get into a conversation about who is right and then begin tearing down the other person’s argument point by point. Then, that person’s argument gets torn down point by point. If it doesn’t resort to name calling and childish behavior at this time, they’ll whip out the big guns, which are the research papers and scientific literature. One link will be posted and another link will refute that link. Rebuttals and debunking on top of huge egos erupts into hundreds of unbearable comments where everyone is trying to prove their “rightness” without bothering to see from the other perspective.
For every book you read on the meat eater’s diet being “right” you can find another book that says the plant-based diet is “right”. In the back of these books, they all have references and links to follow backing up their claims. This goes for all the blogs and YouTube videos and documentaries too.
And they all cherry pick. All. OF. THEM. I guess that is a sweeping generalization – there might be some people who are honestly trying to be as unbiased as they can be. But in all reality, we humans can’t help but be biased. We form beliefs all the time without thinking about it. People who say they are not cherry picking are full of it. Even if they aren’t aware that they are biased and cherry-picking data, they still are. According to research, we literally can’t help it.
When we read or listen to anyone, we automatically bring into focus things that we already believe to be true to confirm our ideals because it makes us feel safe. We gloss over things that do not agree with our beliefs. It’s almost as if things that go against what we believe are not there at all. Like we are blind to them. Not only does science confirm that we do this, but speaking from experience, I KNOW I did this for most of those 8 years…until I realized that something was going wrong with my health.
If it’s a meat eater, to them, the vegan’s proof is WRONG. If it’s a vegan, to them, the meat eater’s proof is WRONG. Or, they say that each other’s info has been debunked. Or, they say that it’s pseudoscience. Or, they say it’s outdated…or fake…or cherry-picked or delusional or funded by some company that they don’t agree with.
Funded Research Projects. One of the things that people like to bring up during arguments about what diet is right for humans, is how certain studies are funded by certain companies who have an interest in the outcome of the study. And while this certainly is true, it’s true for ALL sides of this many faceted coin.
It doesn’t matter who they are or what they do, people want to make money and have influence. Period.
It doesn’t matter what idea we are buying into, we are either spending our money or our time on things we like or on people we like or feel a connection with. The people behind big business, the bloggers, the YouTubers, the authors… all want you to believe what they say. There are some people who are total shysters but I suspect the vast majority of us who have a platform to speak honestly believe what we are sharing and if money can be made off of what we do, most of us will do it.
And there is nothing wrong with money in exchange for a product or a service.
The point is that studies are often funded by people or organizations that hold a conflict of interest, they have a product or an idea they want to sell us all or a way that they want to manipulate us in order for their own gain. There is no way around that. But it makes it incredibly hard to muddle through data that may or may not be the entire truth.
Poorly Designed Studies. There is no perfectly designed study in existence for any subject.
There probably never will be.
It’s impossible to account for every lifestyle choice, every experience, every habit, every exposure to endless foods or toxins or whatever. There are going to be flaws in studies because everyone’s life is so different. Which is why it is easy to cherry-pick and to find whatever information you want to back up your beliefs.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some kind of common thread that can be seen and counted on to a certain extent. It just means that no study is definitive. And certainly not something to follow without question.
Correlation Does Not Equal Causation. It’s not a good hearty argument unless this comment gets thrown around.
And it’s true.
But people like to throw it out there when they don’t have much left to say. What they don’t realize is that they should be saying it to themselves too. By saying “correlation does not equal causation” they are also inadvertently saying it about all the supposed “truth” that they just shared as well.
The statement is over-used in my opinion and rather pointless because NOTHING causes ANYTHING 100% of the time. If it did, then every single person who smoked cigarettes would get lung cancer…everyone who drank too much alcohol would get fatty liver disease…everyone who ate processed meat daily would have a heart attack or get bowl cancer.
The only thing that can be assessed is a measure of “risk” associated with whatever is being studied. And even then, we can’t forget that research is many times funded by organizations with conflicts of interest, results vary depending on the perception of the researchers and it is impossible to account for millions of variations.
What’s True Today May Not Be True Tomorrow. I think we have this perception – because we are living in the information age – that we somehow have most things figured out. But just think about how long humans have been around compared to how long science and research has been around. Think about the way we research and develop studies and how it has changed in the last 100 years.
What about the things that we used to think were good for us or bad for us and how now we know different? Think about the different research tools that we have now compared to what we might have in the future.
What will we know 100 years from now? Or even 10 years from now?
Assuming that we somehow know most of what we should know about nutrition and human health is beyond absurd. If you have done any amount of research at all you undoubtedly have noticed how many new studies are being published about health on a daily basis. Discoveries on nutrients, how they work and how the human body functions are constantly being uncovered. For example: lymphatic vessels in the brain have recently been confirmed after researchers previously believed there were NONE. It’s not a matter of “if” what we know will change, but “when”.
It Worked For Me So It Should Work For You? It worked for me, so it should work for you!…and if you say it didn’t work for you then you weren’t doing it right or you’re lying or cheating or sneaking crappy food.
I don’t know how many times I’ve watched a YouTube video titled something like, “Why I No Longer eat Animals” Or “Why I am No longer Vegan” …and then scrolled down to the comment section to see what people were saying to their beloved YouTuber whom they have been subscribing to and following.
It’s anything from “You do you hunny” to “You’re disgusting and going to die of cancer”.
Mostly though it’s well-meaning but narrow perspective type people who have decided that the person in the video was doing their diet wrong (or something wrong) …even though the person has been doing it for a decade, has tweaked their diet countless times, gone to the doctor, gotten a dozen different professional opinions, gotten a full blood screening done, but their health is still declining.
Either everyone who changes their eating habits were lying about what they were doing or maybe it seriously wasn’t working for them. Maybe they spent years trying to make it work. Maybe they tried all the suggestions. Maybe they honestly weren’t looking for an excuse to stop the way they were eating. Maybe their health is more important to them than the idealistic approach that so many have about what humans put into their mouth. Have we spent even one day with them? Have we spent even a second inside of their body to know how it feels when they eat certain things?
Judging whether a person does their food habits “right” is just dumb.
And I am guilty of being that dumb person to other people before I started seeing a pattern of decline in my own health even though I was "doing it right".
Just because we are all human, does not mean that there is one right way for all of us to eat. Of course, I have my own perceptions and biases (that I am willing to let go of if I need to) about what is ‘generally’ best for humans, but it doesn’t mean I am right about it for every single person on the planet and it doesn’t mean what I believe will be ‘right’ a few years or decades down the road.
Doctors and Scientists and Nutritionists, Oh My! Everyone likes to quote their favorite, world-renown professional who claims to have the absolute truth about human health. And for every world-renown professional, there is another who is convinced and has evidence of the complete opposite.
If you have ever been to more than one doctor or spent time in the hospital, you probably noticed the differing opinions between them all (despite them getting the same schooling). One says there is nothing wrong with you, the other says you have a terminal illness. One says you need such and such a test, the other says you need different tests. One would like to prescribe this drug while the other would like to prescribe that drug. One says diet won’t fix you, the other says diet will cure you. One doesn’t bother to tell you to lose weight, stop smoking, cut back on alcohol while the other rattles of a long list of things you need to stop doing in order to help yourself.
Even professionals cannot agree on what it takes for perfect human health, especially when it comes to what we should eat.
Human Needs Vary. Even the heading for this section is presumptuous. Biased maybe. Because 100 years from now, research will have gotten better, researchers hopefully become less narrow-minded, maybe studies will not be funded by organizations with conflict of interest…but for now, at least to me, it is obvious that humans are very different. They are more unique and diverse than any other animal on this planet. Which is one reason why we cannot compare ourselves to animals. Just one small variation in anatomy or genetics can make a huge difference.
Our well-being is dependent on soooo many things. I am going to list some of them:
The Mind: In my opinion, what we think about what we eat and the feelings we have towards it, are the most important aspect of our relationship to food. Science is uncovering more and more about the connection between our mind and our bodies and is beginning to show us how important our beliefs are in every area of life. This is easily seen and documented with the placebo and the nocebo effect.
Whether we believe our food is healthy or unhealthy, if we have religious views that say certain foods are immoral or necessary, beliefs about the ethical and sustainable processes of food before it gets into our mouth and even the patterns we adopted from the people we grew up with – all of these things impact the way our body digests and assimilates food and how our cells react to it. Even the way we think about ourselves and the world we live in affects how our bodies function.
Origins: Depending on our genetic make-up, the areas in which our ancestors migrated from, the foods that were available and eaten for hundreds or thousands of years, we may have an easier time with some foods rather than others. Essentially, our DNA carries the information of our ancestors and it can be hard to (though not impossible) deviate from the common diet that we descended from. It does matter what our ancestors ate…whether it be more recent or further back in the past.
The evolution of ANY species gives some play with our natural diet, but in general, straying too far from where we have come from will almost always produce some negative consequences. Changes in anatomy or biology to accommodate the evolutionary path takes a very long time. Even minor changes take at least a handful of generations. This does not mean, however, that there are not some people who can eat just about however they want and be perfectly healthy. Because those people DO exist. And maybe that is where we are headed as the human race, but in the meantime, I don’t suggest sacrificing our individual health in order to force and evolutionary change.
Assimilation: Due to various reasons (many times because of a genetic issue), some people cannot assimilate or absorb certain nutrients whether it be from animal or plant sources. These people’s organs cannot change specific nutrients into a usable form for their own bodies.
It appears as if this is more common than originally assumed years ago and can be life-threatening (which is rare) or less serious and cause minor problems that are almost undetectable especially with the widely accepted idea that all the aches and pains and disease and ill feelings are ‘normal’ and part of life.
Physical Conditions: There are some conditions in certain humans that make it unpleasant or detrimental to consume certain foods. Also, there could be two people with the same condition and what bothers one will not bother another. There are people who have colitis, for example, who healed that condition with a plant-based diet.
There are others with colitis who cannot eat so much as a leaf of lettuce because it will throw them into extreme pain and intestinal bleeding and so must live off of mainly animal products. Conditions of the digestive tract are particularly finicky and are treated differently from person to person.
Birth Defects: Sometimes babies are born with malfunctioning or missing organs that keep their bodies from properly absorbing nutrients from certain types of foods. These children are then forced to consume foods that others say are “inappropriate” for human consumption because they cannot get it from the “appropriate” foods.
Allergies: For people who have anaphylactic allergies, histamine reactions or immune responses to certain foods, it can be deadly to eat things that would ordinarily be very healthy. Of course, there are situations where people have reversed allergies, but again, not in all cases and it’s not something to be casual about. Certain people who have many and serious allergies are often relegated to foods that others say are “inappropriate” because there is nothing else that they can eat without an immune response.
Intolerance: Many people have food intolerances that prevent them from eating certain things, no matter how clean they eat, how well they combine foods, how “detoxified” they are or how long a time they have given themselves to adjust to a particular food. They may not die from ingesting these foods, but it will make them ill or uncomfortable or inflamed. When there is inflammation in the digestive tract, nutrients cannot be properly absorbed or used.
Surgeries/Organs Removed: There are plenty of cases I know of personally where people have gotten certain organs or glands removed. Having these parts removed can cause the body to not be able to properly use certain foods and so these people are limited to what kinds of foods they can eat. For example: one such person who I love dearly had part of their intestine removed due to a previously botched surgery.
This person cannot consume very many plant foods because the fiber will give them horrible diarrhea and cause them to lose weight and become anemic. Therefore, they must consume a higher protein diet in order to be able to survive. Conversely, I have met people who cannot digest animal proteins and have to eat a plant-only diet.
Medications: Much of the time focusing on a whole foods diet, staying away from processed foods and keeping a generally healthy lifestyle can help people get away from taking prescription medications. But not in 100% of people. That being said, some medications affect the body’s ability to process or absorb nutrients which may cause them to have to consume foods that others deem “inappropriate” or stay away from foods that people think should be included in EVERYONE’s diet.
Climate/Seasonal Changes: Folks who live in warmer, more tropical type climates thrive more easily on raw fruits and vegetables while those who live in climates that have long, cold winters thrive more easily on diets that include more fats and proteins. For those of us who live in a climate that varies greatly from summer to winter, our body’s needs also change more than those who live where the seasons do not change so dramatically. It is not as simple as eat cool foods in the summer and cooked foods in the winter.
Seasons of Life: What we once needed to be healthy as a baby is different than what we will need when we are toddlers and teens and adults and as we near the end of our life cycle. Even day to day, season to season, what our bodies need may change and we would do well to listen to it rather than following an ideal and ignoring the signs.
Activity: Depending on a person’s level of movement, what type of movement they are into and how long they do the movement, the body will need different things. Example: It seems that carbs help fuel endurance athletes well while those who seek to build muscle need more protein. Plant and animal proteins work differently in the human body not everyone needs the same amount from the same group.
Preferences: This may seem like a silly thing to include, but we don’t all enjoy the same types of food…and maybe there is a reason for this. As long as we are talking about WHOLE, UNPROCESSED foods, maybe we crave what we need and have aversions to those things which are not particularly beneficial to us as individuals.
Why force yourself to eat foods you can’t stand…why limit yourself on foods that make you feel good physically and that you enjoy? If you hate kale, don’t eat it! Unless of course, you can find a way to prepare it that tastes good and makes your body feel good. But when we eat something we despise, the emotional feeling of dread about the food impacts our health more than if we were to simply not eat it. Stress, worry and depressed thinking hugely affect the health of our body.
Finances: The harsh reality of life is that some people cannot afford to eat grass-fed meat, butter, and milk…or they cannot afford to eat organically grown produce…or they cannot afford to be 100% plant-based especially if they do not do well on grains or beans which are on the cheaper end. Some areas of the world do not have access to a variety of inexpensive, healthy foods like most of the developed areas do…so these people really don’t have much of a choice. They eat the food that they can get. Period.
But it’s not just developing nations. There are MANY places in the U.S. where the cost of living is very high and access to certain foods is very limited. I only bring up this idea because there are some privileged, self-proclaimed diet experts that believe that ANY HUMAN can eat the way they eat even if they are low income. This just isn’t true.
How many humans are out there then, who deviate from the “norm” just a little, who are not aware of it and experience negative health outcomes? How many are suffering, trying to eat a diet that they think is the healthiest or most ethical because some health guru convinced them and shamed them into it?
So How Can We Know What is Right For us? During the past decade, and specifically, when I became more open-minded about food choices, there were times when I was so frustrated at all the conflicting research and opinions that I actually broke down and cried. I was desperate to feel better physically and I just wanted to know the ‘right’ way to do this food shit!!! I had to stop researching and watching health documentaries and just pare down to the basics of common sense.
Common sense told me that processed foods were probably not the best option for me…probably not for any human or animal for that matter…unless they have the power of their mind harnessed 100% of the time. I don’t know anyone who does.
Common sense told me that no one else knew my body better than I did…no one lived in it besides me…no one could feel the physical sensations I was feeling after eating or doing certain things.
Common sense told me that I wasn’t ever going to come to the end of the research and have it all figured out any time soon…because I had just spent 8 years of my life digging and questioning and only produced more confusion and questions rather than answers. I could spend the rest of my life trying to sort through all the conflicting information and waste my precious time on something that has no certainty.
I had to find what works for me. You have to find what works for you. And it’s not going to be the same for either one of us.
It’s going to take time and patience. It’s going to take being quiet and listening to our inner being. It’s going to take trial and error. It’s going to take being sensitive to the feelings of our physical bodies.
It’s going to take a decent amount of determination to get where we want to go. It’s going to take being open-minded every single day to what we need, because what we needed yesterday might not be what we need today.
Nothing is more important than the relationship we have with ourselves concerning how we feel.
I could expound so much more with ideas surrounding the human diet, but I think I with leave it here and make further posts in detail about things. I would encourage you to think for yourself. Ask yourself if your body is feeling right about the foods you are eating. Ask yourself if you are following a diet plan because it worked for someone else or because someone else convinced you that it was ‘right’, or because your favorite blogger or YouTuber is eating a certain way.