What Should I Eat_

The questions I tend to hear most often about diet are: What should I eat? Which is the best diet to follow? Behind these questions is the assumption that there is indeed a perfect diet out there somewhere, and all one need do is discover it. But consider for a moment the implications of a perfect diet. Perfection implies sameness. If we all followed the perfect religion, everyone would think and act similarly. If each of us drove the perfect car or had the perfect job, we would all be parking and working in the same place. Likewise, if everyone ate the one perfect diet, we would all be eating the same food, and the nutrition experts would be out of business. Maybe not such a bad idea!

The most telling characteristic of the perfect diet is the hidden assumption that the body remains unchanged and has the same nutritional needs at every stage of development. But, as we know, nothing could be further from reality. If there is any guarantee that comes with living in a body, it is change. Each second, ten million red blood cells are born and die. The stomach lining completely regenerates in a week, a healthy liver in six weeks, and the skin surface in a month. Scientists postulate that 98 percent of all atoms in the body are replaced within a year, 100 percent within seven years. From the time of conception to the flowering of adulthood, the body grows from one cell to one quadrillion cells (1,000,000,000,000,000). Total body weight may increase twentyfold to sixtyfold from birth, while brain size, muscle mass, percent of body fat, and bone density increase (or decrease) at their own particular rates. Even within the course of a day the body undergoes a wide range of physiological changes. It rhythmically shifts in temperature, metabolic rate, respiratory function, brain wave patterns, endorphin production, serum nutrient levels, hormonal and enzymatic production, and energy output. Perhaps the most noticeable changes in the body occur in health. We move through an endless parade of aches, pains, coughs, colds, tensions and sensitivities, along with periods of relative health and high energy. With all these changes in the body, does it not make sense that our nutritional needs change? A single diet could not possibly keep pace with those changes. A changing body means a changing diet.

You have not had just one body in this life – you have had many – and each of these bodies has called for a different way to eat. Consider the dramatic shift that occurs in the life of a newborn as it makes the transition from umbilical-cord nourishment to breast or bottle. No longer is its nutritive process a passive one through the belly. It must actively reach for milk and for the first time carry out the function of digestion completely on its own. The introduction of solid food marks yet another important transition for the child. Its body grows at a rapid rate, and its digestive system must meet a completely new set of challenges in breaking down and assimilating complex molecular foodstuffs. Few of us would complain to an infant that it is getting too much fat in its diet – mother’s milk is 52 percent fat – or that it needs a wider variety of foods. For its particular physiology and activity level, it is eating the perfect diet. And yet that perfect diet will change. The infant may grow to be an active toddler, a high-school athlete, a health-food-eating college student, an office worker, a parent, a partygoer, or an invalid, with each of these different “bodies” calling for its own special nutrition. So if you’ve been looking for the perfect diet, it’s time to let go. Relax, observe the body you live in, the life you lead, the season, your climate, your likes and dislikes, your level of health, the exercise you do, the yearnings and cravings you experience – and mix them all together in the spirit of experimenting to discover what’s best for you to eat. You’ll likely discover that the “perfect diet” is a mystery to be lived each day. In the spirit of embracing change, can you list some of the “perfect diets” you’ve been courageous enough to let go of? Warm regards, Marc David Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating © Institute For The Psychology of Eating, All Rights Reserved, 2014

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  • antonio

    calories in minus calories out is the universal rule for weight control. lol.

    • KarnaN

      Hi Antonio, Karna here – Director of Student Relations at IPE and recovering chronic dieter. The dieting world is full of outdated science and it’s time we let go of these limiting beliefs and embrace the full expression of what true nourishment really is! Counting calories is a terribly boring way to live 😉

      • Amen, Karna! I, too, am a recovering yo yo dieter, disordered eater, and obsessive exerciser. I will be registering for the October IPE Eating Psychology Coach Training Course by the end of the week and I am very excited. I have been employed in the fitness industry for twenty years; first as a group fitness instructor, then began personal training after obtaining a couple of certifications. The eat less/exercise more paradigm doesn’t work for the vast majority of people. We are a collection of emotions and experiences that transcend the simple formula of calories in vs. calories out. I can’t wait to learn more so that I may truly begin helping people to become happier and healthier. 🙂

        • KarnaN

          Cyndi,

          Thank you for sharing! You’re absolutely right when you say that there are more components to weight loss than simply complying with the outdated paradigm you mentioned. You bring a lot of experience, personally as well as professionally (having been involved in the fitness industry for two decades) to this work. We look forward to having you in the training! Thank you so much for your comment!

          Warmly,
          Karna

  • Christine

    I have let go of Weight Watchers, high carb, low carb, high protein, low protein, low fat, low calorie and every other diet I have ever been on in the last 30 years from the young age of 12. None of them worked, at least, not for me. The issue I have is with how I relate to food. I feel guilty when I eat something that isn`t 100% natural and when it is I feel deprived. So basically, I never truly enjoy a meal and now my digestive system is completely out of whack. At least I`m aware of this now and can begin to repair my relationship with food and hopefully my digestion along with it.
    This was a great post!

    • Hi Christine –

      Wow. It’s amazing how many different approaches are out there. And yet, there’s truly only one expert about what works and what doesn’t and that person is you.
      I’m so glad you reached out here and shared your experiences for the benefit of others. I wish I could provide a quick fix, but there isn’t one.
      However, there’s always hope for healing. As you said, awareness is the first step. It can be painful and yet hugely transformative.

      Have you read either of my books?
      I think you might really enjoy the approach taken in them. It might be a really good place to start.

      1. Nourishing Wisdom
      2. The Slow Down Diet

      If you’re interested, you can find them here.

      Thank you for you kind words, I’m so glad you liked the article.

      The other thing I would highly recommend is working with an Eating Psychology Coach who can help you get to the heart of this matter and turn it around. If you would like a counselor referral simply email us: info@psychologyofeating.com with your age and location and we’ll make sure to match you with an appropriate counselor.

      Warmly,
      Marc David

  • H Marc (and others)
    I love what you post! It is so in line with what I teach and write about. A wihle back, I sent my book, FOOD FIX: ANCIENT NOURISHMENT FOR MODERN HUNGERS. I am wondering if Marc got it, read it, etc. I’d love to be in touch, and be one of the resources you list. I absolutely LOVE your work!!
    THANK YOU and Cheers for the hoidays.

    • IPE Staff

      Hi Susan

      Yes, we received your book – thank you so much, and congratulations!
      Marc will not get to it till into the new year as there are a quite a number of books he has to review. Meanwhile, wishing you the best of success in your work.

      Best regards,
      IPE Staff

  • Sarah

    ..so what guidance can we trust? I’d love to see a follow up from you on working out how to get better at reading the cues our environment and our body give us. So, as a starter, removing addictive substances or anything too processed which interfere with our ‘radar’, spending time in nature to get the cues we need about seasons, eating seasonally appropriate foods ( nettles are coming out here, time for post winter mineral replenishment and detox), listening to our cravings and responding to them ( lucky me, I go through phases of craving leafy greens for breakfast, mixed berry fruits, etc) that kind of thing…

    • Hi Sarah,
      Thank you for reaching out and sharing your thoughts on reading cues. You listed some really great and important ones!

      I’d love to open this up and hear other readers thoughts on the topics you brought up.

      In the meantime, I would invite you to read a few of my other blog articles that fit with what you are speaking to:

      The 3 Kinds of Cravings

      The 3 Levels of Diet
      and
      Symbolic Substitutes

      Thanks again for reaching out!

      Best,
      Marc

About The Author
Marc David
Founder

Marc David is the Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, a leading visionary, teacher and consultant in Nutritional Psychology, and the author of the classic and best-selling works Nourishing Wisdom and The Slow Down Diet. His work has been featured on CNN, NBC and numerous media outlets. His books have been translated into over 10 languages, and his approach appeals to a wide audience of eaters who are looking for fresh, inspiring and innovative messages about food, body and soul. He lectures internationally, and has held senior consulting positions at Canyon Ranch Resorts, the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, the Johnson & Johnson Corporation, and the Disney Company. Marc is also the co-founder of the Institute for Conscious Sexuality and Relationship.