Experiment with Food, for Life
Vegan, vegetarian, raw, gluten-free, Paleo – there are a million ways you can classify yourself as an eater. Is one method of eating necessarily better than all the others? Is there a certain diet we were “made to eat?” Which diet is the healthiest?
Although you can google the topic and find hundreds of thousands of research studies, opinionated blog posts, and personal anecdotes addressing this question, there is no right answer, and there probably never will be. The general conclusion is that different diets work for different people. Huh. No surprise there, since we all have vastly different genetics, lifestyles, and environments.
Food, in its very basic function, keeps us alive and functioning, but food is also a crucial part of our social and environmental experience. Through food we create memories and experience the world. Anyone who has traveled to a different country and eaten with the locals knows the value that food can bring to an experience. If you look at all the different ways people eat all over the world, it’s easy to see that there is no one right way to eat.
As Americans, we have largely drifted away from the experiential aspect of food because of our fast-paced society. We sacrifice experience for the sake of convenience. “People’s eating habits tend to be more mindless than mindful,” says Marsha Hudnall, RDN, in an article titled “Experimenting with Mindful Eating.” What are the detriments to mindless eating? You miss out on the experiential and nutritional benefit that comes when you frequently try new foods and switch up your diet. You may be eating foods that make your body feel bad, trigger negative reactions, or limit your athletic potential because you’re so stuck in a pattern, eating the same things all of the time.
The key to finding what makes you happiest and healthiest is to keep experimenting with food. This could mean trying one new recipe a week, or switching one aspect of your diet for a short period of time. And the best part – you don’t have to call yourself anything. Just because you don’t eat meat for a week as an experiment does not mean you have to call yourself a vegetarian, restrict yourself, or take on that identity. Instead of searching for an end goal with dieting, make experimenting with food a lifelong pursuit.