I recently posted a news story about Novak Djokovic, the Serbian professional tennis player who started winning shortly after he switched to a raw, dairy free, gluten free, vegan diet. No surprise that readers from all ends of the dietary spectrum rose up to defend their own ways of eating — many of which included meat, wheat, milk and/or liberal use of an oven.
In my opinion, the real lesson here is that no single diet philosophy works for everyone. How can you believe that a 22-year-old ultra-marathoner and a 42-year-old desk-jockey who doesn’t own a pair of running shoes, have the same diet? It’s ridiculous.
Even if you think you’ve found the perfect diet, making adjustments based on your ever-changing needs — especially as you get older and wiser — is perfectly normal. I was a vegan for years, but I was losing weight (not my intention) eating just veggies, fruit, beans and nuts — so I simply changed my strategy. I still eat tons of veggies, but I’m now a free-range chicken, wild salmon and other healthy fish-eating type of guy. I’m also discovering that the less gluten I eat, the better it is for my body and brain chemistry.
For some crazy reason it seems to be important for us to segregate diets into rigid categories, like we do religions or political parties. Vegan, paleolithic, raw, pescetarian or vegetarian. I call myself a flexetarian — that way I don’t need to defend any particular food faith.
That said, I think there are a couple guidelines we all need to keep in mind. Hunger, survival, cravings, boredom, taste and performance are some of the reasons why we eat what we do. If you don’t find ways to stay accountable and exercise then boredom, cravings or those addictive “comfort foods” will take you down in the end. Restrictive diets that cut out favorite flavors will almost always lead to deprivation — and deprivation often leads to bad eating habits. The key to success is finding an eating plan that makes you feel good while eating it. If you do that then you’ll stop the weight-loss-weight-gain cycle.
The diet guide in P90X and the one in my book, “BRING IT!” may seem entirely different, but they aren’t. The strategies vary, but when all is said and done, they both recommend that you eat healthy food! Some people can be vegan for a lifetime while others fluctuate from one healthy diet to another (I hope). The key word here is healthy. My weight will go up and down eight pounds, but as long as the food I’m eating is healthy and whole, I’m okay with that.
I’ve been to Japan, Italy and France. People from all three nations eat carbohydrates almost every day, yet it’s hard to find a fat Italian, French or Japanese person — unless they live in the U.S.A. The real issue for most Americas isn’t the type of diet, but the quality of their diet. Processed junk loaded with fat, sugar, salt and chemicals doesn’t satisfy you nutritionally; it just causes cravings for more junk and leads to food borne illnesses like heart disease, hypertension, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, stroke and cancer. If more of us don’t begin to eat better and start exercising, our quality of life as a nation is in grave danger.
So, if you want to write in defending your nutritional choices, please do so. Being flexatarian, I’ll probably learn a thing or two. But before you pull out that keyboard, take a hard look at what you eat and make sure it’s good and healthy. It’s not just crucial for your health — it’s your patriotic duty.