Keto Can’t Fix Everything
Odds are that if you’re reading this you have an interest in diet. Heck, I wouldn’t be pursuing the profession I am if it wasn’t for my passion for nutrition and the role it can play in one’s health. I’ve spent countless hours reading research articles on PubMed, listening to podcasts, and watching YouTube videos on all things nutrition. This has led me to arrive at one simple conclusion: Diet matters, but I don’t think we know exactly how much.
I see the pillars of ‘health’ to be centered around these 5 concepts: Nutrition, Movement, Sleep, Stress, and Purpose. For you math geeks out there, that means nutrition makes up 20% of the pie. For some of you, that may seem like a lot, others not enough, and for some, like 20% ;). If you were to completely maximize the ‘health’ benefits of nutrition at the expense of spending no time or energy into the others, you wouldn’t pass a single class (last time I checked, a 20% was an ‘F’). Fortunately, most of us are not like that, or at least not all the time.
I hate to be the person to reduce life down to pure numbers, but I’d imagine that most of us have some mixture between 0–20% in each of the 5 categories. Maybe you love CrossFit, and your movement % is up near 20. Or maybe you love your job, and your purpose % is near 20. Or maybe your 5 hours of meditation and daily gratitude journaling have your stress management % near 20. What’s my point with all this? I believe as a society, and particularly in the functional/natural/alternative health space, we have a problem of myopically focusing on diet rather than actually living our lives.
Knowing Which Lever to Pull
Each day of our lives, we make choices. Choices that have a different ‘pulling’ force of each of the previously mentioned 5 areas of health. Life is also one giant game of sacrifices. You give one lever a heavy pull at the expense of another (if you’re into economics, think opportunity cost). The trick is, knowing which lever to pull, and when.
If you’ve been exercising regularly 5–6 days/week, but you find that your sleep is starting to suffer, maybe it’s time to put more energy and time into sleep hygiene. If your nutrition has been on point but you hate your job, maybe it’s time to re-examine your life’s purpose. Maybe you have a new child, and now you’re going to pull the ‘new dad’ lever so hard that you can only exercise for 30 minutes a day rather than an hour. But you know what, that’s okay. Caveat to that, it’s okay as long as it’s okay with you. It’s your choice as to how much time you’d rather spend with your new child vs working out. It’s your decision to get an extra hour of sleep twice a week instead of going to the gym.
It takes a lot of self-reflection to understand what you truly want and value. If you want to invest more time out with your friends, but have trouble giving up your nutritional freedom, maybe that’s the perfect opportunity to seek outside help. Seek the guidance of a therapist, mentor, or a respected friend. Have the self-awareness to know you aren’t the most knowledgeable in every realm. That requires humility, a reality check of the ego, the same ego that likely drove you to be obsessive in one area of your life, such as diet.
Get feedback from your loved ones. I used to focus on diet so much that it started to take away from my relationships, but I wouldn’t have known that until hearing that from my loved ones. Did my ego take an immediate hit? You bet it did. But with self-reflection, I quickly realized change was for the better. I quickly realized it was okay to eat plants (after doing my carnivore kick), carbs (after my keto kick), and cheesecake (after my paleo kick) with my friends and family.
What am I not saying? I am not saying you should eat cheesecake whenever you want, skip exercise, and take naps, as some people may need to be more restrictive with diet and lifestyle tactics at certain points of their life. What I’m saying is to have enough self-awareness to know when to hit the brakes, or hit the gas pedal. When to have a beer with friends vs have water (namely if you have celiac). Sometimes the best thing to do for your health, is to stop focusing on it so much. Remember, keto can’t fix everything.
As always, Trust in Your Gut.
Disclaimer: This is not meant to convey medical advice, if you’re looking for such, please consult a qualified medical practitioner.