It’s widely recognised that there is a significant link between the food we eat and our wellbeing, both physical and mental. With a baffling array of dietary advice online, in magazines and on TV, it can feel overwhelming to know best how to fuel our bodies and minds. This week, one of our Positive Peers blogs about their personal journey with food and what they have learned from their studies in nutrition.
I find food fascinating. Every person on this planet has a relationship with food and the overwhelming amount of information has made it increasingly difficult to know what is actually good for you.
I became aware of this at age 12 when I watched Food Inc. for the first time. I became infatuated with food. Over the years, I watched an absurd amount of food documentaries and read health articles that seemed to say that everything in our diet was wrong. Yet all of them had different solutions. So, I took it upon myself to try all of them. I tried vegetarianism, veganism, gluten-free, sugar-free, juicing, and the paleo diet. Every time, I was left quite unimpressed. The sources always claimed that I would have super-human energy after I changed my diet and that I would never think to look back to my old ways. Personally, I didn’t feel much of a difference nor did I see a change in my body.
This disappointment led me to the conclusion that, since nobody else seemed to be coming up with a solution I liked, I would have to go study nutrition and find it myself. I started my journey by participating in a summer program at Boston University where I took my first nutrition class. I discovered that nutrition was a complex topic that could not give you one ideal diet for all people. Similarly, I found that research in nutrition is hardly conclusive because it can never be completed in a vacuum and it is unethical to ask people to follow an unreasonable diet. This challenge made me even more excited about nutrition because I will have the opportunity to witness the change in attitudes and recommendations of diets as new information comes out.
Another issue I ran into during my experimentation with all the diets was that they were impractical. Most of the diets focused on restriction. I found this particularly difficult because they didn’t factor in culture. I grew up in a Bulgarian household where meat and cheese are a very important component of our diet. It was hard at first to find things that I knew how to prepare… and that I liked. Additionally, my grandmother was adamantly opposed to my vegan diet and even showed me an article stating that veganism was a mental disorder (from a questionable source, of course). However, anyone from a Bulgarian family knows that you never question Baba’s sources. This struggle between culture and a healthy lifestyle got me thinking about the complicated relationship between people and the food they eat.
Now that I am studying nutrition at university, I am finding that the world of nutrition is far from being decoded and that no one should firmly commit to a diet based on a few things they heard from a documentary or an article. So far, the only thing I firmly know is that diet is unique to the individual. Other common features of a healthy diet consist of high whole food, high fruit and vegetable content, and most importantly, moderation!
This post was written by a Positive Peer. The Positive Peers are health students who support other health students through wellbeing initiatives. Find out more about them here!