Does your eating pattern have a label? – dietflex

Does your eating pattern have a label?

Thai chicken saladThere are many different eating patterns that people choose to follow, all with different labels to differentiate them. Paleo, Clean, Vegetarian, and Raw are just a few. Each pattern has its own advantages, but they collectively have some drawbacks which are usually not acknowledged.

The advantage of deciding to follow a particular pattern of eating is that it gives you rules which are, hopefully, based around optimising health. These rules guide your choices. Giving the chosen pattern a name helps you identify and find similarities with a larger group of people, and helps to explain to others just what you’re doing.

So now for the disadvantages:

  1. It shouldn’t matter what others think, but it often does to an individual embarking on a new way of eating. Other people’s opinions make them second-guess and question continuing to do what they’ve chosen. Justifying a new decision is tiring, especially when it’s none of anyone else’s business.

For example: “That sounds a bit unusual. Are you sure it’s sensible to eat that way?”

  1. Following a pattern gives permission to eat any foods ‘allowed’. These foods may not always suit an individual’s body or their goals.

For example: Vegan eating patterns prohibit animal products but allow everything else. Packaged, processed, refined foods may not be good for an individual’s health, but the ‘rules’ allow them.

  1. Breaking the rules of the pattern lead to feelings of failure, hopelessness, or guilt. Like almost anything else, we can quickly and easily recover from a mistake or a moment of ‘weakness’ if we allow ourselves to do so.

For example: The Clean eater indulges in French fries, feels like they’ve failed, sees no hope for future success, and reverts to established unhealthy eating patterns.

  1. People adopt a pattern in order to address a specific problem or set of problems, but they don’t give it long enough to work. Expecting rapid results may not be realistic. Seeing someone else have success when you’re not makes it tempting to jump from one pattern to another. There is no magic cure.

For example: the Raw foodist wants to lose 30kg but finds that it is taking too long so changes to Paleo to see if that will happen more quickly, and then jumps to a vegetarian pattern to see how that goes, and so on.

  1. Following a pattern can give some people a sense of moral superiority. While this may be annoying to those not following the same pattern, it’s probably OK for the individual while it lasts. If the person breaks the rules of the pattern, though, they may experience guilt and the sense that they’re not good enough.

For example: the proud statement “I’m a clean eater” suggests that if you’re not doing the same, you eat ‘dirty’ food.

  1. Following a pattern absorbs attention, especially in the early days, so people can develop a somewhat singular focus. This all-or-nothing approach doesn’t allow the flexibility that most people need, and can result in abandoning the pattern due to a single mistake.

For example: you go to a restaurant and the menu options don’t fit your chosen pattern. You can make a scene, or you abandon your pattern and eat whatever takes your fancy – sometimes permanently.

  1. Many people like to have ‘treat’ meals or even days, and it is actually built in to some patterns. The idea is that you are ‘good’ for so many days and ‘earn’ a treat, suggesting that the treat is ‘bad’. Food is not ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Food is just food with no moral attachment. Some foods work well for your body and help you achieve your goals while other foods might work against your goals, but they are neither good nor bad.

For example: eating meat and vegies at each meal for five days, and then ‘treat’ yourself to donuts on the sixth day.

  1. If the pattern allows a particular food, the idea for some is that more of that food must be OK. The rules don’t intend to give permission to overeat, but they can be interpreted that way.

For example: eating desserts that only contain ‘natural’ ingredients. They’re still desserts, which by nature are sweet, and while one serve might be OK, six are probably not.

  1. The name of the pattern does not mean the same thing to everyone. Prior knowledge, media exposure, and neighbourhood gossip all contribute to creating a perception of a particular pattern, but that perception may be far removed from the actual reality for an individual.

For example: “Oh, Paleo, that’s the caveman diet where you just eat meat, right?”

  1. Adopting a new pattern as a temporary solution will fail in the long term. A temporary solution can only provide temporary results at best.

For example: the Lemon Detox Diet. Enough said.