Healthy Dieting : Holistically Speaking

What to eat? How much? And when?

Deciding what to eat can be a very challenging and complex topic for many people. There are unlimited culinary distractions and low quality foods are constantly being offered and promoted to us at every turn.

Finding the correct diet is an individual process

The majority of patients who come to me do so for problems that are at their source not influenced by diet. Problems that step from trauma, emotional issues and musculoskeletal problems, and when I began dietary counseling was not a significant part of my practice. However, after a lot of personal experience with dietary principles, and years of communication with other professionals in the field, I found myself putting the together the inseparable facts that diet is a direct correlator in many peoples healing process or lack thereof. At this stage when somebody comes to me with issues where diet can play an important role in their healing, I’ve learned that addressing these dietary issues as early as possible can make all of the difference.

Issues that are generally immediate red flags of dietary attention being needed are digestive problems, obesity, hyperactivity, general fatigue and an overall lack of wellness.

What to eat can be a very complicated and controversial topic for most people, and finding the correct diet is an individual process. One of the most important principles that we learn in alternative medicine is that no two people are the same.

Despite the complexity and many divergent opinions on what the healthiest diet is, I’ve gleaned a few principles that should be helpful for most people, the most important being that no two people are alike and any diet that claims to be the “one size fits all” is one to be wary of.

I’ll divide them into five levels.

  1. Anyone can benefit from cutting out junk food and white flour products. Most things in packages, coffee, sweeteners, snacks, carbonated drinks, especially Cola, processed meat, food with colorings and preservatives offer very little nutrition and often rob the body of vital nutrients. If you must eat from a package, then the less ingredients the better.
  2. Just about anybody could also benefit from giving up wheat, dairy and fried foods. Because of the way modern dairy products are processed they can be difficult to digest, they are mucous forming, and enzymes prevent the milk from digesting properly. It difficult to digest dairy because of the pasteurization, homogenization of dairy products. Wheat is not the wheat it was in biblical times and is also much more difficult to digest. High temperature frying alters the chemical nature of the oil to a form that is very difficult for the body to absorb or excrete.
  3. As controversial as it might be, I have found that eating according to one’s blood type to be of enormous benefit. I spent many years eating primarily things that were organically grown or bought in a health food store without feeling particularly healthy from my diet. It turned out that many of the things that are standard in health food stores were not suitable for my blood type. The science and theory behind the blood type diet is that every food has its own group of proteins and some of those proteins are incompatible with the blood chemistry of each of the blood types and those particular foods can cause problems in both digestion and absorption.
  4. Traditional wisdom from the orient, including Chinese medicine and macrobiotics, classifies food by its energetic, rather than its nutritional, properties. For example, most foods can be considered expansive or contractive, cold or hot, acid or alkaline producing. Accordingly, the ideal diet would be based primarily on eating foods that are closer to the middle of the spectrum, and to be very adaptive to the change of seasons and possible constitutions.
  5. The ideal guide to eating healthily is to be aware of which foods are good for one’s self, and using the above guidelines to various diets in response to changes in mood, physical needs and realizing that this sensitivity to listen to the body’s wisdom is really within the grasp of everyone, we just need some time and guidance and siyaata dishmaya to develop this sensitivity, as well as this willingness to eat leshem shamayim.
  6. I have found moderation to be of utmost importance in making any dietary changes. The detrimental effects of changing a diet too quickly and too drastically offset any of the health benefits that might be accrued. However, certain diets, under proper guidance, including macrobiotics, strict vegetarianism and juice fasting, have been known to cure very serious diseases.
  7. If you suspect that you may have an allergy to a specific food eliminate one food for at least three days. When you reintroduce that food, if you are allergic to it, there will be a physiological response, the most common being an increased pulse rate.
  8. How you eat can be just as important as what you eat. Choose healthy foods and enjoy them. Take time to prepare them in a way that you enjoy them. Take time to relax while you’re eating them, with enjoyable company or in your own peaceful space. Take time to chew your food properly and feel free to eat whatever you like on Shabbos.

On a personal note, I grew up with eating one of the unhealthiest diets possible. My teenage years were spent moving up to a standard American diet. The move towards a standard American diet during my teenage years was actually a big improvement. Then at age 20 I realized there might be some things I shouldn’t be eating and gave up carbonated drinks and processed meat. Several years later I eliminated wheat and dairy from my diet and had a significant reduction in my allergies. For several years I ate a primarily vegetarian diet, which at first seemed cleansing but then weakening, especially while living in New York City. I then moved to a primarily macrobiotic diet for many years, including mostly organic foods until moving to Eretz Yisrael. For the first few years, the merit of my spiritual growth seemed to have compensated for a less healthy diet, but now and then my body feels a strong yearning for a healthier diet.  I got particular siyata d’shmaya after this past Pesach, when I lost almost all desire to eat bread and most other things that are not healthy for me, Baruch Hashem.