It can be an extremely complex undertaking to fully understand someone’s dietary choices, and I know there are a million shades of grey in the process. So, I don’t intend for this entry to be any kind of black-and-white truth. Instead, I hope it will provoke a little thought and contemplation.
There are many reasons why someone might adopt a new eating regimen, or even faithfully adhere to an existing one. But, what I’ve observed through the years is this; the more deeply rooted these reasons can be for a person, the more consistently and effortlessly the regimen can be followed.
For example, the majority of popular diets are built solely around weight loss. This idea usually appeals to folk’s desire to look better as they drop some pounds. But if their desire (and/or addiction) to fattening, empty-calorie food remains greater than their desire to transform their body, they will not stay on the diet. And even if they did manage to drop some weight, their motivation often wanes once they’ve achieved the goal. This is why so many have such a rollercoaster experience with dieting; ultimately, their desire for (and/or addiction to) their old familiar ways proves stronger than their desire to change.
On the other hand, if someone’s reason for following an eating regimen is more deeply rooted than just the “skin-deep” cosmetic aspects, long-term change seems much easier to manage. For example, if someone changes their diet for health reasons – say, because they were diagnosed with cancer or had a heart attack scare – that will usually motivate them profoundly to clean up their diet, because now it’s becoming a life-and-death issue. Or, if someone is emotionally moved by the ethical or environmental ramifications of certain food choices, this could have a major impact on their choices, as well.
Take a look at this “Tree of Intention” thing I put together to illustrate this point:
You’ll notice that each part of the tree represents a different reason to follow a diet. The leaves represent your physical appearance; the limbs represent your athletic prowess; the trunk represents your physical health and wellness; and the roots represent your influence on the earth and the world community of humans and animals. All can be valid, but let’s take a closer look at the motivating factors behind each:
1. The leaves are often the first thing you notice about a tree. But beautiful leaves don’t necessarily tell the whole story about how healthy it may or may not be. Similarly, a runway model or bodybuilder might look lean and mean on the outside, but if they had to adhere to an unhealthy diet to produce this effect (as they so often do), then this would be a one-dimensional diet designed for one primary result, pretty much at the expense of the rest of the “tree.”
2. Those who follow most any popular diet “from the limbs” – strictly for peak athletic performance reasons – often do so at the expense of their optimal health (given the amount of synthetic supplements and animal proteins such a diet usually calls for), and to the detriment of any ethical/environmental consciousness. After all, it’s all about peak performance…at any cost.
3. If one chooses a regimen for health reasons, this is more solid – like a tree trunk – because there is usually more thought that goes into each meal or snack choice, as well as a number of other factors. However, if someone is misinformed about what truly healthy food is, then their choices can still be detrimental to the conscious living aspect.
4. When someone is deeply rooted in their choices and most conscious about the big picture ramifications of their regimen, they will choose to eat low on the food chain. This is the most ethically conscious way to eat, and also what is in greatest consideration of the planet. And, when done properly, it also happens to support every aspect of the rest of the “tree,” as well!
Obviously, for any given meal or snack at any given time, people can choose to be motivated by any of these reasons. But as a general practice, I would encourage someone to integrate as many of these as possible…from the roots up.
The Roots Test
Therein lies the secret to it all as far as I’m concerned: as long as the food choice is sustainable (for all the reasons we always talk about around here), I think it’s fine to be motivated to eat something for athletic performance reasons or even physical appearance reasons, as well. And why not? Our physical bodies are part of our inner expression in the same way our clothing might be, so why not understand how the food we eat affects the way we look? Besides, the more of these things we have in alignment with a particular way of eating, the more effortless it becomes to stay on track…