Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Health - The "Right" Diet, Part II

Continuing Part I from yesterday, I'll touch on the basics of getting the "right" diet for yourself.

I've been mentioning having a balanced diet in all of my health related entries, and being "balanced" doesn't mean eating according to the food pyramid we've been taught in school.  Yes, unfortunately not.  Things are not as simple as it seems.

It doesn't mean a vegetarian diet is suitable for everyone.  It also doesn't mean a more meat-based diet will spell cancer for one.

Even in health supplements, not everyone sees a positive reaction from 500mg of Vitamin C a day, some need 600mg to see a positive reaction.  And for some, 500mg of Vitamin C is too much for them, giving them heartburn. 

Due to every individual's genetic, racial, family set-up, everyone in the world have slightly different set of needs for food.  In addition to different individual threshold of stress, work demands and living environment, the quest for the "right" diet seems even more complicated.

But please don't feel disheartened, many people took a long way to where they are now.  I myself took about 7 years of experimenting and researching upon myself, besides learning along from others, to understand how I should eat and rest to be at my optimal.

We also have to understand that the various scientific studies carried out on people for the "right" cholesterol, blood pressure, sodium levels are done in the US/Europe.  It's difficult to know the racial mix within the focus group they've been using for the tests that gave them their results.

So what guidelines we're looking at now may be irrelevant to an Asian (for example) living in Asia.

However, that doesn't mean we should forgo medical check-ups at all.  It simply means we need to be more aware of our own body for signs of problems and health.

With all the "new age" diets around, it's easy to fall for the glittering PR and marketing campaigns that it's the best diet for all.  In my experience so far, I can only conclude that the only constant is - no human beings will be allergic to air and water.  Allergy to any of the two means an almost sure-death.

Then what are the ways to find the "right" diet for yourself?

I'll suggest experimenting the new "diets" with a checklist on your hand to find the optimal balance.

It seems self-contradictory on my part putting down the "new age" diets then ask one to experiment with them.  What I've been trying to stress in my entries is, not to fall blindly over them.  These diets shouldn't be followed too strictly even if one found any of them useful.

Because as one ages, the body will undergo changes that one have to change their dietary and living habits so the body won't wear out too fast.  Either, if there's a change in working environment or stress level (from anywhere), the old diet one has been following may not fall through because that diet can no longer provide for the new challenges.

By "optimal" health, it doesn't mean that one stops aging or falling sick, or one can go on without sleeping for 1 week.  Optimal means seeing an improvement in overall physical, emotional, mental health and an increase, sustained energy level compared to the past.

But how "best" is best? 

I'll suggest by marking against one's past memory of their physical, emotional, mental health and energy level for it.  Then, one can try marking against peers in the same age range to see if there's any difference.

I've mentioned above of having a checklist at hand, and I'll suggest including the following criteria in the list.

  1. Skin - Texture, shine, color tone and changes in pigmented areas
  2. Weight - Increase or decrease
  3. Hair - Texture, shine, color tone, thickness, oil on the scalp, dandruff, acne on the scalp
  4. Muscle - More toned or less
  5. Energy level - Lethargy, increased energy
  6. Mental - Think better, slower, faster, able to relate better from received information, memory level, recollection rate/speed
  7. Emotional - Ability to bounce back from stress/emotional swings faster and better, more "good mood" days, emotional state during PMS (for ladies)
  8. Minor ailments (cold, flu) - Frequency, recovery speed, general feeling during illness state
  9. Stamina - Increase, decrease
  10. Core temperature - Increase, decrease in body warmth (sense by heat level in the palms and neck)
  11. Libido - Increase, decrease
  12. Chronic illnesses/ailments - Positive improvements or negative changes
  13. "Gut feel" - How does the gastric system react when receiving the new food/diet.  Positive is no discomfort and the opposite holds true.

For all of the above for your checklist, please factor your family genetics into consideration.  Like some family genes are on the heavier side, while some leaner.  These cannot be changed significantly in a positive way by diet change, because if it does, it's highly possible that one will see negative effects in the future.

Some come within 3 months, and some by 1 year.  There're people who only feel the negative effects some years down.

However, there's a chance for some slight improvement.

Almost no one can fight against their genes, so instead of spending time trying to lose that 6 kg, I'd suggest directing one's goal and effort to improve the quality of life.  In the way of energy level, stamina etc etc.

Health is something all of us want and will spend money for.  However, it's equally important to know where we put our money into so as to maximise our returns.

Losing some money isn't a big thing, but if our health is damaged because of blindly following some health fads, one may not know how long it takes to recover what we have lost.

Experimenting with caution and self-awareness where health is concern is always the safest bet.