Your Diet is NOT a Lifestyle
We’ve all heard the lifestyle phrases right?
There’s healthy lifestyle, active lifestyle, sedentary lifestyle…traditional, urban, low-carb, Paleo, vegetarian, Vegan — and that’s not even scratching the surface. There’s a lifestyle for everything.
I know I’ve used these phrases in the past myself, but I’m getting a little tired of the word lifestyle.
Why? Because it leads to sloppy thinking, it leaves out far more than it tells us, and it is part of a marketing game that we don’t have to play in our own heads.
We are trained to think of our lives as lifestyles.
Lifestyles are worthless to people, but they are valuable to businesses.
Lifestyles are sold to you for free. It doesn’t cost you anything to decide you live, for example, an active lifestyle. But, once you buy into a lifestyle, you also become part of a demographic. And businesses, especially large businesses, are exceptionally good at dealing with demographics instead of individuals, instead of you. Lifestyles provide more benefit to businesses than they do to individual human beings.
I’m not saying that is good or bad — just what is. Sure, it’s easy to think that labeling yourself with a lifestyle name is an easy way for you to communicate who you are to other people. But is it really?
Does it make sense to say that indigenous tribe members in the Amazon live a Paleo lifestyle?
Do Inuits live a low-carb lifestyle?
Do Kitavans live a low-fat lifestyle?
Those are ridiculous labels for them. And they’re ridiculous labels for us, too. It’s a lot like saying trees live a wooden lifestyle.
When we think of ourselves as living this or that lifestyle, we are fooling ourselves to a certain degree. First of all, if your dominant lifestyle is one based on diet, have you not greatly limited the description of yourself?
But, more importantly, there is no such thing as a lifestyle. You are the sum total of all of your actions, thoughts, decisions, likes, dislikes, triumphs, defeats, aspirations, regrets, and everything else that you can squeeze in between the maternity ward and the crematorium.
Think more about life and less about style.
I don’t want my gravestone to say:
He lived a paleo lifestyle.
My Paleo diet, my modes of activity, and my other health decisions are all for the purpose of living my life to its fullest. Not so that I can belong to a diet club. Your health is what helps you to live, you don’t live to help your health. That’s completely backwards and misses the point.
If you haven’t already, it’s time to stop thinking about your lifestyle and start thinking about your life.
Come up here where it is safe and dry.
Perhaps the only thing that is more anti-productive than thinking of ourselves as living this or that lifestyle is trying to convince others that they should live this or that lifestyle. Influencing each other by our own examples is one thing. But, it can be easy to take things too far.
In closing, please enjoy this wonderful Tanzanian proverb. My daughter, Ayla and I laughed a hearty belly laugh together when I once told her, “Come up here, where it’s safe and dry…said the monkey to the fish.” I’ll never forget the look on her face when the light bulb went off and the laughter started…first silently and then loudly and genuinely, as only a child can manage.
The rainy season that year had been the strongest ever and the river had broken its banks. There were floods everywhere and the animals were all running up into the hills. The floods came so fast that many drowned except the lucky monkeys who used their proverbial agility to climb up into the treetops. They looked down on the surface of the water where the fish were swimming and gracefully jumping out of the water as if they were the only ones enjoying the devastating flood.
One of the monkeys saw the fish and shouted to his companion: “Look down, my friend, look at those poor creatures. They are going to drown. Do you see how they struggle in the water?” “Yes,” said the other monkey. “What a pity! Probably they were late in escaping to the hills because they seem to have no legs. How can we save them?” “I think we must do something. Let’s go close to the edge of the flood where the water is not deep enough to cover us, and we can help them to get out.”
So the monkeys did just that. They started catching the fish, but not without difficulty. One by one, they brought them out of the water and put them carefully on the dry land. After a short time there was a pile of fish lying on the grass motionless. One of the monkeys said, “Do you see? They were tired, but now they are just sleeping and resting. Had it not been for us, my friend, all these poor people without legs would have drowned.”
The other monkey said: “They were trying to escape from us because they could not understand our good intentions. But when they wake up they will be very grateful because we have brought them salvation.”
Humans are not broken, by default.
What are your thoughts? Does thinking of diet as lifestyle do more good than harm or vice versa? Is the whole lifestyle thing getting tired and ineffective now that everything is a lifestyle?
If you're new to the blog, have a look at what Humans Are Not Broken means. Then, you might want to take a look at The Plant Paleo Diet to see how I eat to maintain my body transformation and health. It's an omnivorous diet that is heavy on plant foods, based on scientific evidence and evolutionary clues (Part 1 and Part 2). If you're into podcasts, you'll probably really enjoy Latest in Paleo, which looks at the latest health news in an entertaining and thoughtful way.