My mom used to tell me I had tunnel vision. And, I guess she was right. Throughout my entire childhood whenever I set my mind to something I was all in. No distractions. The goal was the only thing that mattered. Every step I took was made in an attempt to achieve what I set out to do. My mother urged me to realize there was more to life than whatever I was fixated on at the time. I, on the other hand, wore the allegation of tunnel vision like a badge of honor.
But, she was right (as mothers often are).
The tunnel vision came with a cost.
No, in fact it came with many costs.
Living your life in such an orthorexic manner leaves no room for compromise. It is either all or nothing. Rarely feeling a sense of accomplishment unless you “won the gold” in whatever you were attempting to do. By default most attempts, no matter how successful they are, unless they are perfect are considered failures. In addition, such a hard-lined approach to everything I did restricted opportunities to engage in other activities and experiences (check out these pics below).
It Happens with Food too Easily
Unfortunately, I think this is often the case with how most of us approach food, diet and health. And, a conversation with a friend a few days ago got me thinking.
I was asked about my thoughts regarding the differences between 100% organic grass-fed local beef and beef from a big box store like Costco.
My reply, “Yes, of course the former is the gold standard but is financially out of reach for so many people – especially for those on an animal based diet who require more meat” Then I followed, “But, even that meat is more better than no meat at all. We do what we can do.” No, my grammar wasn’t perfect, but I got my point across.
So, so many of us, with the best of intentions, set out to get healthier and proclaim that we are only going to eat organic fruits and vegetables, or grass fed local beef. Or, if going on a particular diet are going 100% full bore carnivore or keto or “clean.”
You know what I mean.
I am guilty of it too.
More than once.
All of these approaches are admirable, so what’s the problem?
The problem is we are not robots. Heck, we are not even wild animals. We are not living nor eating inside a vacuum. We are a part of a modern cultural system and there are a ton of limitations to what we can practically achieve overnight. For example, our economic situation limits what foods we can afford, our skill set and time dictates how and what we can cook and, our knowledge base, ethical stance, and religious beliefs all impact our dietary approach. On top of it all, we humans are constantly required to navigate complex social situations. That is the reality of our life and to be healthy we need to nourish all aspects of our life.
And, what happens to all of those well-intentioned, heart felt, incredible dietary goals? Time and time again so many of them never get off the ground or attempts are met with failure. Why? Because there is no room for compromise in them.
An orthorexic, dogmatic attempt at diet is almost always unachievable and impossible to maintain over a lifetime.
How to Change your Health
The key to creating meaningful, lasting change is to make sure the changes are deliberate, realistic, small, and incremental. A small change, implemented day after day, becomes a habit. Once that step becomes a habit it is time to tackle the next one. Eventually, days turn into weeks, then months, then years and before you know you have created a lifetime of powerful change. That is how you work towards a healthier you. Whether it is purchasing the best meat you can afford right now even if it’s not the gold standard, switching out grocery store bread for sourdough bread as you work towards a lower carb lifestyle, or simply replacing all industrial nut and seed oils with butter and lard, take comfort in knowing that every step is a step in the right direction. It may not be the “perfect” ideal you dreamed of, but even one step is more better than nothing at all.
And I’ll never miss another birthday cake again.