A common piece of advice when experimenting with different healthy lifestyle practices is to “do whatever works for you,” but there is a definite risk when following this advice, and it revolves around the definition of the word “works.” If you’re talking about a pain medication, the “do whichever one works for you” philosophy is a good one, but if it’s dietary practices you’re talking about, “doing whatever works for you” may not be the best advice to follow for two reasons.
If you’re not knowledgeable with respect to what you’re experiencing when making significant changes in one of your lifestyle practices such as dietary change, you may draw the wrong conclusions. For example: How you feel is not always a good indicator of what is really working for you. If, overnight, you switch from a typical Western diet to a healthier diet, you may feel worse before you feel better (I’ll explain why in a moment). If you don’t realize that this is normal, you may go back to what you were previously eating to see what happens, and when you feel better—which you most certainly will—you can misinterpret this and mistakenly conclude that an uncooked low-fat plant-based diet doesn’t “work” for you, and that, for example, eating a lot of protein or fat or eating some cooked food does.
To realize why the aforementioned scenario occurs, it’s necessary to understand the concept of detoxification. If you’re in a less-than-optimal state of health (and you can be without knowing it), it’s unlikely you got into this condition overnight; it probably took decades. So when you decide to improve your health, it isn’t going to happen overnight; it’ll take time (so obviously the time to start improving your health is now). For every four years of unhealthy living habits, it can take approximately one year to reverse the negative effects, and as I said, you may feel worse before feeling better. So to avoid drawing the wrong conclusions, it’s a good idea to have a working knowledge of what’s happening as you improve your health.
A long time ago, there were very few toxic substances you could take into your body. And those that were toxic would be immediately evident; if a plant tasted bitter, odds were that it was probably poisonous, and the bitterness was a signal not to eat it … so you wouldn’t. In this way, you were protected from consuming toxic things. But today, that taste protective mechanism doesn’t do us much good; processed foods that taste delicious can contain toxins. And even if something tastes “yucky,” many people still consume it because it’s socially acceptable and their peers do it, and there’s something to like about it.
When toxic and irritating substances enter the body, the body tries to keep these things from harming its cells. If the body doesn’t have enough vitality to expel these substances as they come in, it has only two choices: leave them in the system, where they can go around damaging things, or put them someplace where they’ll do the least amount of harm. Naturally, it tries to store them, and the place where they can do the least damage is in the fat cells. When someone who is losing weight experiences symptoms, it is often because those toxins that were stored in their fat cells are now becoming systemic (their storage containers are shrinking) and the body must now deal with them.
If you’ve been exposing your body to toxic substances every day for decades, and then you stop doing this, your body is finally able to rid itself of the stored toxins, and begin the task of repairing any damage caused by them. The process of expelling stored toxins is called detoxification (detox) and is never pleasant. Since you feel terrible, some people mistake detoxification as a sign that their body did better when it was given nonhuman food because when they go back to eating those things, they feel better. Why? Because the detox process stops! (Some people call the detox process “withdrawal,” but that’s an inaccurate term.)
The second reason you may not want to “do whatever works for you” is when, in our efforts to improve our health, we transition from an unhealthy diet and lifestyle to a healthier one, and we experience improvement so we assume that this new way of living is what “works” for us and is the way we should live from now on, when in actuality the short-term improvements were mainly due to what we stopped doing. The wheatgrass, cayenne pepper, high-fat raw food recipes and the other new things that we started doing were simply healthier than what we had been doing previously, and although we’re seeing improvement in the short term, these things will not serve us and allow us to thrive in the long term. Indeed, this healthier way of living may still allow serious disease to occur, even though it may happen farther down the road than it would have if we had not made any changes at all.
So be very careful when deciding what works for you, because you are not going to know what “works” until you know if it “worked” … and that can take decades. This makes it critically important to make correct decisions now regarding what lifestyle practices to follow. Since very few health educators have 100 percent correct information, it’s a good idea not to follow any one health educator’s advice and instead take a multisource educational approach to your information gathering (and do it as a researcher and not as a student). Yes, this is unfortunate because it’s so much easier to just pick someone and do whatever they advise, but if your goal is optimal health, you need lots of correct information and not just some. Even though it’s said there are no guarantees in life, I can make one: You won’t have access to a time machine to go back in time and try something else if what you thought was “working” for you turned out not to work (because you got a diagnosis of something serious). The knowledge of what is likely to still be working for you in the “winter” of your life and not merely in the short term is crucial if maximum health creation, illness avoidance and a robust quality of life for your whole life is your goal.
Don Bennett is a Disease Avoidance Specialist, author, health creation counselor and someone who tells it like it is, especially when it comes to the realities of health. Don has more insightful and empowering info on his website, Health101.org.