I have never been much of a dieter, although there are times in my life when I probably should have been. I have, however, tried tweaking my diet based on a friend’s recommendation or an article I have read, only to have it backfire. Either my digestion tanked, or my energy took a vacation, leaving me sluggish and tired.
This phenomenon seems to happen to many people. They read about a miracle food or foolproof diet, only to gain weight or feel like crap. So what’s going on?
Chinese medicine has long had the answer, and it seems that Western researchers are now catching on, too. The key to eating the right food is in tailoring your diet for your unique needs. This is true for a couple of reasons. First, each of us has specific nutritional needs that vary from person to person. Second, foods have specific properties that make them good for some kinds of health conditions, but not for others. For example:
Each food has an inherent energetic temperature, which translates into how it will affect your body. For example, ginger is considered to be a warming food, while mint is cooling. In practice, if you were struggling with hot flashes, you would choose energetically cooling foods and avoid those that heat you up.
Foods also have an action or impact on your body. For example, depending on your needs, you can choose foods that moisten, nourish blood, build up your qi (energy gained through food and breathing), or drain dampness.
How you prepare food can change its properties. Raw fruits tend to be cool and moistening. However, dried fruits are warmer and less dampening. In addition, if you’re struggling with your digestion, cooking your vegetables in a soup or stir fry makes them far easier to digest, allowing you to extract more energy from them.
While practitioners of Chinese medicine have long known that food therapy is based on creating an individualized diet, food scientists are now conducting research that suggests the same thing. The results of an Israeli study of the blood sugar levels of 800 people documented that different people responded differently to eating the same food. The researchers suggest that, like Chinese food therapy, successful dieting and healthy eating depends on meals tailored to the individual and his or her unique biology. Instead of wondering what you were doing wrong when you gained weight on the diet that your friend swore by, understand that the foods you need are different from the foods others need. For more information on Chinese medicine and assessments of your individual needs, check out Simple Steps: The Chinese Way to Better Health.