For years now, I've found it frustrating how the media, and individuals, have been obsessed with finding one magical answer that tells us how to be healthy.
In fact, the basis of evidence based medicine (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence-based_medicine) is that we can analyse research to tell us whether something works, or doesn't. Most of the time when someone interprets a study, especially in the media, it's in a very black and white nature i.e. X is good, Y is bad
The reason this is frustrating is because it's not reality. Humans are not identical. And we also aren't the same for our entire lives. What?! You heard me. Our DNA we are born with is not the same DNA that carries us through our entire lives. Well, it is the "same", but we don't use all of it all the time. Our DNA gets switched on and off dependent on our environment and inputs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epigenetics)
The reason there is no one answer, no one true "right" lifestyle, is because what is right for each of us differs based on 1) the DNA we are born with 2) our environments and 3) our lifestyles. In fact, there's even more to it, but those 3 broad categories alone describe a lot of the complexity of the equation.
Why do some people go vegan and feel amazing and become lean, while others go vegan and gain weight and suffer terrible acne? Why do some people try keto and feel invigorated and drop fat, while others find it impossible to stick to and feel sluggish? Why do some people eat "junk" consistently and never gain weight? Why is one of the oldest people in the world a chainsmoker? Why do some populations eat a tonne of fat and don't suffer high rates of heart disease? Why do you try something your best friend had great success with and find it does nothing for you at all?
1) the DNA you are born with 2) your environment and 3) your lifestyle
What works now, may not work next year. What works in New Zealand, may not work in Mexico. What works when you're a university student, may not work when you're on a shift work roster.
There is no one answer about the ideal way to eat, exercise, or live, that will work for everyone who reads this post.
The future of nutrition, medicine and health will be in starting to understand how we work out what is right for us. Based on our DNA, based on our current health situation, based on where we live, based on what just feels best.
What are some, generally, universal truths? Well, in my 5+ years now of research, reading and experience (whats the point in spending $100k+ on a medical degree if ya don't apply it to your own life, amiright?) the following points can be broadly adopted by most people, in most situations, to lead to a health improvement (some of this is not yet mainstream, but I wouldn't include it if I didn't feel it was widely applicable)
- Eat naturally. Anything that didn't get "made" by us. As far as is practicable, avoid things that have unnecessarily had things added to them. Whether this is plant-based, or includes unprocessed meat, the message is the same. Food should be in as natural a state as possible.
- When you eat a high carbohydrate meal, try to keep it lower in fat, and vice versa, when you eat a high fat meal, try to keep it lower in carbohydrate. In moderation, these combinations matter less, but when you're eating your favourite sweets, it's best not to follow it up immediately with some bacon. Keep large quantities of either macronutrient several hours away from the other, when possible.
- No food is the devil. Don't demonise food. Don't have "good food" and "bad food". The damage this does to your mental health is not worth any short term gains in your physical appearance. Always accept foods that you eat for enjoyment, rather than for physical health. Enjoyment food is for your mental health.
- Listen to your body. If apples make you bloated, don't feel obliged to eat them every day. If red meat makes your bowels slow, save it for special occasions. As long as you're not restricting food unnecessarily, no harm comes from making slight adjustments based on what makes you feel better.
- Prolonged, high heartrate cardiovascular workouts (e.g. running) are inflammatory in a lot of settings. Intervals or low-heart rate cardiovascular exercise are less inflammatory (e.g. walking).
- Resistance training is basically universally good for us. It's good for our bones, it's good for our metabolism and it's good for our hearts. This can be plyometric i.e. bodyweight exercise like push-ups and squats, or it can be gym-based weight-added training.
- The best exercise for you, is the exercise you enjoy enough to maintain. There's no point forcing yourself to a spin class everyday if you're going to tank out at week 3 because you loathe it. Find something you like that doesn't feel like a chore, and simply keep doing it.
- Stress can mess everything up. You can pour all of your effort into your diet and workout but if your hormones aren't playing ball, it's a losing game. Managing stress and building coping mechanisms is vital. So is sleep.
- Sunlight is important. Get outside as much as possible. Sunscreen is less important, just avoid getting burnt.
- Blue light from your laptop, phone screen etc IS impacting your health, sleep and brain. As much as possible, avoid it before bed, at the very least.
- On that note, put your devices on flight mode if you leave them near your bed overnight. Or, don't leave them near your bed.
I hope some of these points are helpful. You may not agree with all of them, and I wouldn't disagree with your difference of opinion. I've tried to make the points as widely relevant and truthful as possible, but absolutely nothing is black and white. What works for any of us isn't universally applicable. The faster we can all accept that, the better off we will all be.