There are many foods that we all know increase the risk of disease. For example, the daily consumption of the high fructose corn syrup found in soft drinks encourages weight gain and greatly increases the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart disease. And I think it’s fairly safe to say that our increased awareness and avoidance of such toxic substances is a great proactive step in the right direction towards improving our health and well-being. Unfortunately, these same advances in awareness have incited what I am going to call a toxic food witch-hunt that increases the public scrutiny and haphazard reprisal of widely accepted healthy foods. Case in point, a study recently published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute has concluded that the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, well known for their aiding in heart health, increase the risk of developing a certain type of cancer.
Confused and somewhat disturbed by the headlines suggesting that one of the ideal foods of the healthy eating movement may actually be harmful, I immediately began to contemplate the legitimacy of my healthy eating aspirations, which left me wondering which foods I could possibly eat that won’t make me sick. Honestly, if all food, including healthy items like salmon, walnuts and flaxseeds that contain omega-3 fatty acids, encourages disease, how will I ever be able to guarantee health and well-being?
Then it occurred to me. There are no guarantees in life and there is absolutely nothing I can do to completely protect myself from all the potentially harmful things that I confront on a daily basis. There is always the possibility that I could get in a car accident when heading into work, attacked by a bear while enjoying a leisurely hike in the woods or, no matter how odd it may seem, stricken with cancer as a result of the healthy eating habits that I work so hard to maintain.
With this revelation in mind, I have come to the conclusion that there is one principle I can integrate in all facets of my life that can help minimize my exposure to risk while allowing me to participate in all the things that bring me comfort and joy. “All things in moderation,” the philosophy I used to apply to my few remaining splurge behaviors, must also be applied to the healthful things that I do in my wellness routine. Exercise is great, but too much too quickly can overwhelm the body and impair my ability to stay active throughout the day. Losing a couple hours of sleep every once in a while probably isn’t all that bad as long as I am still able to focus and execute in the next days activities. Taking on new responsibilities encourages growth as long as I am able to recognize my limits and ask for help when I become a little too ambitious.
Don’t get me wrong; the growing trend towards food awareness is definitely a good thing, but if it has the ability to encourage us to become overly restrictive in our dietary choices or interferes with our ability to live a happy and productive lives (see Orthorexia Nervosa), I believe it does more harm than good. By no means am I suggesting that it is okay to occasionally inhale copious amounts of MSG laced food, (see “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome”), but I think it is imperative for us to recognize that fanatical behavior, no matter how well-intentioned, can have a tremendous impact upon the mind, body and spirit.
Too much of a good thing can most definitely be a bad thing and we must strive to maintain a positive balance between that which we believe makes us healthy and that which we know makes us happy.