I, like many people before and after me, have spent a great deal of time and energy searching for the perfect diet. The food strategy that checks off every nutritional box while being satisfying, convenient, easy to follow and nourishing to my body, mind and soul. The one that people write books about. The one that so often eludes even the healthiest persons on the planet. The one that is, by no better description, perfect.
Anyone who knows my overall philosophy might say, “but wait, aren’t you the one always saying ‘progress over perfection’…?”
To which I would say, “you’re absolutely right. Which is why I’m writing this post…”
The longer and harder I’ve looked at health, diet and nutrition, both in myself and countless others, the more I realize how foolish the pursuit for perfection is. Not only in terms of trying to be perfect in adhering to a diet plan or someone else’s idea of perfection but in the pursuit of finding perfection in your own life, nutrition being a prime example. It’s left me realizing this…
The harder you try to find the perfect diet the harder it is to actually find it.
The harder you try to find the perfect diet the further you get away from finding your perfect diet.
Which means that, at least in my mind, all these people chasing the perfect diet or perfecting their already really good diet are doing the opposite of what they want. The harder they chase perfect health, the faster that goose runs away from them. The more they focus on it the more they lose awareness of how far that goose is running from where they started.
The Neverending Quest
As a child of the 80’s much of my reality is framed and has been shaped by things of that decade. So, naturally, the first thing that came to mind when thinking about the concept of chasing the perfect diet was The Neverending Story. Not only because the name is appropriate for the impossible task of finding nutritional perfection but because so many parts of that movie parallel so many people’s journey toward health and, maybe most importantly, I have this compelling need to compare health things to 80’s movies whenever possible.
The Neverending Story is the tale of a boy reading a story about the fate of a far off, magical land of adventure, excitement and imagination, Fantasia. A world where anything is possible and creatures of all kinds live in peace and harmony. Until one day when a mysterious force starts to cloud Fantasia, slowly enveloping and destroying the world and all its inhabitants. Threatened by this Nothing destroying everything in it’s way, the people seek the guidance of the Empress. To everyone’s dismay, she is deathly ill and cannot help. The lone chance this world has is if a brave warrior takes on the herculean task of searching and finding a cure for the Empress. He must go on a quest. Dangerous and uncertain, where it will lead no one can tell him but if he is successful he can restore the magic of his world and save Fantastia. The warrior assigned this impossible task? None other than a simple young boy, Atreyu, from the plains people that hunt the Purple Buffalo. And so this boy, an underdog if you will, that no one thinks can complete this quest, starts off on this great, uncertain journey with the sinister Nothing slowly coming closer to destroying him and his world.
It reminds me of the journey that many people begin on when trying to find the perfect diet…
The Quest Begins
Something is wrong, the health Nothing has started to infiltrate your world. So you, this little warrior, starts off to find the answer. You don’t know exactly what you’re looking for but you know you need to get out there and search. Off you go, charging away on your horse, riding with reckless abandon out in to the vast health world, beginning your quest to find this mythical and undefined thing, the perfect diet, the one that will keep you healthy and free from disease. At the same time, an evil force begins its journey to destroy you, to stop you from finding the diet that will save you and your world from death and disease. This creature, the Gmork, is a manifestation of your health fears: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, office pot lucks, peer pressure, evil food corporations or whatever you’re scared of, all wrapped into a wolf like beast with glowing eyes, fangs and an unrelenting drive to kill you. If you don’t get to the perfect diet quickly it will destroy you and prevent you from saving the world.
You’ll have an ally. One that supports, carries and propels you. For Atreyu it was his horse, Artax. For you, whether it’s a friend, spouse, coworker, book, an online community or something else, the search for the perfect diet always enlists help, resources and support. Someone will be in this with you, on the same journey. Even the greatest warrior feels better with someone at his side.
You Must Overcome Loss
You will lose an ally, possibly your closest one. It will probably be during a time of challenge, one where the journey gets difficult. Just like the swamps of sadness, somewhere along the diet quest you will lose a friend, someone who was on the journey with you. Whether it is a friend that gives up trying to diet or a guru/advisor that changes philosophies or approach, something bad will happen leaving you alone on your quest. But you must carry on. Almost everyone on the search for the perfect diet loses one or more of the supporting cast. The longer and harder you search the more likely people are going to drop out and you’ll be on your own. It’s a tough journey that most people won’t be able to see through. Only the most dedicated will be able to continue on this quest.
Seeking the Wise
There will be a source of wisdom in your journey for the perfect diet, just like Morla, The Ancient One. Someone who has achieved great health or appears to be an expert. You’ll try hard to grasp as much knowledge and wisdom from them as you can. Probably, you’ll get a few answers but the actual truth will hurt. They won’t be able to tell you what your perfect diet is and they’re likely to tell you that it’s not worth it or it’s unattainable. Or maybe they’ll offer some guidance but you’ll still realize that you have to keep searching. This journey you’re on is a long one and you still have a long, long way to go.
So off you tredge through the mud of conflicting dietary information and daily challenges, realizing what a giant challenge it is to find the perfect diet. Life starts to get to you. Maybe you go in for a health check and instead of glowing progress nothing has changed or maybe something’s gotten worse. It’s then that you feel the weight of your task. And you feel the Gmork, always pursuing, closing in.
There Is Hope
At your darkest hour you will be saved. Something or someone, your Falkor, will bolster your spirit and show you a better way. A book, website or person will lift you up and propel your journey, helping you make great progress. You’ll call it a breakthrough or life changing and you’ll sometimes think you might actually have found it. You’ll realize you’re not quite there but now have renewed hope. Even though now you’re much closer than you ever thought possible there’s still a little ways to go.
You’re closing in and feel confident in your healthy lifestyle and diet. During this part of your journey, however, there will be gates you must pass, challenges to your resolve and moments that test your faith…
The sphinxes represent doctors, family members or some other authority/important people in your life that question your journey. In this quest toward the perfect diet, which often challenges other people’s beliefs, if you don’t believe in your true worth and your choices, they will destroy you. Doubt yourself when living your new dietary lifestyle and they will see right through you. You must believe in order to continue your journey toward the perfect diet. Before they fire out at you, run and dive into your choices- it’s the only way to survive their laser beam eyes of judgement.
Your True Self
The second challenge will be about self reflection. This is when you start to look at yourself and question everything. You’ll ask yourself if it’s even worth it. What are you truly made of? Can you keep going? Are you on the right path? What has this journey turned you into? Who have you become? Are you who you want to be? Is this journey your destiny?
If you can reflect on your true self and not run away screaming, you’ll keep the journey alive and pursue the elusive but now seemingly attainable goal of the perfect diet.
Close To The Truth, Or So You Think
You approach the perfect diet slowly. You feel good but have been reading a bit lately about how some of your assumptions might not be true. You think you’re close but aren’t quite sure. Looking to someone or something for a couple ideas or perhaps a few final confirmations and you get an answer you don’t expect. You’re not there and have to keep going. In fact, you realize your journey is still wide open even though the more you worry about health the more you feel it converging on you. So off you go again, searching all over, possibly not even sure where to start but with added urgency because the health Nothing and Gmork are still coming after you.
Sooner or later, no matter the journey’s unfolding, your health fears will be in front of you. Look that beast in the eye and confront it. Those fears don’t have to own you and running from them is the fastest way to waste time, energy and stress. Intimating and sinister, they can be scary, but your attitude and courage determines just how scary they have to be. Ultimately, only those who truly yearn for the perfect diet face their fears head on and fight them without fear. You realize that the health Nothing you fear and are trying to avoid is your imagination gone awry. But it still exists, hovering over you, threatening your existence if you don’t stop it. You may have defeated your most direct fears but the bigger storm still lurks. You know can’t control it but you still wonder if you can stop it by finding the last and final piece to the perfect diet. Maybe a supplement here or there or more kale or finally letting a little sugary fruit back in your diet. There is still a journey to finish and you must keep going.
The Journey Ends
After years of searching, most people who chase the perfect diet come to a point where they see the end in sight. Or so they think. Can they ever truly find the perfect diet? Of course not. There is no perfect diet to be found. It’s only when you stop chasing the perfect diet when you realize that the perfect diet has been with you all along, every step of the way. The perfect diet is what you do, at that moment, each and every day. The perfect diet is your journey, for better or worse, and changes each and every day. So many chapters of your dietary Neverending Story are still to be written, so make them good. We might not all have the Childlike Empress to help us realize this, so remember this next time you start to worry about how you can make your diet even better, optimize this or streamline that.
The search for perfection is a Neverending Story. Stop chasing the perfect diet and live life. The nothing isn’t real- it’s your manifestation of health fears. Be healthy and pursue health but don’t chase the perfect diet. It will be a Neverending Quest and you’ll waste your life’s journey chasing the impossible. Keep it all in perspective, step back and make your story worthwhile, purposeful and one you can be proud of.
Thanks for reading, have a great day!