Nutrition is a freakingly complex topic, and yet, a simple one.
I wish I knew 15 years ago that sticking to nutrition philosophy is more important than sticking to a diet.
And since my personality has changed tremendously in the last two years, I had to dive deep into topics like psychology and philosophy to understand better myself and the changes I was going through.
Despite the changes, it was vital for me to adhere to my values without being influenced by external factors.
You will probably hear this a lot in my blog, but stoicism and minimalism have had a massive impact on my philosophical perception of nutrition.
I've welcomed the importance of having simple food on my table, following only the pillars and principles I've tried, and I know that if I stick to them, I will have a winning "diet."
This post will explain my philosophical views on nutrition, which can be applied to any style of diet you practice.
I call them Pillars and Principles. Let's unfold this topic.
Of the Many Diets I Tried, I Stuck to None
It's true. I've tried probably each trending diet I've heard through the last ten years.
- Food combining diet
- Low-carb, low-fat diet
- Low-carb, high-fat diet
- Carb cycling diet
- High-protein (Atkins) diet
- Paleo diet
- No gluten diet
- No dairy diet
- Keto diet
And probably a bunch of more. I don't even remember anymore.
What I've never tried is going vegetarian or, God forbid, vegan.
I've tried to eliminate meat consumption, but I can tell that this nonsense is not for me on the third day of my no-meat diet.
I have nothing against people who are vegetarians or vegans. I have friends in both groups.
But I don't consider veganism a healthy way to feed my body and mind. And this is where I will stop with the topic of veganism.
The Thing Is That
The thing is that all diets have one thing in common, which I loathe – you have to eat your vegetables to get your vitamins and minerals.
As if you don't have veggies on your plate, you don't have a healthy lifestyle.
It turns out that it's okay not to like and eat vegetables at each meal.
But it took me 13 years to let myself be the way I am.
Not liking vegetables and being okay with not eating them, ignoring people's opinion that this isn't healthy.
Which made me look for a completely different type of "diet."
A diet that consists of philosophical views and principles aligned with my perception of what I consider healthy for me.
I was fed up with all the diets praised by fitness gurus and renowned online fitness publications.
Didn't they realize that the world around us had changed?
And with that, people and their goals were had also changed, especially the free time they had.
Why did they continue to preach outdated notions about the fitness industry, nutrition, and training (because it sells)?
With all that said so far and all my jumbled thoughts, one day, I took my notebook and a pen and listed all the essential qualities I was looking for and wanted to get in the long run from my diet.
This is what I wrote. My nutrition philosophy I still follow to this day. It consists of five pillars and four principles.
The 5 Pillars of my Nutrition Philosophy
If I have to describe with a single word what proper nutrition for me is, I will say Antifragile nutrition. Perhaps, you are familiar with the term Antifragile, coined by Professor Nassim Nicholas Taleb (who lift heavy weights). Here is a good definition of what Antifragility is.
Antifragility is a property of systems that increase in capability to thrive as a result of stressors, shocks, volatility, noise, mistakes, faults, attacks, or failures.
Creating an antifragile nutrition will help me benefit from the future or unknown stressors I will be exposed to someday (or I may not be at all).
The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
Here is an example that resonates with my life, and I am sure that it happened to you.
Every Monday morning, you have a one-hour meeting, which this time took 4 hours. You haven't had breakfast because you eat after Monday's usual one-hour morning meeting.
You are accustomed to having breakfast and a snack before lunch.
But you are in a 4-hour meeting disaster.
You are hungry and already irritated by the fact that you are hungry and that the meeting was supposed to be only an hour long.
All of your colleagues in the meeting room can tell by your body language and facial expression that, indeed, you are pissed off.
Is this how you want your diet habits to affect you in critical, non-planned events?
Or would you rather be a stoic? A mind and body, unmoved by the lack of immediate access to food.
I would instead influence my nutrition through simple antifragile habits than let my nutrition influence my behavior.
So by being exposed to some stressors (no food or fasting), you can increase your capability to resist hunger for longer hours.
And next time when you are stuck in a long meeting without food, you won't be pissed off, and you will instead look at the events as something normal.
2) Simplicity and Minimalism
Fancy dishes are not my thing. Three-course meals—also. Full plates, too.
I love simple meals.
Eggs with little to no salt.
Steaks without a side dish.
The plate may seem empty, but I know that the food on my plate is enough.
My nutrition philosophy teaches the body to be efficient with just enough food.
We live in a consumer society where enough is never enough.
Avoid feeding the soul with piles of food.
Have you ever seen someone binge eating packs of butter? Me too, I haven't.
Usually, after the fifth bite, you will stop, ready to vomit. You have reached your satiety levels.
One of the main reasons I avoid consuming carbohydrates daily is their lack of satiety for me.
Carbohydrates will feed my soul, but I will still be hungry in 2 hours.
In my opinion, and from my experience, eating carbohydrates every day is a dangerous habit.
I still want to emphasize that I am not afraid of eating carbs, and I am not against eating carbs (I eat carbs, carefully chosen).
I am worried about catching habits that I know don't work well for me.
A bad habit is easy to catch but hard to quit.
These days, less than 10% of my food consists of carbohydrates.
But the thing is that I don't consume carbs every day.
I will instead have a single day of carbs eating.
This way, I avoid the possibility of turning carbohydrate consumption into a daily habit.
"What should I eat?" is another question I loathe.
I don't want a life where I will have to feed five times per day.
This is a burden I don't want to carry on my shoulders.
And I am not a walking calculator that has to meet exact calories and macros to survive.
Today I may have 1500 calories, and tomorrow they might be 2200.
Today I may eat a whole chicken, and tomorrow I may eat only eggs.
There will be times when I will not have access to my preferred food sources - meat and eggs, but I will adapt my nutrition to what's available on the table (which could be a plant-based source of protein).
I will make the best of the food I have access to.
I will let myself be okay with the changes. We evolve through adaptation.
I believe that proper nutrition should be easily adaptable to any situation in life that it throws at us.
We live in such a dynamic world, where time is scarce, and while we have it, we should invest it in more valuable deeds than constantly thinking about when and what to eat.
"But you are not a vegan, Mila! How can you even use the word sustainable while being on a carnivore diet? You are such a hypocrite!"
Okay, okay, I hear you. But much to your surprise, you can eat animal products and still have sustainable nutrition.
Let's see how carnivore's philosophy on good nutrition can be sustainable.
- I buy locally grown products. We are very fortunate in Bulgaria (I live in Bulgaria) that we have access to locally grown farm products such as meat, fish, eggs, cheese, milk, fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc. Also, my family produces a considerable quantity of food – vegetables, nuts, and fruits.
- I always try to buy plastic-free products.
- I avoid buying imported goods whenever I have the option.
- I avoid buying animal products from big farms (industrial type of farms).
- I don't buy GMO products. If I don't have any other option, I won't buy the product.
- I try to consume less.
I may not be a saint when it comes to sustainable nutrition, but I care a great deal about nature and how the food I eat is produced.
And I am still learning a lot on my way to sustainable and minimalist living.
I try to leave less waste behind me.
The 4 Nutritional Principles I Swear By
I have four dietary principles that I always follow, regardless of the day.
1) Don't eat carbs with your first meal
"The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary." — Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Carbohydrates are addictive.
From my personal experience, if I include carbs in my first meal, I will crave more carbs throughout the rest of the day.
Мy opinion is that most of the time, we don't need carbohydrates (of course, it depends on whether you are an athlete or not, what kind of athlete, etc.).
By "we," I mainly refer to people working in modern-day jobs, including sitting all day long in front of a monitor.
I am a big fan of what Charles Poliquin preaches regarding carbohydrates.
Here is a short video where he explains who and when "deserves" carbs. I share his opinion.
Of course, agree to disagree.
However, to this day, I have seen many people binge eating carbohydrates (including me in the past) but never on beef steaks and packs of butter.
Come and tell me again that carbs are not addictive.
2) Fast every day
"Calm the stomach. Move the body. Rest the mind." – Naval
I have never been a breakfast eater. Often, after breakfast, I felt sick, ready to vomit.
Also, I felt a heaviness in my stomach. I felt sleepy and slow.
And so I stopped eating breakfast. I followed my biological sense of hunger.
Fasting became my new regular habit.
I will fast until 1-2 pm, eat until 7-8 pm, and then stop.
Of course, there are exceptions. For example, when I have late-night biking sessions.
Usually, I will eat around 9:30-10 pm, but I will fast longer on the following day.
Thus, I will fast for 16-20 hours.
Let me stress that fasting is NOT just a way to reduce your caloric intake.
You can gain weight and build muscle quickly on IF (intermittent fasting).
IF is a way to set my mind free from thinking about food.
I don't want to be dependent on food 24/7.
If I found myself in a situation where I would have to spend days without food, I would like to be the one to survive.
And this is a mental game that needs preparation.
I am not surprised that even the Stoics have spent several days a month without food so that the body doesn't forget how to deal with such events.
3) Don't combine carbohydrates with fats
Use only one source of energy per meal (either carbohydrates or fats).
Make it easy for your body to digest the food you eat.
4) Don't fry your food
Don't fry the food you eat and use fats suitable for cooking, such as animal fat, ghee, or coconut oil.
Avoid using seeds oil.
Final Thoughts on My Nutrition Philosophy
Let me share Ido Portal's thoughts on having a smaller body to sustain.
"Living in a smaller body is more economic and sustainable, and he is preparing himself for more awareness, he is more aware (referring to Dorian Yates in the conversation)."
Listen to the whole 4-minutes talk by Ido Portal.
So the point for me is not just to maintain a healthy body but also to achieve a smaller, more economic body, easy to sustain in the long run—both aesthetically and functionally.
I want to be that one fully aware of my own body.
And if you are interested in how I am training, read about my workout philosophy and why I chose to practice minimalist fitness.