As they say in the fitness community, “your results are 90% diet, 10% exercise.” My other favorite fitness mantra is “You can’t outrun a bad diet.” Needless to say, diet is *almost* everything when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle. With the abundance of information available to us, we are subjected to yet another episode of choice paralysis. The beauty of it, though, is that we are able to try different diets and find which is best suited for us. The difficulty here is that sometimes we hang on to certain diets because everybody else seems to do so well on them. In reality, diet is personal to an individual.

Our diet doesn’t have to be complicated. The more complicated it is, the more uncertainty and anxiety we introduce into our lives. Here’s a tip:

“The best diet is eating in moderation the food that make our mind and body feel and perform the best.”


I’ve been on many diets spanning different points in my life. I grew up on a traditional Southeast Asian/island diet rich in fresh fish, vegetables, rice, and the occasional red meat. When I moved to the states, I adopted the SAD (Standard American Diet) aka “Western” diet characterized by high carbs, high fat, and high calories. In college, I became vegetarian then pescatarian. Now, I eat more in line with the diet I grew up in: more vegetables, less red meat, carbs in moderation, more fruit.

I learned about the concept of ancestral diets when I was working in academia, and I was thoroughly fascinated by it. The idea that we thrive best on what we are adapted to is not new, and many others have come out with their own interpretation of a one big “Ancestral” diet (see paleo diet, caveman diet, etc.). Some propose that we need to look at our more recent ancestry, after we diverged from being cavemen, right when we started being agricultural (although some groups remained nomadic). There is still much to be studied to pinpoint exactly how far back we need to look, but knowing our general known ancestry may be helpful in figuring out the ancestral diet we are best suited to. 

Luckily for me I didn’t have to look too hard or too far back. I know my ancestors were somewhere in Asia, eating a diet similar to what I grew up with. My quest was very short as I immediately started feeling better eating what was familiar to me after many years on the SAD. And by feeling better I mean more energy, less sluggishness, and I’m at a healthy weight without much restriction.

There are these communities called “blue zones” because their members live unusually long and healthy lives compared to the rest of the world. From them comes the “blue zone diet,” Mediterranean diet, Osaka diet, etc. The most popular Mediterranean diet consists of olive oil, tomatoes, fish, very little mammal meat (chicken at the most), eggs, very little dairy (cheese, yogurt). Most of these I adopted into my diet also because … they make my mind and body feel and perform the best.

With every diet I’ve tried, I was very excited to get into them. I would label myself “vegetarian” and pretend to hate meat and meat eaters and meat producers and bragged about my lower carbon footprint and contribution to delaying antibiotic resistance (which is an underrated topic btw). After a couple months on it, I was not feeling good. My body fat percentage was rising, I was eating way too many carbs, I was sluggish, it was not good. But because I already told everybody I was vegetarian, I waited longer until I started introducing fish/meat into my diet and as a consequence, my body waited longer to feel good again. The bottom line is this: Avoid labeling your diet. Eat what works best instead. Descriptors are great, but sometimes we tend to contort ourselves to fit the labels we give ourselves and this keeps us from pursuing what truly works best for us.

As with anything in our lives, diet is not static. It ebbs and flows with the needs that arise throughout our lifespan. We are allowed to change, knowing that we can always find our way back.

May we eat our way to health and balance.

This we manifest.


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