Don't Take Anything Personally
For the next few days, I’m taking a look at how Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements relate to making real life changes, specifically nutrition. Last week, I talked about the principles of LOVE and TRUTH from the first agreement (“Be impeccable with your word”), but this week I’m going to take a look at the second agreement: “Don’t take anything personally,” and how it relates to the often destructively dogmatic world of nutrition.
If anyone caught last fall’s Hulu original Casual, you know that there is a spot-on scene in which a CrossFitter religiously promotes her Paleo diet. If you haven't seen it, I'm sure it's not a scenario too difficult to imagine. Even when her date says, “I’m happy to move forward without an argument,” (like ok, girl… I got it.) she dives into what is clearly (and hilariously) anecdotal “scientific” support for her lifestyle.
Chick would totally need to work on her Functional Dating Screen score. But anyway...
Food and Virtue
We’ve all met those people – whether it’s low-carb-high-fat, Whole30, gluten-free, vegan, 20 million day fix(or whatever), or simply “clean,” the diet becomes the person. You literally can’t talk to this person without the conversation steering back to the superiority of their way of eating.
Before you roll your eyes just thinking about this person, let's examine this behavior with some love, shall we?
Last week, I pointed out that most diets work well as long as you are consistent. But it’s easy to slip into fanaticism, especially if your diet is complicated, restrictive, or difficult to maintain. For some people, they need to think that their way is the only way to be healthy, in order to justify the increased level of attention that their lifestyle demands.
They renounce others in righteous support of themselves. Classic defense mechanism.
How does this relate to Don Miguel Ruiz?
You Are Not Your Diet
His second agreement, “Don’t take anything personally,” means that you don’t accept others’ projections onto yourself. He uses amazing language about others’ entire realities being a “dream,” and he points out that we can be more free and happy if we don’t allow others perspectives to define us.
While this could apply to relationships, career, or money, there is an obvious application here for nutrition.
Each way of eating (or exercising) carries with it a certain identity, whether or not the stereotype is actually true for the individual. For example, it could be argued that Paleo is extremely associated with CrossFit (as Casual jokes), while veganism is a hallmark of a yogic lifestyle. Making certain food choices could make you feel a certain way about your value and identity, whether the identity that you want is more tough, more enlightened, or more self-disciplined.
The difficulty of internalizing our identity around our food choices, however, is that sometimes our choices aren’t perfect. Even though I advocate for consistency in the first agreement, the reality of life is that there are ups and downs even in a big picture of consistency. It’s never a straight line, even if you’re moving in the right direction.
Sure, you feel amazing when you’re eating “clean.” You may feel superior, in control, and self-disciplined.
But what if you binge on your favorite nachos when it’s not your “cheat day”? Are you then a failure, or lazy? We’re back at the first Agreement here -- You must uphold love and the truth.
Because the other consideration is that just as everyone’s dream of the world is different, so too are everyone’s nutritional needs.
A paleo persuasion is actually a pretty dangerous diet for someone who puts in the kind of intense effort that a Crossfitter does. Cutting carbs cuts your gains.
A vegan diet can seem super clean and healthy. But it can actually wreak havoc on the health of any individual with a less than extraordinarily excellent digestive tract.
And the fact that you cannot hang on to these habits should not cause you harm. Whether that harm is incurred by trying to repeatedly force the beliefs of someone else onto your body. Or by failing at that diet and feeling bad about yourself for it.
We need to be free to be objective with our nutrition. To separate ourselves from our food choices.
The TRUTH, is that all diets won't work for every individual in the long term, and you need to LOVE yourself enough to honor this realization without judgement.
Taking Food Personally
Like Ruiz advocates, we can’t let diet culture dictate how we feel about ourselves, because that would be allowing others’ projections to define who we are.
That is why I recently released “Sophisticate Your Nutrition,” a three-month course that gives you the education, guidelines, and principles to create an eating lifestyle that gives you the results you want, without adhering to a specific “diet.”
You don’t have to be Paleo to be tough. You don’t have to be vegan to be enlightened. You can be whatever the hell you want to be, achieve your goals, and live a free, happy, healthy lifestyle.