Diet, Energy and Lifestyle

July 2008

Ran Prieur quotes one of his readers:

“A year ago I started eating really healthy for a month. It felt great, I was full of energy. But I couldn't stay in my cubicle. I kept getting up to go somewhere, anywhere else, sneaking outside for fresh air and sun. Work suffered.

When I'm unemployed I eat well, get daily exercise, adequate rest, and I'm generally healthy and feeling fine. When I work, I don't. It's not that I don't have the time or the energy at the end of the day, because I totally could keep up with the healthy stuff. It's that I need to feel like shit in order to work.”

Steve Pavlina talks about diet and energy levels:

For example, when I was going through my 30-day raw food diet trial earlier this year, I had a lot more energy — physical, mental, and emotional. This wasn’t a surprise to me because I’d experienced similar energy boosts during other raw food trials over the past several years.

At first it felt great to enjoy that extra energy — especially the feeling of euphoria — but after a while it began to feel uncomfortable. I was trying to contain all this extra energy, but I wasn’t used to it. I felt like an overcharged battery. […]

Eventually I asked myself, “Why are you intentionally lowering your energy? What is it about that higher state of being that makes it so hard for you to contain it?”

I soon realized what the problem was. That extra energy had nowhere to go. [….] It was like sticking a 12-volt battery into a 1.5-volt device.

There's two different things here, but both reflect aspects of my experiments with dietary changes over time. As my job gets healthier (emotionally, intellectually, and to a certain extent physically) I find myself able to eat more healthily. But there's still a limit.

Every few months I'll go on a fresh fruit bender for a few days, eating heaps of fresh fruit — usually in the form of large quantities of fruit salad for breakfast and lunch. But I experience something like both Steve and Ran's reader described; the food is really good, I feel really good, healthy, and energised, but I can't keep it up. I last a couple of days, but then I just can't do it anymore. Not because I'm sick of fruit; if I make myself, I still really enjoy it. There's just some sort of drag, or intertia, and eventually I go back to eating as I was.

While these short-term changes never stick, however, I've managed to make dietary changes that have stuck. It's interesting to reflect on how my lifestyle (and my work-life) paralleled the way I was eating at any given time. There seems to be a chicken-and-egg problem; maybe you need to adjust both lifestyle and diet together for changes to stick?

Fraser commented:

You're sure it's nothing to do with all the sugar in the fruit? Maybe try a vegetable bender.

Jody commented:

If you need some good trash to balance out your incredible eating habits Matt, you can't go past these. The peanut butter provides essential protein and what's more, the mixture tastes fantastic raw.

Matt commented:

Fraser, you may be right about the fruit sugars, but that's not the only time I've observed it – any sudden move to a significantly more healthy diet seems to have a similar drag to it.