Most architecture students, when asked if they have a backup-major, respond saying they would switch into engineering or another design profession. This makes sense as they are all similar. Although pursuing a degree in architecture, I regularly manage to surprise people when they find out my second-choice major is nutrition.
It sometimes even scares me, unfortunately, as when I meet new people, I find myself discussing food with them more than buildings. I get the typical rise of the eyebrow when we finish our talk and they discover I’m not studying dietetics.
However, what they do not understand is that I view nutritional knowledge as information every human should be proficient in because, after all, everyone eats. Our views of what is healthy and what is not vary widely and are heavily formed based on how we grew up, but it is never too late to change.
Thanks to the evolution of the internet, we now have access to both sides of the story when it comes to the most important decision many of us make every day: what goes into our mouths.
Many agree it is the aspects surrounding us as we grow up that are the most decisive factors in determining who we are. My father and I have always differed in our nutritional views, which I attribute to our different upbringings.
Being born in 1961, he was raised when the United States held the belief that fats of any kind were the enemy of our health and weight. My father grew up in a household where sugary cereals were an important part of every breakfast, and fats and oils were swapped with manmade trans fats like margarine.
I hate to admit that despite being born 40 years later, I also followed a similar diet to his: cereals, low-fat everything, and consuming a seemingly endless supply of microwavable meals.
But the 21st-century brought with it a knowledge of health that was caused primarily by the internet. Before this advent, the sources for information were limited. There was the media on television, books, magazines, and advice from a doctor.
People of this era had no access to a worldwide collection of information, factual or not, and therefore had to make opinions based on hearing only one side of the story.
If the TV tells you to buy cereal because it gives you the “energy your body needs,” and magazines delineate skinny consumers spreading hydrogenated oils on sliced bread, and the family doctor protests the avoidance of fats like an infectious bacterium, what are you likely to do?
The internet brought in the other side of the equation; before you make any decisions, it is essential to hear both sides of the story, especially with something as important as your health.
Thanks to the world wide web, articles depicting studies on certain fats being good for you and showing why added sugars might not be part of a healthy diet became accessible for anyone to read.
We are beginning to realize that our food has the ability to hurt us slowly and unnoticeably, making it so dangerous.
The world is changing, as it always does, and health movements are pushing their way into people’s lives. The success of the Adkins, Paleolithic, and Ketogenic diets are catching on because they work.
My generation seems to fancy challenging long-held beliefs and asking “but why” when we do not fully understand something we see.
Questioning official nutritional guidance is without doubt among the best things that have been defied for the improvement of humanity. This is not to say that everyone wants to challenge their dietary advice. There are those that refuse to adopt healthier eating habits because they feel that “nutritional information is always changing and there is no point. What is true today will be wrong tomorrow.”
On the contrary, letting the ever-changing information on health prevent you from trying to become a healthier person is a fatal trap. The fact is, most of this health “flip-flopping” comes from the news that reports both small and large and reliable and unreliable food studies that occur every day, so obviously there will be a plethora of conflicting viewpoints.
This is the reason I consider it common sense not to get health knowledge from the news but from more reliable sources. You might think nutritionists are at the top of the best sources list, but there is one even more obvious yet under-used source: your body.
One can get more information from their body than any book, magazine, or supposed “expert” could ever give. Your body speaks to you if you listen, and predictably, most of us are not listening.
When we eat certain foods and develop a stomachache, headache, or sickness, we take a pill to stop the pain and symptoms, which are the body’s way of communicating with us. If something we eat makes us feel off, it should not be ignored.
This again is common sense. It is important to remember, however, that what makes one person sick might not make another, and this is precisely the reason that we cannot expect a one size fits all answer to the health question.
That being said, despite our differences, we are all humans, and some aspects of a proper diet can indeed be generalized. My knowledge of dietetics is the result of a four-year journey to become a healthier teen.
Hours of research, note-taking on how specific dietary changes made my body feel, discussing what I do with doctors, examining blood work results, and of course, plenty of common sense has served as my resource.
As previously mentioned, added sugars replaced fats years ago, and now that modern diets are replacing fats for sugars with weight loss success, one should at least take note.
I choose to highly restrict my intake of sugars and simple carbohydrates primarily because of how doing so makes me feel: clear minded and less anxious. I consider myself lucky to have a body that warned me of the dangers sugars can cause, most notably diabetes.
Simple sugars like those found in corn syrup and most breads are quickly digested and turned into useable energy for our cells, but the issue is that our cells might not want the additional energy. So, the body releases insulin to force the cells to take in the sugars, as having too much or too little glucose in the blood is deadly.
Once muscle cells and the liver reach their sugar intake limit, fat cells start to take them in, converting them into body fat. This cycle repeats itself over and over as people eat more and more sugar, with the body eventually losing its ability to produce enough insulin or the cells becoming so overexposed to the insulin that they stop absorbing sugar, and this leads to the need for insulin injections and diabetic medications.
One can only imagine how people with diabetes felt before getting to that point and all of the warning signs their bodies were giving them before. This is the danger of living a single-sided life.
Their sources for knowledge might not have told them the actual reason they were feeling off: simple carbohydrates. The Internet is unique in that it offers various solutions on something they could at least try, like a paleo or keto diet.
This is why I am where I am, and despite being young, I still pride myself for not taking medications to deal with symptoms of my body. My dietary life is based on using reputable sources for information and trying them out to see what symptoms my body gives me.
I find that most simple sugars make me feel anxious, which is likely triggered by the digestion of these saccharides. Their rapid absorption into the blood results in a sudden glucose spike and drop (hypoglycemia), which is known to cause tremors and induce anxiety.
Such examples of simple starch foods I avoid include most grains, breads, potatoes, and even certain fruits. I have discovered that by placing vegetables at the bottom of my food pyramid, along with high-quality fats like olive oil and avocados, makes me feel a mental and physical clarity I had never found.
With these points in mind, it is clear times are changing in favor of a better way of dieting. It is so vital to listen to your body when it comes to health and make your own decisions about your nutritional needs.
Despite the most vigorous efforts, there will always be opposition and a contradictory movement to the one you follow. I have learned that this is not necessarily a bad thing, however, in that it provides the other side of the story, which is essential regardless of the scenario.
Yes, I can now understand why, if the introduction of this essay was skipped, it might be surprising to learn I am pursuing a degree in architecture. What surprises me, however, is why nutritional knowledge is something that is thought to be held exclusively by those who study it and not by everyone that eats. Oh wait, that is everyone!