A big part of my job - and a lot of what I strive to put out there as my message - revolves around fitness and the right diet. Two things that I believe are inseparable. Yet, a lot of people ask me what that actually means to me - „the right diet“. Ist there such a thing as right or wrong when it comes to food? Is „healthy“ the only criteria for a „good diet“? What do I look out for when it comes to food and what do I think is important?
I’ve been interested in healthy eating for a while now. Not long after I started lifting weights regularly I realized that I would have to adapt my eating habits in order to see results. For me, changing to a healthy diet wasn’t too big of a adjustment - I’ve been eating relatively healthy for as long as I can remember (thaaaanks mom & dad). But I still had to accept that eating a piece of marble cake with my bowl of musli every morning (and yes, I mean every morning) wasn’t going to get me the results I was hoping for. Also, I might have to add, I used to be one of those people that could eat whatever they like without gaining weight - a so called „ectomorph“. I’ve always been relatively skinny - however, that’s one of the main reasons I had to adjust my diet to my new lifestyle: to make sure I was eating enough calories from the right foods in order to gain muscle and not lose weight.
Today, a few years from when I started out, I still eat a lot - firstly, because I just love food and I love fueling my body. Secondly, because I’m still training a lot and trying to reach my physical goals. That requires me to eat a certain amount of calories every day. However I feel like my metabolism changed a bit and I don't eat aaaas much as back then. And that also doesn’t mean I eat everything in sight, no matter how healthy or unhealthy. I still try to maintain a healthy and balanced diet most of the time. Therefore I don’t really care for diets, like the whole „low carb“ or „no fat“ thing. Instead, I try to fuel my body with what it needs and not deprive it of anything - including a good amount of carbohydrates, healthy fats and a sufficient amount of protein.
However, when it comes to the foods I consume there are other aspects I pay attention to besides their nutritional value. One of those aspects is sustainability. The more I was dealing with nutrition, the more I realized something very important: „the right diet“ isn’t just about me and my body. Sure, a major part of how and what we eat is to fulfill our individual needs and to keep our bodies working. But there’s another aspect we should consider: the choices we make everyday, especially when it comes to what we consume, impact our environment, and ultimately this planet, in ways most of us can’t even imagine. That’s why for me, „eating right“ is just as much about making choices that are sustainable and that do as little harm to our planet as possible. So if you have the resources and the capacities to adjust your diet to your own needs and preferences, you should absolutely be able to make choices that are sustainable as well.
I am certainly not perfect in that regard: for example, there is so much science out there that proves that meat consumption in industrialized countries is directly related to climate change. Personally, I still eat meat - but I do try to keep the major part of my diet plant-based. And I can see it in my surroundings, too: a lot of people are trying to make their diets more sustainable by consuming less and less meat products. Take my brother for example: just like me he’s neither a vegetarian, nor a vegan. He has, however, recently stopped consuming beef. Why? Studies that prove the impact of animal agriculture on our planet have shown that beef is actually the most problematic. The reason for that is simply that out of all other animals, cows require the most livestock feed, produce the most methane and are therefore responsible for extremely high carbon dioxide emissions. Of course by now most people are aware that meat consumption in general is hurting our climate and our planet. Animal agriculture is responsible for 80 to 90 percent of water consumption, it’s the leading cause for rainforest destruction and it is directly responsible for the destruction of ecosystems and natural resources.
Even though I’m not a vegetarian myself, I am aware of the fatal consequences of frequent meat consumption. In my opinion this is where everybody’s personal responsibility starts. Of course everyone is free to chose how they want to live their life and/or what they want to eat. However, it is not at all difficult to take little steps towards a sustainable lifestyle - even if that means having one or two meatless days per week, or making more conscious choices when buying meat products (like buying organic meat only). Just because you’re not implementing something a hundred percent, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing small things to create an impact. We can all contribute in some way, with a little effort and a few changes here and there :)
For me, another one of these small efforts is making sure I buy food that is made sustainably. When I shop for food, one of the things that are most important to me is knowing where my food comes from and how it was made. I try to buy organic and seasonal foods whenever I can. If I have the luxury, I prefer buying my fruits and vegetables, and especially meat products, at our local Saturday- market or at the nearest organic store. Again, this is not about being perfect and being one hundred percent consistent - sometimes I’ll buy raspberries in November and I regularly eat bananas (which, as most of us will know, don’t grow in Germany). It’s not the twenty percent of time where you don’t implement something that are crucial - it’s the other eighty percent where you try your best to live your daily life as consciously and sustainably as possible.
Even though organic foods aren’t necessarily healthier than regular foods, there are a few reasons why I prefer buying them: a lot of the time organic foods are less contaminated with pesticides and their growing is done much more sustainably, as is the animal agriculture. Of course it’s important to know that organic doesn’t automatically mean organic (confusing, I know). There is a variety of different organic-seals. Not every organic seal on a product speaks for a higher quality of the product. However, there are certain organic seals where you can be sure that the products have to withhold high standards. In Germany, some of the reliable organic food associations include „Bioland“, „Demeter“ and „Naturland“. They require higher standards than foods that are produced under the regular european organic seal, where the products only have to withhold basic standards to carry the seal. Let me stress this point again, it’s really not about being perfect! I’m also aware that organic products are often a lot more expensive than regular ones. But still you can take little steps in the right direction and try to support organic brands. Especially if you do have the resources and maybe some financial wiggle room. Even if you can’t afford shopping at organic stores only: many of the big supermarket chains have their own organic lines that are really reasonably priced. In that case, check how reliable the organic seal of that supermarket is and whether their organic products are actually produced under higher standards than regular products - which is not always true. But it can be worth it to do a little research and to spend your money on products and foods that have been produced sustainably and eco-friendly.
For me personally, „eating right“ doesn’t just mean eating healthy foods that nourish my body (even though that is certainly a major part of it). Eating right also means doing as little harm to the environment and our planet as possible and creating a positive impact with small things, such as our food choices. I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again: I’m not trying to be perfect here and I don’t think anyone has to be - this is not an „all or nothing“ kind of thing. I’m convinced that little things you do in your daily life will have the biggest impact in the long run - such as more awareness when it comes to how we buy and consume foods. Especially if more and more people start thinking about what changes they can make in their lives to live just a tiny little bit more sustainably. Doesn’t matter if that is reducing your meat consumption, buying more seasonal & organic food, riding your bike to work instead of taking the car or tell others about what you've learned. I believe that most people have the option to create a positive impact - in whatever way that may be.