Diets – One Size Does Not Fit All – Part II
Am I Really Eating The Right Food?
Have you been caught saying, “I’m Paleo” or “I’m High Fat, Low Carb?” Since when did we start identifying ourselves as the food we eat? This is really taking the old adage, “You are what you eat” quite literally. I only say this because I think we have gotten to a point with diets and food where we are so enthusiastic about a particular food trend, that we have lost sight of what is truly important. That is, are the foods that you are eating, appropriate for your metabolism, biochemistry and overall well-being? I have no intention of beating up on one dietary camp versus another. Rather, the goal of this article is to suggest another way to think about diets, food and health.
First, a bit of a soap box. We have got to stop calling our food lifestyles, diets. The only reason I used the word ‘diet’ in the title is because I knew this would be the only way to get your attention. The word ‘diet’ originates from the Old French word ‘diete’ and Latin word ‘diaita’ meaning ‘a way of life.’ Defined as a noun in Oxford’s Dictionary, a diet refers to the “kinds of foods that a person, animal or community habitually eats.” Now, that doesn’t sound so bad, right? We should be thinking of our habits relating to food as a way of life or a lifestyle. Unfortunately, it is the definition of diet as a verb that poses a problem. To diet is to “restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.” Now that just sounds painful. We have come to think of this word as synonymous with restrictive, temporary, impossible and frustrating. It’s a set up for failure! Is it true that you should restrict or limit foods that provide no nutritional value and could potentially harm you like processed fast foods and soda- of course, YES! But instead of thinking of our entire lives at the kitchen table or in a restaurant as restrictive and impossible, why can’t we switch gears and again think of this as a way of life. I personally prefer to think of my eating habits as a nutritional lifestyle or mindful eating. Try it, you might like it.
Now onto the crux of the article. In our society, particularly our medical society, we often believe that what works for one person must work for the next person. This is the all too popular, ‘one-size, fits all’ approach that I refer to in Part I of this article. As much as I wish this approach were true so that I could look good in skinny jeans and crop tops, it just isn’t. We are all unique, special individuals that have distinctive genetics, cellular biochemistry and body systems. This is why utilizing one nutritional approach because it’s popular or cool or touted as the best weight loss program, may not be the way to go. It is far more important to know what your body is going to do with that fat, protein and carbohydrate once you’ve consumed it than it is to be a part of a trend.
One such way to assess what may be your best nutritional approach is with hair mineral analysis or HMA. As we discussed in part I, HMA assesses the mineral content at the hair root over a two to three month time span. Based on the balance of various minerals in the hair, inferences can be made about what is going on in the body at the cellular level. One key finding on hair mineral analysis is the oxidation rate or metabolic rate. The oxidation rate can give you an idea of how your metabolism works or at what rate you process food. For example, fast oxidizers metabolize fat, protein and carbohydrates at a faster rate than normal, while slow oxidizers metabolize fat, protein and carbohydrates at a slower rate than normal. This tool can be useful in helping determine if you will tolerate fats over carbohydrates or if you need a little more protein to sustain. Wouldn’t you feel better if you knew that what you were consuming agreed with your body? Testing, like HMA, gets you one step closer to figuring out what kinds of macronutrients may be best suited for you specifically. Another advantage of HMA is that regular assessment of your mineral balance can help you to adjust your food needs accordingly. As your body shifts from one oxidation type to the other, you can proactively add and delete nutrients as necessary.
Another issue to consider when it comes to nutritional lifestyles is where you are on the spectrum of disease. Are you suffering from obesity or other inflammatory conditions? Do you have cancer? Has your gallbladder been removed? Depending on your current health status, your nutritional needs should be tailored in such a way to help halt and/or reverse your current disease state. For instance, if I subscribe to a Weston A. Price or Ketogenic lifestyle and consume abundant amounts of delicious fat, but don’t have a gallbladder or proper liver function to make bile- ingesting, enjoying and digesting butter and lard can be quite difficult and unpleasant. Likewise, if I have developed an autoimmune disease like lupus, multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis and eat lots of peppers, eggplant and potato (veggies that are part of the nightshade group of vegetables, believed to trigger immune responses in those with autoimmunity and common in Paleo, vegetarian and many other diet programs), I can bet that inflammation will ensue and I won’t be at my best. Get it- individualization!
The last thing I’d like for you to think about with regard to nutrition and food is that assessment of how you feel during and after each meal can be an amazing way to individualize your diet. For instance, maybe you are still hungry after your spinach-stuffed chicken and sweet potato dinner. This may indicate that you need more fiber in your meal for satiety. You then add more veggies at your next meal and feel amazing. This can sometimes be the easiest way to know what your body wants and needs. I would, however, exercise caution with this being the only approach to nutritional assessment, as sometimes our bodies are so out of whack that hunger and lack of energy after a meal are actually signs of underlying pathology like food allergies or poor gut health and could be mistaken as the body’s healthy call to action.
So maybe the best nutritional lifestyle for you is a Keto-Autoimmune Paleo-Blood type eating plan or possibly the Zonegenic-Price-Vegan way of life. Maybe a combination of the best components of any of today’s healthful diet plans coupled with awareness of your bodies needs might just be the secret to your success. Adding and deleting particular foods or food groups from a specific plan, combining certain foods while emphasizing specific macronutrients based on your unique self just might give you the most bang for your buck when it comes to a healthy body weight, physical fitness, emotional and mental well-being and overall health!