I’m pretty sure this blog isn’t going to go where most people want it to go… I think many will be looking for the diet secret or a final answer about which “diet” they should follow. Should you follow a ketogenic diet? Paleo? Gluten free? Maybe a FODMAP diet??? All meat…no meat. No sugar. No lectins. How about no fun?!
Which one is the right one? Everyone that writes a book about a particular diet makes a great case for the diet they are promoting. We start to think that just maybe this diet will be the diet. Most people are looking for ways to lose weight and others want to have more energy and less pain. Ultimately the “diet” you are on should be as flexible and ever changing as the human body is. Diet simply means the food that we eat to give us optimal health. It doesn’t have a finite beginning and end. Thinking it is “just for right now” is how people get on the diet roller coaster…they aren’t viewing what they are doing as a lifestyle change, just a quick fix. Many do it until they achieve whatever results they are looking for (often times weight loss) and then they go back to what they were doing before. Or the diet is so restrictive that they can’t keep it up and get frustrated and move on to another less restrictive diet or just give up altogether for a while and eat everything and anything!
Why should we think about flexibility in a diet? Our body will strive to adapt to whatever new dumb idea we come up with. It will rob Peter to pay Paul all day long if it has to! Which means if you go on a calorie restricted diet for too long, the body will think that it’s starving and work even harder to conserve energy and/or store fat. At first the eating-less-principle seems to work but there is always that point where the body says enough is enough. Bottom line here, eat enough to maintain a healthy weight and make sure when you are exercising more, you are eating more.
Let’s talk about food sensitivities for a minute…. I know this might be opening a can of worms (don’t worry I won’t suggest you eat them) but I want to give you something to think about here…. Oh, and before I go further, DISCLAIMER: I’m talking about sensitivities,not outright allergies where eating something makes you seriously ill or results in death. When we have a reaction to food it is important to figure out why. Is it a true allergy or is it a reflection of poor digestion and a weakened gut lining? Which, ultimately means we also have a weakened immune system. I’m not suggesting that every food is good for everyone! But I am suggesting that we should look at our symptoms as information being given to us for further investigation. In my mid-twenties to early thirties I was definitely acquiring more environmental allergies along with food sensitivities. I wasn’t making good dietary choices at all…I considered Diet Coke a necessary part of my diet back then and water being a bit more optional. (I can literally hear the gasps from my patients who just read that sentence!) I didn’t necessarily eat too much food but the majority of it was processed and often times fast food. While I was “getting by” physically, my symptoms, food related or not, were continuing to get worse…. Basically, I couldn’t really tolerate dairy, steaks (ground beef was ok) or anything remotely spicy. I didn’t like any vegetables except maybe green beans and broccoli. Oh, and I loved anything bread like and potatoes!!! Fast forward a little and I survived chiropractic college with still no real idea about what my diet was doing to my health or what I needed to change.
There were a couple of things that made a big difference for me. First, I tried to go on an Atkin’s Diet. (Twenty years ago, it was called Atkin’s now it’s the Keto Diet) I got so sick, that after 3 days I had to stop. And yes, I was doing it properly. There was so much more fat and protein than what I was used to eating, with very little carbohydrates, I felt exhausted, bloated and just all around awful. The truth was that I had poor digestion that couldn’t break down the fats and protein, and some pretty tired adrenals that needed more carbohydrates to fuel my metabolism. (Note: I had 4 kids at this point, recently graduated and living in a completely new place. Key point is the 4 kids!) I’m was feeling pretty frustrated at this point.
I won’t go into the details about how it came about but the next two significant things that changed for me was digestive enzymes and doing the Standard Process 21 Day Purification. For 3 weeks, I had more fiber in my diet than ever before, lots of vegetables and moderate amount of protein and fat. It was exactly what my body needed to make the shift. It wasn’t a Keto diet or a Paleo diet. It was just a very clean diet. It was dairy free, gluten free and Diet Coke free. 😊 To be honest, it changed my life. As stubborn as I can be at times, I can’t ignore what I know and what makes a difference. Because ultimately, I want to feel good and be healthy. Especially if I am going to help others, I need to follow my own advice. So, I gave up the Diet Coke, ate more of a Mediterranean type diet and chose whole food supplements, herbs and digestive enzymes to help me where I needed.
I’m not allergic or sensitive to gluten but I choose to eat it minimally and find the least processed sources when possible. I totally love steak and spicier foods! And dairy…. well, we are still working out our issues. Basically, when I can get raw, grass fed dairy, I do great. If it’s heavily processed, I struggle to break down the casein. I have also noticed that I don’t do well with a lot of starches such as quinoa and rice. Small amounts are ok but more than that and I will put on weight. (I’m pretty sure it’s payback for all the copious amounts I ate in my 20’s!) My environmental allergies and allergies to cats all went away too. A LOT changed for me! I will also tell you my diet isn’t that same as it was twenty years ago or even 10 years ago. Essentially, I am paying attention to when I am hungry and fueling my body with healthy foods that nourish it.
I needed a different kind of diet 20 years ago. My hormones were different and my gut was pretty trashed. So, my point is that we change and as we change we have to figure out what is working for us and what isn’t. To keep doing the same thing and expect different results is just insane! One of my best friends does high intensity work outs and when she tried to be more ketogenic, it didn’t work for her. She needs more protein and carbohydrates to feel good and function at a high level for her. Btw, she’s 12 years younger than me. I have another friend who does a healthy ketogenic diet with intermittent fasting Monday through Thursday and eats a little more freely on the weekend. And that works great for him! Another hint, what works for men doesn’t always work the same for women, especially if they are still having their menstrual cycle.
I know you want a simple answer and were probably hoping I would tell which diet is the diet to follow. I do think there are certain foods that never serve us well and put undue stress on the body. For instance, keep the amount of added sugar in your diet to less than 25g per day. Make sure you are getting enough fiber and water daily to support proper elimination and to keep your GI tract healthy. Eat enough protein, fat and carbohydrates to keep your mood and energy up and maintain a healthy weight. Portion control is key too. You can eat all the healthiest organic foods you want, but too much is still too much! Play with what you are eating and change it up to see if those changes make you feel better. You are the only person that knows exactly how you feel inside!
I think there are so many great books out there with brilliant suggestions but they won’t work for everyone. Jade Teta, ND says frequently, you have to be your own health detective! He couldn’t be more right. Why would you turn your body over to someone else (like on the internet) or follow a book written by someone who doesn’t know you and disregard the work you need to do to make yourself feel better??? One of my early mentors talked about how doing the kind of endocrine work that I do, is like a participation sport; everyone has to be involved! Which means I don’t have a magic pill that can override all the bad decisions a person makes! Being healthy is an inside out job. It matters what you eat, how you move and how you think. EVERYONE can be better, feel better and live better!
Cheers to everyone and wishing you all a little less dietary stress!
P.S. One of my new favorite books is Eat in Peace to Live in Peace by Charlotte Keikel. Also, check out Jade Teta on Instagram or FB.