Could you imagine if we walked into Nordstrom and were offered one style and size of shoe, say a 6” stiletto in a size 7? Or what about going to get a bathing suit and only being given the option of a bikini in a size 2?
Quite frankly, this sounds like hell on earth to me.
So that begs the question, why do we approach diets as if one specific diet is the best diet for everyone? Keto, Mediterraneon, Whole30, Atkins, Vegan, Raw, Paleo, Vegetarian, Weight Watchers, The Zone, Southbeach… OR you HAVE to follow a 40/30/30 macro profile to lose weight… You get the gist. There are SOOO many ‘diets’ out there that come and go and while they’re a trend, a lot of folks will swear on the Bible that their diet is superior and YOU should follow it… and when you do, you inevitably compare yourself to others who’ve gone through it and if your results aren’t as great as someone else’s then you resolve to throwing in the towel and going back to your old habits. Sound familiar?
I’ll never forget when I first moved to Washington, D.C. back in 2007. I was still going through my cervical cancer recovery and autoimmune diagnoses and trying to figure out how to feel human again. I got a job working at the International Economic Development Council just around the corner from the White House (which, to me at the time, was the coolest), and I met a gal there who, to me, was #goals. She was a vegan. We would go out to lunch together and I’d try what she was eating and it was good. So I decided that being a vegan was right for me too. I’ll never forget one day when our boss insisted on treating us to lunch at his favorite restaurant, Bobby Van’s, a well-known steakhouse in D.C. The only ‘vegan’ option on the menu at the time was a side of broccoli without butter… I’m not kidding, they brought out an ENTIRE HEAD of steamed broccoli on a plate, with a steak knife. To say that was entertaining for everyone at the table would be an understatement, but I happily dug in knowing that my vegan friend was also enjoying the same thing and clearly what worked for her would work for me too and I’d lose unwanted weight and be healthier than ever. *Sidenote: She also smoked cigarettes like a chimney, glad I didn’t take up that habit.
During my 18 months as a vegan, Trader Joe’s became my best friend. I mean, he’s still pretty much one of my BFF’s but with all of the affordable vegan options at Trader Joe’s, I felt like he just made my life so much easier. I could browse the aisles (yes, I said aisles) to pick out the very best vegan processed foods I could find. My coworkers would affectionately call my vegan chicken breast “ficken” (fake chicken), and I felt like I was really on the top of my game because, after all, I was a vegan. During that time I gained weight, felt hungry all the time, my skin was awful, energy was non-existent, and I continued to battle with my health as my psoriasis was worse than ever AND I had to have 3 more biopsies during those 18 months. Then I met and started dating my husband, an avid hunter and lover of all things meat and potatoes. He tried my vegan concoctions and liked some of them, and I slowly tried some of the food he ate and I noticed a substantial change in how I felt after eating things like wild game. And I’m not saying that all meals were 100% processed for me, but the majority of my plate was processed… I realized I needed to figure out something new for ME that would help me feel good. Alas, Veganism didn’t make me look like my old co-worker and I was downright mad that it didn’t.
Now, I, personally, eat a whole-foods based diet that most would consider “Paleo”. That means foods that are foraged and easily eaten with minimal cooking, like how our Paleolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors ate. It consists of meat, veggies, some fruit, nuts, healthy fats, etc… It’s pretty easy for me, and I love how it makes me feel. I’m healthier than I’ve been my whole life, and it works for ME. It’s anti-inflammatory too, which means I can easily manage my autoimmune disease while preventing other chronic diseases that are so common when consuming the Standard American Diet (SAD). It’s also a big part in why I choose to hunt for elk every year and harvest a purely organic, free-range animal for myself and my family- but we’ll save that story for another place and time.
The Ketogenic Diet is wildly popular at the moment, and so I often get asked my thoughts on the diet and people want to dive in feet first because they saw someone on Instagram lose 150 lbs in 4 months doing Keto… First of all, Keto is not new. It’s been used by the holistic community for years to help treat Type 2 Diabetes and Cancer… why? Because the diet is specifically designed to lower and maintain stable insulin levels in your body, which in turns help Type 2 Diabetics reduce their need for insulin and Cancer patients are able to literally starve their tumors because Cancer feeds on glucose… this is greatly simplifying the process, but Keto is shown very effective in suppressing both diabetes and cancer. This diet gets your body into a Ketogenic state, which means your body switches from using glucose for energy to using ketones as energy, which essentially means your body uses fat for energy (hence the weight loss). It means you’re consuming about 80% of your calories every day from fat, it should NOT mean you’re sitting around eating bacon and spoonfuls of butter. Yes, I’ve done Keto (I literally experiment with every diet so I’m more informed how to coach clients through one IF it’s one that fits their individual situation) and while I did like it, there are just some of those days where you really crave an apple or a sweet potato.
The point that I’m trying to make here is that there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to a particular diet. What works for you may not work for someone else, and that’s OK. I will add, however, that if you choose a diet that encourages processed foods that that specific diet creates and endorses (read: Jenny Craig, Isagenix, Atkins, Weight Watchers, South Beach), then I encourage you to step away and focus on REAL food. Keep it simple. When people ask for my advice about what diet they should do, my answer is always the same (and vague at the same time). Anti-inflammatory. I hope that becomes the dietary buzzword of the year. #antiinflammatory 🙂 Simply implementing anti-inflammatory principals in to your diet, which EVERYONE can benefit from, is a great place to start. Inflammation leads to obesity, hormone imbalance, chronic illness and disease, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disease, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease… the list goes on and on. The best part of incorporating anti-inflammatory elements in to your diet is that it’s simple, and you can pick and choose which ones work for YOU and which ones don’t.
Here’s an easy breakdown of how you can get started on an anti-inflammatory ‘diet’:
- Add anti-inflammatory foods to your diet like cold-water fish, berries, tree nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens, and other whole, real foods.
- Include more organic food in your life (Costco has a great selection!)
- Increase fiber in your diet (read: WHOLE FOODS)
- Take a probiotic supplement
- Switch to healthy fats like Avocado Oil, Coconut Oil, Olive Oil
- Reduce your sugar intake
- Cut out junk food and fast food (this food does not serve you)
- Throw out stale food, including poor cooking oils like vegetable or canola oils
- Reduce salt intake
- Reduce trans fat intake
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol
Per usual, you won’t find me saying that you need to do ALL of these at once. But take some time to sit back and evaluate your current eating patterns. Make a list of the things you regularly consume and how they make you feel. Do those foods make you feel good and give you energy, do they serve you? Or do they leave you feeling fatigued or mentally groggy? From there, evaluate the lists above to see which elements you want to incorporate and then give them a try. Small changes over a period of time lead to bigger results and set you up for better success at truly making this a LIFESTYLE change, and not just a diet. It’s OK for your progress to be slow, it’s OK for your journey to look different than someone else’s. Take ownership of your own health and focus on you. When you turn the focus on yourself and away from comparing yourself to others, that’s when the change happens.
As always, happy to answer any questions you may have about any particular diet of interest, and as always I’ll give you my 100% honest opinion. Diets have their time and place, and most often we don’t need a ‘diet’, we need a lifestyle reset.