With all the food bloggers, misleading news stories, and documentaries around today, it’s not surprising that I often hear, “What should I eat?!?” Do you follow the advice of your vegan friend, or does that paleo blog know where it’s at? All the advice seems contradictory. And what’s worse, just when you think you’ve got it figured out, the rules change!
So what’s right?
What should I eat?!?
The short answer is: I don’t know. I know that sounds strange coming from a nutritionist, but it’s the truth. If we’ve just met, I have no clue what you should eat. Why not? Because no two people have the same dietary needs.
A lot of food gurus seem to forget this fact. There is no one diet that will heal the world. Sorry, but it’s true. It’s one of the first things we learn in nutrition school. Based on gender, age, weight, height, body type, activity level, country of origin, and constitution, everyone needs different things. Some people do well on high fat diets. Some people do well on more carbohydrates. There’s a reason you feel terrible on the diet your neighbour swears by: IT’S NOT RIGHT FOR YOU!!
To illustrate this point, one of our profs prescribed our entire class the same diet. We were supposed to follow it for 5 days, and report on our experience. Some people thrived on the diet. They were never hungry, and had energy to spare. Some people were lethargic and miserable. Me? I passed out on day 2 and had to abandon the diet, because it was seriously detrimental to my health.
Quantity-wise, it was enough food. That part of the diet was adjustable based on individual calorie needs. It only specified what types of foods to eat at what time of day. Those recommendations sent my blood sugar levels into a tailspin, while it balanced out some of my classmates.
Finding what works
Understanding your body’s needs takes time, and a lot of trial and error. Are you starving again soon after a meal? You may need to include more fat. Energy crash after your mid-afternoon pretzels? Balance out your blood sugar by pairing pretzels with peanuts. Having a nutritionist on hand to help can be useful, but I understand that’s not always financially feasible. You can do a lot of this work on your own by adding variety to your diet and seeing what makes you feel your best.
What used to work doesn’t anymore!
You’ve made a drastic change to your meal plan. You used to eat mostly carbs, and switched to a strict low-carb diet. You feel fantastic. Your energy is up, your skin is glowing, you’re on top of the world! Then, all of a sudden, you don’t feel so good anymore. You cut even MORE carbs, but only feel worse. What’s going on?
Well, often, diet changes work like a pendulum. When your pendulum swung from high-carb to low-carb, your body found middle ground. Then, when you kept cutting carbs, your pendulum started swinging too far the other way. The more you tried to commit to your diet, the farther you swung from centre. Instead of cutting more carbs, you need to ADD some to bring you back to balance.
Unless you’re battling a severe illness that requires a strict diet, I don’t recommend diets to anyone. It’s far more beneficial to eat a wide range of foods – some that make you feel good physically, and some that make you feel good mentally.
So, when you watch that scary documentary that makes you want to throw out everything in your pantry, stop for a minute. The (often dubious) science they’re citing may not be right for you. Maybe their experiment only included the 20 people who did REALLY WELL on the prescribed diet, not the 20 who were miserable, or the one who passed out from it. At the end of the day, you’re the best judge of what works for you.
And if you’re having trouble judging for yourself? You can find me at Moberly, or contact me via the methods below.
About The Author:
Kelly Boaz, CNP
Kelly is a holistic nutritionist, specializing in eating disorder recovery and food freedom. She is also a public speaker (TEDx King St. West, TDSB) and a writer. Learn more about Kelly, and about booking private consultations at kellyboaz.com Twitter: @kelly_boaz Facebook: /KellyBoazDotCom