Letting go of fad diets
People either love working with me or don’t! My approach to nutrition and really all the aspects of lifestyle medicine is quite frankly…boring. I don’t have anything sexy or trendy or edgy when it comes to my treatment plans. Believe me, this is not because of a lack of trying and hoping for something more. In the late 1990’s I was running marathons, eating plain bagels and was exhausted, gaining weight and my period stopped.
I was at a loss as I was following all the nutrition and weight loss trends of that decade. I was eating very low fat and burning more calories (I mean I was training and running friggin marathons) and yet I was feeling worse and worse by the week. From here, I decided to become a vegetarian, that had to be the answer! So I took a bunch of books out from the library (remember this was the 90’s, I could not just follow an online program) and became a strict vegetarian. I felt better for a few weeks and then all of the symptoms came back even worse.
This was when I became exposed to Naturopathic medicine, in my desperation I went to see an “alternative doctor” and within weeks of eating more protein and fat, my period and energy came back. I was overjoyed and intrigued. If these few nutrition changes were enough to shift my physiology so significantly, what else was I missing!
I would love to say that I saw the light and realized that what I learned in grade 3 about nutrition still applied and went on to have a wonderful relationship with food, not so much! For the next decade and a half, I would experiment, recommend and search for the perfect plan.
I have gone through phases of consuming high fat, high protein, no grains, no gluten, no dairy, no carbs, no fruit, juice cleanses. Pretty much every diet that is out there I have tried. I have learned 2 things:
- these diets are not sustainable
- these diets create imbalances in the body.
It has been in practice that I have received the most beautiful lessons about nutrition. It is so much easier to have compassion and kindness with other people. Objectivity is a beautiful thing! I would see patients come in with enough shame to fill a dumpster because they could not “stick” with the diet they were on. They would feel frustrated and wonder why they were not getting the promised results from these programs.
You see many of these mainstream diet approaches are being promoted as lifestyles. Even the language around these things. A person is no longer eating a vegetarian diet or avoiding carbohydrates. They are identified as the label “I am ketogenic”, “I am a vegan” when did how we eat become who we are? This actually makes my heart hurt a little, because of guess what no one, not one person have I seen in practice, can completely follow these strict nutrition guidelines for long periods of time. Sometimes you just want to have a piece of your best friends birthday cake. And the personal disappointment, guilt and betrayal that comes when this happens are so much greater. You have not just stayed from “your diet”, you have actually betrayed your identity. Too…much…pressure!
What am I not talking about here, people who have true gluten intolerances, people who ethical or religious reasons, people who have a medical or naturopathic diagnosis where short term implementation of these diets is important for therapeutic reasons. But if you are just avoiding all grains because it’s on trend or you want to lose weight, I whole heartily believe this is not your best path to reach your goals
So what are we left with, what is the answer? It’s what I call grade 3 nutrition. It is literally what would be the ideal macronutrient balance for an 8 year old. This looks like protein, carb and fat for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as two balanced snacks through out the day, all this and then as much fruit and vegetables as your heart desires! When you eat this way, you naturally consume less empty calories like sugar, salt and refined carbohydrates. Your energy is balanced, your moods stable and your body in a trusting place to burn calories and maintain your ideal body weight.
Effective, achievable and sustainable? Absolutely!