Help! Which Dietary Theory is Right?
Should I be vegan? Paleo? Lacto-ovo vegetarian? Macrobiotic? What about juice fasting, or green smoothies? What about raw food? What about the government’s dietary guidelines, or the recommendations of the American Heart Association?
If you’ve been reading my blog at all, you may know that I am a student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the world’s foremost nutrition school. Something fantastic about this school is that they teach pretty much every dietary theory! Wonderful guest lecturers–expert in their fields, all–come and share their points of view & what they’re up to. I love hearing all the latest; but it can be confusing.
Fortunately, the founder & primary instructor at my school, Joshua Rosenthal, teaches the underlying principle of bio-individuality. It’s what our mothers have been telling us all along: everyone is unique. Every body is unique. It’s very re-assuring to know that when one expert tells us, very convincingly, that a vegan diet is optimal; and then, we hear the very next week that we should be eating plenty of healthy fats from animal products, that they could actually both be right!
I have spoken with many people about what they are eating, & what they have eaten in the past, & their state of health. I can tell you without question that what works really well for someone will not work for another type of person. When I was younger, I was a vegetarian for 7 years. But when I was expecting my first child, I began to crave meat. That was the end of my stint as a vegetarian; but I still eat very little meat, compared with the “average American.” Still, when I have quit eating meat for a few weeks, I begin to feel awful– not the “lighter, cleaner feeling” that vegans tell me I will feel. (I do not eat dairy because it does not agree with me– except for occasional goat & sheep milk products.) Yet I do know vegans who seem very healthy.
There is another factor at work here, one which I seldom see addressed. The eating plan that works for you today may not be the same one that is best a month or a year from now. Your age, state of health, geographical location, daily activities, & more affect what your optimal nutrition will be. I know of people who have done very well on a juice fast for weeks at a time. Eventually, however, these folks began eating foods. I know of people who have healed serious diseases using extreme diets & fasting; but that is not how people should typically eat for long periods of time.
Other factors to consider are your ancestry, family situation, food allergies…and the list goes on. The best thing you can do is to really pay attention to how you feel. Educating yourself about nutrition has never been easier from the standpoint of finding information. So, if you’re not feeling great, do a little research. It’s entirely possible that a few simple changes in your eating habits could make a big difference for you. A health coach can help you with this, too. After all, health coaches find it fun to do nutrition research, while it may not be so exciting for you.
I hope to take a closer look at some popular dietary theories in my future posts, so stay tuned.
Of course, if you are having a serious health concern, you should see your doctor or other qualified professional. Even then, you may find that the right foods can help you quite a lot.