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.


  1. Sean Breslin

    I’m of the belief that if you eat healthy foods and keep a good exercise routine, a specific diet isn’t necessary.

    • Sean, thanks for stopping by! I basically agree with you. Unfortunately, some people don’t have that luxury because of health issues or food allergies. The ideal for these folks would be to heal, & then have lots of freedom; but the reality is that some of us have to restrict what we eat for many years. I’m glad your health is such that you can enjoy life without worrying about food!

  2. This is a really great post, Mollie, and it points out what a lot of people don’t understand (which, in my opinion, leads to some people being very unhealthy even though they follow a “healthy” diet).

  3. I have been roughly but not religiously following a balanced diet plan that I learned–WOW–about 30 years ago and it has served me very well. However, I have been awestruck by the mounting evidence against modern wheat–which coincidentally my diet has always had very little of. Since I have relatively fewer health and weight issues than my similar-aged peers, I had to believe there was too much bread and pasta in the average diet and in the official food guides.

    Having noticed the stunning changes in people’s health who have quit eating wheat, and then recently found out that my 73-year-old father CURED a long-standing thyroid disorder AND his diabetes (Type II) by simply eliminating wheat, I have read the book WHEAT BELLY and am converted!

    Modern wheat is not real food and has been linked to very serious health problems I highly recommend reading the book to anyone. However, for those with serious weight issues or diabetes this book could change your life.

    • Thank you so much for your sharing your story of a successful food experience! I am very inclined to agree with you about wheat. I have not yet read “Wheat Belly,” but it has been mentioned to me several times, & the author gave a lecture at my school. It’s on my short list of books to read soon.

      • Lucky you having that author to your school!

        Best wishes with your food adventures.

      • Thank you!

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