January 6, 2023
Is it low carb? Or flexible dieting? Or fasting? Or counting macros? Or 3 meals a day? Or 5 meals a day? Or Low FODMAP? Or elimination diet? What about vegan or carnivore? Wowzas... just even writing that down makes my head spin... and I'm a nutritionist. This post isn't designed to give you the answer of what is "right" for you, but rather to give you the tools to figure it out.
Where to start:
First you have to ask yourself a few questions.
Without knowing what your goals are, it's hard to define where you are wanting to go on your nutrition journey. Without knowing your current state of health, you could choose a nutrition path that could do more harm than good. You will read more about this below. Reflecting on past attempts to dial in your nutrition and identifying past and current obstacles is crucial to being successful in the path you choose. Too many times I see that obstacle being the individual trying to make the change. They just aren't ready. You know the saying, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." That couldn't be truer in the health and wellness space. Until you are ready to take responsibility and action, no lasting change will happen. You must be really ready to take that first step and prepared for the subsequent ones after that.
Now to Weed Through It All:
Below are some of the most common current trends toward nutrition. I am going to explain briefly what they are and then explain who they are typically "good" for and who they may not be a great path for. But before I do that, I have to say, ABOVE ALL ELSE, no type of "diet" is going to help you if you're eating processed food loaded with crappy oils and refined sugars. No matter what approach to nutrition you take, if you're sticking to mainly whole, unprocessed foods, you're going to be in good shape.
Now, to dive in...
There is no strict definition of what it means to be low carbohydrate, but, eating 100-150g or less of carbs a day is considering "low carb". Why is this good? It can be good for people who struggle with blood sugar handling issues (insulin resistance) and want to lose fat. Usually when people go low carb, they already cut out most of the processed foods. But be careful, foods labeled “keto” or “gluten free” or “low carb” are still processed. Remember, whole foods are the name of the game.
Who could Low Carb be good for?
Who is low carb likely not for:
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that cycles between set times of eating and not eating (fasting). These times can vary. IF usually results in a caloric deficit, improved insulin sensitivity, reduced inflammation, and cellular repair through autophagy.
Who could IF be good for?
Who is IF likely not for?
This isn’t necessarily a “diet” but it’s become pretty popular to count your macros. That basically means weighing and measuring your food to fit into a specific amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates each day. Counting macros usually doesn’t account for the type of food, just the amount of food. I will say it again, eating real, whole food needs to be first. Then, if you want to dial in macronutrients to work toward a specific goal, that is up to you. However, I will note, in my experience, this isn’t a long-term way of living. It takes a lot of time and discipline to weigh and measure everything you put in your mouth.
Who could Macros be good for?
Who is counting macros likely not for?
A diet that is low in fermentable carbohydrates with the idea of healing the gut. This isn’t necessarily a forever diet, but more of a way to heal the gut so that you can better process foods.
Who could Low FODMAP be good for?
Who is Low FODMAP not for:
An elimination diet just means that you eliminate certain food(s) for a set amount of time to let the body have a break from them and then have a structured reintroduction to the food later. The goal of this is typically to health the gut and to find if someone has a sensitivity to certain foods. The most common foods in an elimination diet are gluten/grains, eggs, dairy. But this can be used for any food that you feel may give you some discomfort.
An elimination diet can be good for anyone. It should be done under some type of instruction from a professional though.
These two diets are based on full elimination of a certain food group. Carnivores only eat animal products. Vegans won’t eat any animal products. There are people that do well on both, but I would say long term, most people don’t thrive on either. If you decide to try either of these, my suggestion is to work with a professional as there are key nutrients that both are missing that will need to be supplemented for. I personally, and professionally, don’t agree with either of these diets. But I do understand and fully respect that religious, spiritual, and ethical beliefs may have someone choose either of these paths. I just ask that if you do, please take into consideration that quality matters, whole foods is still the name of the game and supplementation is going to be necessary.
Okay, there you have it. Remember, the "right" approach to nutrition is the one that works for YOU! Not the one that works for your gym buddy or your cousin or your spouse. We are all different bodies, with different experiences and different goals. Keeping in mind the basic principles of a healthy diet, nutrition should be looked at from an individual perspective. If you're wanting some individual guidance, please don't hesitate to reach out. I'd love to help you.
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