I’m going to say this right up front so there’s no confusion. There is no one size fits all diet!
There is no single diet that is best for everyone.
This is the point where the dedicated diet loyalist waive their fists in anger at my “ignorance”. No folks, I’m not ignorant, I’ve done a lot of research and one thing has become painfully clear to me, there is no “best” diet for everyone.
So before you go flipping out and calling me a heretic please hear me out.
First I’m not arguing the merits of a whole foods based diet versus a typical standard (chemical laden, processed, & nutrient deficient) diet. That battle has been won. Whole foods win every time.
If you are reading this and still eating processed packaged, microwavable, canned, bottled, fast-food friendly crap please just stop already. So just to be clear you should be eating an unprocessed whole foods based diet. Got it?
What I am saying is that within the spectrum of real food lies a variety of diets, and while all these diets have merits and are excellent for some, none are perfect for all.
There are a lot of eating plans but let’s look at a few of the most popular whole foods based diets. There’s the JERF diet (just eat real food), the traditional foods diet (think raw whole milk, fermented foods, and cod-liver oil) then there’s Paleo, and vegetarian, vegan, and finally raw food diets. ALL of these ways of eating have substantial merit. Seriously, you should get to know each one.
As long as the diet is based on nutritious whole foods there will be people who will benefit from one of these. But to say that any of these diets is THE way to eat for everyone is just plain wrong.
Different people, different needs
People are genetically different. Yes I know, stating the obvious here but stay with me folks.
One person may thrive on plants while another may feel only tiredness and misery. Lots of meat and healthy fats may work great for some, but others will feel heavy and bloated.
One consideration is genetic heritage. My friend who traces her ancestry to the Norse is going to be genetically inclined to eat very differently that my friend whose ancestors roamed Mesoamerica.
One group of people may have subsisted on mostly animal fat and relatively few plants while the other had no easy sources of meat, and mostly lived off native plants, tubers, and grains.
You also have to consider the nutritional profiles of each region. A lack of sunlight in the north made eating cod livers a smart idea, thanks to all that vitamin D stored in them. In contrast Native Americans roaming the Southwest probably didn’t need to worry about finding food sources of vitamin D. Different geography equals different evolved needs.
Different nutritional needs
People also have different nutritional needs, for example, a woman hoping to get pregnant needs different ratios of fats and nutrients versus a middle-aged man, versus a four-year-old boy.
If you’re battling a disease, depression, an autoimmune disorder, autism, or cancer, then that too must be considered. See where I’m headed with this.
If you are seeking the “perfect” diet, what you really want is the best diet for your unique situation.
Different food sensitivities
Then we have to look at food sensitivities and intolerances.
Many holistic practitioners prescribe elimination diets to determine what someone is sensitive to. This approach has helped countless people identify food sensitives and alleviated many illnesses and disorders.
If there were a “perfect” way of eating all this would be totally unnecessary because everyone would thrive on the exact same group of foods. Food intolerances exists because we are all unique.We should be listening to our bodies not forcing ourselves into someone else's idea of the perfect diet.Click To Tweet
Next you have to consider environmental challenges.
A person living in a polluted city probably has different needs that someone who is getting fresh country air.
If you are under a ton of stress your body will need different nutrients.
Have you been on prescription meds lately, because many medications deplete essential nutrients in your body.
Your environment matters and affects your unique nutritional needs.
Have you had a round of antibiotics in the last few years, because if you have you should be doing everything you can to recover your microbiome.
Do you have “silver” mercury fillings, have a job where you are exposed to chemicals, or do you drink fluoridated water? If so you’ll have to consider the best detoxing foods and DNA protecting foods for your situation.
I could keep coming up with scenarios, but I think you can see how these unique circumstances start adding up.
Support for the individual approach
As a health coach, I greatly admired the late doctor Nicholas Gonzales who ran a successful clinic treating cancer patients with alternative therapies.
Dr. Gonzales had an impressive success rate and unlike some other therapies, he tailored his recommended diets to the individual genetic markers.
Some of his patients thrived on a raw foods diet; others needed a heavy daily dose of red meat. Dr. Gonzales understood there is no one size fits all, and his willingness to go against the grain allowed him to successfully treat many sick and dying patients.
If you think about it this makes total sense.
Consider that within every stringent diet community you will have people who praise it as THE best thing that ever happened to them, and others who feel like something must be wrong because they are not thriving at all. Just read the reviews for all the top diets, whether it’s Paleo, raw food, or traditional foods movement.
There’s always someone who no matter how dedicated just won’t thrive on that prescribed diet. Instead of making these people feel inadequate we should be reminding them that listening to their bodies is THE best thing they can do.
It makes total sense. But still the proponents of certain diets claim their diet is THE best out there. That’s just arrogance and ignorance. I’m not saying these diet gurus are being malicious; I think they are devoted to their plans precisely because they care about people and also because people have benefited from the diet. But anyone who claims there is a one size fits all approach to diet simply isn’t looking at all the data.
Bloggers pushing cookie cutter diets for all
I have to admit that it bothers the heck out of me when I read the newest (shining star) blogger preaching that their diet is THE best for EVERYONE. The best diet for some, sure, but everyone?
When people in these diet circles bring up feeling bad or run down these gurus chastise them for not following protocol (I’ve seen some awful bullying comments from bloggers in forums and post comments). These miserable participants are told to give it more time, be more strict, hold out longer.
It’s basically like being in a cult where everyone shames you for asking the wrong questions. Well, I call bullshit.
Look, I’m not saying diets like Paleo, gluten-conscious vegetarianism, or raw foods aren’t great for lots of people. They are. I actually agree with a lot of the principles for each and I know they work for many.
I’ve seen people thrive on Paleo and have recommended it.
I’ve also seen people cured of cancer and other diseases by following a raw foods diet in conjunction with other natural treatments.
And pregnant (or trying to get pregnant) mamas usually do best on a traditional foods diet with tons of good fats.
Each (whole foods based) diet has merit. No one is arguing that point.
Remember this isn’t about crowning one winning eating plan, there simply isn’t one. It’s about educating yourself about the different ways of eating (all whole foods based of course) then looking at your own unique needs and trying to find a good fit.
Listening to what your body is telling you
If you’ve stuck to a plan for a good length of time and find that you simply aren’t thriving then that’s your body telling you it needs a different approach. Maybe a tweak here and there, maybe it needs an elimination of a certain food, or maybe you need to include things you’ve excluded.
The most important thing (that I rarely see mentioned) is listening to your body.
It takes patience and a level of connectedness that you’re probably missing in this busy life, but you NEED to learn to listen to your body.
Pay attention to your energy levels, note your aches, monitor your digestion…tune into the song (or cry) of your own beautiful body.
The most important lesson in all this is that your body is the best teacher you can find. If you respect it, connect to it, and listen to it, it will share wonders with you.
So do your homework and try something that makes sense for YOU but above all listen to your body and respond kindly.
If you want to check out a broad beginner friendly guide to healthy whole-foods based eating, you can read my post a Beginner’s Guide to Clean Eating, it’s not specific to any single plan (paleo, vegetarian, etc.) but rather a good whole foods based approach to healthy eating that avoids toxins as much as possible.
How about you? have you encountered this kind of diet bullying? have you found out the hard way a diet that everyone loves isn’t right for you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Until next time lovely families!
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