If you’ve read my bio, you probably think I have really strong feelings on what the best diet is for everyone.
For example, I mentioned that I lost a lot of weight by going vegan, so you might think I recommend a vegan diet for weight loss and optimal health.
But wait, I also said that I enjoy lifting weights, so that must mean that I follow a high-protein, low-carb diet, right?
But, I also mentioned that I’m a personal trainer and that I taught fitness boot camps, so surely that puts me in the low-fat, moderate carbs camp.
Oh, but let’s not forget the fact that I enjoy training martial arts, and we all know athletes need a lot of carbohydrates, right?
Getting confused yet?
Selling Diet Confusion
Sadly, this is exactly what the average consumer goes through when they try to determine the best diet to follow to help them achieve their fitness, health, and weight loss goals. That’s partially because vendors in the diet industry make a good deal of money off of the public’s lack of nutrition knowledge, and partially because anecdotal evidence often = fact in the fitness and weight loss industries.
The thing is, there are more diet programs than you can shake a stick at, and almost all of them claim to be the right one for everyone. But simple logic tells us that, in the face of conflicting opinions, not every opinion can be right. Yet, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all diets except one are “wrong” or that all diet experts are purposely misleading you for their own personal gain.
In fact, all of the diet programs I mention above have at least some clinical study or research to back them up. Look hard enough, and you can find a study to back up almost any of the popular diet programs out there. But, does that necessarily mean that a particular diet program will be right for you?
So, Which Diet Is Right For You?
I had already decided to write this post today when I came across another post on this topic by Dr. John Berardi, a man who many consider to be the expert on optimal nutrition for people who want to be really, really fit.
I’ve become a big fan of Dr. Berardi’s work in recent months. Not just because he’s a wealth of information on nutrition and health, but also because he’s a numbers and data guy, and not at all an adherent of any particular diet camp.
In other words, he believes in doing what works. And not what works for one person or population – what works for you.
Interestingly, the diet that worked for me twenty years ago would make me sick today. Seriously. My body and nutritional needs have changed drastically since I was in my early twenties, and accordingly, so has my diet.
That’s because, although we all share the same physiology, we don’t all share the same body chemistry. For example, women have differing nutritional needs from men. It seems like this would be obvious, yet you’ll find advocates of certain nutritional regimens (for example, intermittent fasting) recommending the exact same program for women and men both. (Many women do very poorly on IF diets, by the way – has to do with differences in hormones and stress response between men and women.)
On a more individual level, many people have very unique nutritional needs and challenges, and should alter their diets accordingly. For example, many diabetics find they do rather well on Paleo type diets. However, some people with autoimmune diseases (namely rheumatoid arthritis) find that their symptoms increase dramatically when they eat strictly Paleo, which flies in the face of what most Paleo proponents will tell you. (By the way, I’m one of those people – more on that in a future post. Also, there are many reasons why you might feel better eating carbs – here’s an excellent post explaining why this is so.)
We’re All Different, But A Few Diet Truths Are Universal
My point here is that different radical diets affect different people in radically different ways (because, ‘ya know, we’re all different). However, there are certain universal axioms around which you can determine a basic starting point diet, from which you can then experiment with various modifications and see how your body reacts.
For example, quality of food counts. Calories in, calories out matters a lot when you’re trying to lose weight (but less so to some degree when you’re eating high quality food). Insulin is the body’s fat storage gate keeper, so controlling insulin is the key to fat loss. And so forth.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is this: rather than just blindly following what has worked for someone else, you should instead seek to empirically determine what works best for you. That’s the only way to find your own best diet, and achieve a level of optimal health based on your own unique nutritional needs and health challenges.
Besides that, cults suck. So, instead of falling in line with the cult-like dedication that some diet and nutrition programs have among their die-hard adherents, dedicate yourself to determining the best diet for you. Believe me, your body will thank you. And, you’ll be a lot happier in the long run, too.