Popular Diets: Which one is the best?
It seems like every year there is always a popularized new diet; ketogenic, vegan, fruitarian, paleo, and the list goes on! With all these options claiming to be the best diet for optimal health it makes it difficult to decide what to put on your plate.
Let's stop to consider a few things. What is it you're eating now, and why are you considering changing your diet? Is it because of a health issue, feel unwell or are experiencing food related symptoms? Is it because you want to lose weight? Consider why you are deciding to jump ship and take on a new eating style, is it because you truly need to impact your health or is it because it's popular and appears to work for everyone else?
Now, the diets I've listed above aren't inherently bad, in fact they can create incredibly positive results especially in extreme situations. Take veganism for example, this can be a great option for someone trying to lower their serum cholesterol, or the ketogenic diet, which has historically been used to treat epilepsy. However, these are more extreme circumstances. Although some people feel good on these diets, in the long term, they're not sustainable.
Making such drastic changes to your diet, especially if not done correctly, can result in severe nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, and muscle wasting, not to mention the toll that a strict ideology of food can have on an individual. Having subscribed myself to a strict diet for nearly a third of my life, I felt first hand how these symptoms can cascade causing a whole host of health problems, some of which nearly two years later, I am still working to repair.
So what should you eat?
The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing what dietary path to follow is to remember that you are unique. It sounds so cliche but it's true; Just look at how controversial cilantro is for some people! Yes, we are all human and there are definitely some dietary parameters to follow when trying to maintain your best health, but what works for someone else may not work for you. Some people absolutely thrive on mostly plant based proteins, others feel better when consuming meat or other forms of animal based proteins. They key is to find what works for you. The food that makes you thrive and feel your best, is the most healthful diet for you.
How do you know what feels best for you?
It takes time to become more in tune with your body, but be patient. When I was following a strict plant-based diet I thought I was just someone who was prone to digestive issues, I couldn't eat a meal without intense cramping and bloating. It wasn't until I began making changes to my diet that I realized what it felt like to feel good! Introducing new foods or ways of eating slowly into your diet is the best way for you to gauge your body's reaction and how you feel afterwards. I would suggest while you are doing these introductions to keep a journal or even a note on your phone, write what it was you ate and how you felt afterwards.
Keeping a log is especially helpful for you to look back on things that worked and made you feel great, and to eliminate anything that didn't make you feel good. It's also good to keep this information during changes like this should you need the guidance of a professional. It is much easier for us to look over your food journal and identify holes or gaps in your eating to resolve any concerns, then it is for you to try and recall what it was that made you feel crummy.
Keep in mind that throughout your life your nutritional needs change. What you ate as a child should not be what you eat at 30, and what you eat at 30 likely won't be how you're eating at 80. As the body changes, so should your diet. Make sure to check in with your body periodically to make sure you're still feeling good after each meal.
Removing the stress and stigma around diets and dieting
Dieting and diet hopping is a slippery slope. Many of these diets are very restrictive and difficult to follow all of the time, it can become hard to come to terms when you cannot adhere to the rules 100%. It might feel like a part of your identity even, but keep in mind the phrase you are what you eat is just a phrase and you are more than the sum of your calories. You are a wonderful human with unique qualities and interests and what you eat is merely a portion of that, it does not and should not define you.
I often was asked when I was vegan what I would do if I became pregnant. Would I have a vegan pregnancy, or raise my child to be vegan? Now aside from the fact that I find these comments to be inherently rude, presumptuous, and intrusive on a whole other level, the idea that I would have to change eating habits at some point was terrifying and immobilizing. The fact that something as primitive and natural as what food I ate had the ability to make my heart race and spur anxiety in me, was a problem.
Your diet choices are between you and yourself and you need to make sure to keep that internal conversation going. You're not a failure if you eat pizza and the vegan police won't come knocking at your door if you eat cheese, you do not have to label yourself one way or another, you are allowed to eat what makes you thrive! Do not let guilt, fear or obligation to be the motivation for your food, just do your best to eat shit that makes you feel good because whats on our plate is no ones business but your own.