By Richard Labaki
Bet the term “Diet” in the title is what caught your attention and drove you to read this article in the first place. And this is a clear indication of how important it has become for people to decide on what nutritional plan to adopt – be it for weight loss, health issues or both. Mind you, not always will a diet induce both body-fat burn and improved well-being. Many follow a specific diet that made them lose weight, their health and their mind simultaneously (mostly women fall into this trap.) And many become healthy adopting a certain diet, but weight loss is relatively slow to occur. Bear in mind that when I say “diet” I mean one that you manage to maintain indefinitely and not just for a few weeks or months. In other words, a “diet” is an element that should be part of your lifestyle.
Keto, Paleo, Pegan, Vegan, Vegetarianism and on and on….
There is a tendency among those who follow a certain diet to become militant-minded in defending its principles while attacking other diets and their followers. We see this pattern especially in veganism/vegetarianism, since its followers entangle a scientific topic (nutrition) with their spiritual and moral beliefs. Killing animals for our nourishment is wrong, they argue. But scientific evidence that the human brain evolved only after humans started hunting and cooking animal meats is strongly established. Not to mention the fact that many nutrients detrimental to our health could only be found in animal meats/products like CoQ10, bio-available Vitamin B12, bio-available iron (plant-based iron is inferior and barely absorbed by the body) and other vital compounds. An argument I always use is why it is acceptable for a lion or a wolf to hunt and eat another animal but is ethically wrong for humans to do so. But before vegans/vegetarians vilify me and claim that Satan has my name tattooed across his chest, I wish to point out that I have an issue with almost every established diet that has been coming out over the past few decades.
Low-Fat, Low-Carb, Atkins, Paleo, Ketogenic, Raw and various other diets all have their strong points and their blind spots. Low-fat diet means limited supply of essential fatty acids that are crucial for cellular function, hormonal balance, mental performance, mood regulation and others. Low-Carb diet, though helpful at first in reducing one’s weight and safeguarding against cardiovascular diseases, leads to thyroid dysfunction, lethargy and other symptoms. High-Protein diets like Atkins and Paleo overload the body with too much protein causing digestive discomfort and kidney imbalances (not to mention that too much protein intake is linked to cancer.) Ketogenic diet, which is very high in healthy fat and low in carbohydrates, causes renal stones, intestinal disturbances (especially for those with dysfunctional gallbladder), arterial stiffness in some cases and other issues. And Raw-Food diet, which I refer to as the “Bloat Diet”, causes severe digestive discomfort for most.
Those are just some of the symptoms and imbalances that each diet could cause. Now before you bombard me with emails claiming how great you feel on any of the aforementioned diets remember what I said in the beginning: A “diet” is one that should be sustained over a lifetime and not just over weeks, months or even a year. If your “diet” is currently working for you that doesn’t mean it will continue to do so forever.
The probability is your system will be taxed by the diet that you have been following at some point – not to mention that many diets, like Ketogenic, are so tough to maintain over a long period. A proper diet is simply one that a) is practical enough to be sustained for life and, b) balanced enough to provide you with all the necessary nutrients and in the right ratios that your body requires to function properly. And so far, no established diet could claim to do both – despite what the diet creators and adherents say or believe.
The “You” Diet
A rule I have been applying ever since I started in this field is to decline taking on weight loss cases. And the reason is simple: Most of those aiming to bring down their weight are so fixated on this objective that they miss out on the important issues, which are vitality and well-being. They are willing to do whatever it takes to see those figures drop on the weight scale, even at the expense of their physiological and psychological health.
Another principle I believe in is that every individual requires a customized diet – one that takes into consideration his/her genetic makeup, health issues, digestive capacities, taste preferences and others. Some people are surprised when I tell them that certain “superfoods” that they have been reading about and ingesting are not suitable for them (whether temporarily or for life.) For example, artichokes are amazing for health and liver function but could cause discomfort for some with gut ailments. Spinach, while very nutritious, is very high in oxalates which are a source of trouble for those with kidney stones.
So as you can see, one-size-fits-all diets could be utterly disruptive and should be avoided. What you need to do instead is work on a nutritional plan that perfectly matches your genetic makeup and tackles your specific health concerns. It is a diet that will ultimately become part of your lifestyle while making you look good (more muscle tone and less body-fat and water retention) and feel good (heightened energy, better mood and increased mental sharpness.) And this should be the only diet that you abide by for life!
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