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3 Things to Consider When Choosing a Diet

I’m betting you know someone who has lost weight (even perhaps kept it off) on keto (low-carb, high-fat) and someone else who lost weight on a low-calorie diet. Or someone who successfully follows a vegan diet and someone who successfully follows a carnivore diet.

Have you ever wondered why or how that’s possible? Or which one would work for you?

A few months ago, a couple of my colleagues asked me what I thought about the blood type diet. If you haven’t heard of the blood type diet, Dr. Axe has a fairly comprehensive overview of this way of eating at this link.

The main idea behind the blood type diet is that you eat or avoid certain foods based on your blood type, O, A, etc.

My blood type is A positive which, according to this diet, means I should avoid meat altogether. I have been following a mostly carnivore diet (link to my favorite doctor researching carnivore diet) since the summer of 2019 and have enjoyed many benefits of this diet including some thinning out and better mood and energy. I also have experience with a plant-heavy diet and, at one point, was pre-diabetic following the USDA guidelines, so eating by blood type is a no-go for me.

I may be a little biased against the blood type diet but I have some thoughts on why some people seem to do well following this or any other seemingly contradictory dietary advice.

If you are eating fast food (and restaurants are not better for you than fast food), even a few times a week, and your breakfasts and lunches are from the frozen section of the grocery store or sandwich-style or from a box of any kind, and you need to snack between meals and maybe you cook for yourself a few times a week which includes perhaps meat, a starch (probably heavy here), and some vegetables, this is what I call the Standard American Diet (SAD).

Therefore, if you go from the SAD to any diet that includes real and mostly unprocessed foods, you will probably get some kind of good results. That’s not to say there are some outliers or other factors but by my observation and experience, this seems to be the case much of the time.

The question is, do you fully reach and maintain those results? And another question I have is, what is your labwork like? Have you ever had your HbA1c or hs-CRP checked? Or do you know your CAC score, to name a few? (Most doctors don’t order these until it’s too late or you specifically ask for it.) Does your diet improve those health markers?

How can anyone discern what they should eat in order to look, feel, and be their best, for as long as possible?

If you are currently eating SAD-style or your current way of eating is not working for you (if it is working, well done!), here is one simple (but not easy) thing that should be a “rule” to live by – stop consuming seed oils, aka “vegetable” oils, of any kind. That is canola, soybean, peanut, sunflower, safflower, etc.

If the fat does not come from an olive, coconut, avocado, or animal, do not consume it. If you do this one thing, it most likely won’t matter which diet you follow, you will see health benefits.

This simple thing is difficult because that stuff is in EVERYTHING, including your salad at your favorite fancy restaurant. And it doesn’t matter if the package says organic or gluten-free or vegan, or heart-healthy or whatever label you look for in a “health” food, there is likely one of those stupid oils in the ingredient list because it’s cheap to make and a preservative.

Seed oils cause your cells to work inefficiently. Every cell in your body is lined with saturated fat and cells use fat as one of its fuel sources. If you are putting in crappy fats, don’t expect your body to look or feel its best, long term.

That’s why you may be on a point system and eating those low-calorie frozen meals and not making progress. That’s why you might be eating a lot of salads with one of those seed oils in your dressing and not making much progress.

Think: like for like. If you want your cells to function at their best, consume animal fat. I can tell you from experience, your body will thank you for it.

As far as which diet to follow, here are 3 more things to consider when choosing a healthful way of eating:

  1. Is it sustainable? Meaning:
    • If you stop doing the diet (or some portion of the diet), do your results go in reverse? For example, do you gain the weight back that you lost? Do you have to go back on meds for blood pressure, acid reflux, etc? Did you have to start taking any medications after being on this diet?
    • Does it make you so miserable that you stop before you reach the goal?
  2. Are you getting micronutrients and are they bioavailable? Too often the debate around nutrition is focused on macronutrients (fat, carbs, and protein) and not around micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.) Micronutrients are essential and your body does not make or store many of them so we have to get them from food. If you are not getting the essential materials needed for your body to function properly, how do you expect it to feel and perform immediately or in the long term? (Oh and remember, I told you I eat a mostly carnivore diet? Well, guess which foods contain THE most bioavailable micronutrients. Look it up if you don’t believe me. Or if you want a quick glance at some great graphics, Judy Cho creates hers using USDA data.)
  3. Consider your thinking (or mindset) in this process:
    • Are you “dieting” to “lose weight” or are you creating sustainable health habits?
    • Will you go back to your old habits once you reach your goal? Or do you believe this new way of eating will be what you do for the rest of your life?
    • Do you believe in yourself? Do you believe you deserve the changes you wish to make? Do you self-sabotage?
    • Are you punishing yourself for prior habits or eating “bad” foods?
    • Are you attaching your identity (who you are) to this health goal? Meaning, “I’m a carnivore or vegan or keto,” so if you learn something new about nutrition, there may be cognitive dissonance to work through. This might cause you to go into a plateau or keep you from trying something that could be helpful. While having a supportive community is important in reaching a health goal, if you don’t remember that you are a unique individual, you might not be open to discovering how your health could be even better.
    • You will probably be uncomfortable and inconvenienced in the process of making new eating habits. How uncomfortable and inconvenienced are you willing to get?
    • Does your family/friends/work culture support your goals? If not, how will you handle it in a way that doesn’t derail your efforts?
    • Do you believe that it’s possible to feel satiated, be nourished, and permanently reach your health goals?

Hopefully, you do believe that last one, and this information is not overwhelming. It takes time to learn and form new habits and we have a lot of un-learning to do in the process too.

Breaking this down into a micro-decision, what will you choose to eat at the next meal that brings you one step closer to the goal? After that, consistency will get you the rest of the way there!

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