Your Healthy Diet: Plant-based? Paleo? Neither? or Both?
As a health coach, I wear many different hats. Yoga teacher, strength coach, and nutritionist are three of my most weathered, and therefore ones that I feel a need to embrace a strong voice about. In my ever-evolving quest to determine a diet that will satisfy a holistic approach to full-body-mind-spirit integration, I have embraced many ideas and thrown out many others. What I have determined thus far in my ongoing journey of health and fitness as it relates to what we are putting in our mouths and how best to relay this to both athletes as well as yogis and everyone in between is this: diets that are dogmatic in nature are quite simply the only ones to be avoided. And, if you didn't read between the lines; even that statement in itself could be determined a contradiction on the day I find myself swearing off certain foods altogether.
My point is this: the science, culture, quality, and infrastructure of food are always changing, so declaring one way of eating to be the end-all-be-all is simply ignorant. I fully believe that a plant-based diet can work for many. I fully believe that an ancestral diet (such as paleo or primal diets) can work for many as well. I believe, even more, that is the person who is too concerned with following the rules attached to these ways of eating that has the real possibility of harming themselves. I have seen this time and time again with vegans who refuse to add sufficient iron to their diets and are suffering from anemia. I have witnessed the same in paleo dieters who can't understand why they have been diagnosed with Gout as they continue shoveling bacon down their gob, paying no attention to the seasonal vegetables that are far more in line with the way our primal ancestors would have actually dieted.
So, have I made an argument strong enough for you to digest as I continue assessing the pros and cons from my comfortable seat on the fence? I hope so; because this is entirely what I intend to do: force you to think for yourself by listening to your body. Yes, I am aware that this term gets overused quite often without any real direction as to how one, who has not developed this ability can do so. This is why I am an advocate for more-encompassing diets which allow a follower to learn how to properly determine the environmental signals they are receiving and make conscious eating decisions based on what they find. Diets such as: The Metabolic Typing Diet, The Three Season Diet, Eating for your Blood-type, and the ancient wisdom which has been readapted time and time again from Ayurvedic Dieting are all magnificent examples of these. Although many of these diets agree on a common thread which is stated famously by Food journalist and health activist Michael Pollan "Eat. Not too much. Mostly plants" (Rolli, 2012), none of them suggest a diet that is solely derived from plants. Evidence suggests (Carmody & Wrangham, 2009) that it is quite possibly the consumption of meats and the ability to cook our foods which allowed us to evolve so quickly as a species over 250,000 years ago.
The truth of the matter is this. Our state of health is enormously out of balance. With over 15,000 controlled animal feeding operations (CAFO) in the US (Gurian-Sherman, 2008) feeding the vast majority of our nation hormone-enriched animals alongside a bag of French fries which according to Egger et al. (2017), has grown from 75gm in 1950 to 200grams by 2001 (p. 138). There is a clear need for a nutritional revolution. Perhaps, this is evidence enough to proclaim why any diet is quite possibly the most effective diet once committed to. Therefore, my suggestion is to strive for making conscious decisions about what we put into our bodies and why. Is that fuel or is that a treat? Is that food or has that simply become edible? Simple questions such as these are the spark to start a far more productive flame of dieting which can not only satisfy the needs of our bodies and environment but can also be sustained over the long term.
Rolli, M. L. (2012). Book/Media Review: The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 17(3), 221-222.
Carmody, R. N., & Wrangham, R. W. (2009, October). Cooking and the human commitment to a high-quality diet. In Cold Spring Harbor symposia on quantitative biology (pp. sqb-2009). Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.
Gurian-Sherman, D. (2008). CAFOs uncovered: The untold costs of confined animal feeding operations.
Egger, G., Binns, A., Rössner, S., Sagner, M., & Egger, G. (2017). Lifestyle medicine: lifestyle, the environment, and preventive medicine in health and disease. London: Elsevier, Academic Press.