Hi homies! I attended a Women’s Health Workshop a few weeks ago which was rather interesting. Amongst various talks, one was given by a plant-based, whole food nutritionist. Even though I have already developed my own approach and eating style when it comes to advising my clients, it’s always interesting to hear about others –> there’s always scope to learn! As a plant-based nutritionist, her approach eliminates consumption of all animal products (i.e. meat & dairy). I loved that she focused on the power of food and the remarkable impact whole foods can make on energy & vitality. I found myself nodding along as she discussed the importance of mindfulness when eating. When you allow yourself to be present in the moment & really savor whatever it is you’re eating, you’ll almost naturally feel more satisfied both mentally & physically.
However one key point that rubbed me in the wrong was her ramble about plant-based diets being the ‘best’ diet for achieving optimal health. In order to maximize energy levels and overall wellness, she advises:
- Starchy carbs twice a day at the most
- Mainly fruit in the morning & avoidance of wheat
- Eat as much raw food as possible
- If eliminating meat & dairy is not possible, treat both as flavor i.e. use minimal amounts
- Protein intake should constitute no more than 20% of your diet
I’ve repeatedly discussed this on the blog in the past but clearly I need to say it again: there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to our diet. Through our own research, we can educate ourselves on different approaches. It’s only with trial & error that we can find the most optimal one. It’s a bit like going to college and then getting a job. No matter which college you graduate from, the most effective way you are going to learn is through the experience you acquire post-graduation, both in your job(s) & life overall. Similarly we can read all the literature and countless studies about diet plans but unless you try it out yourself, you’ll never know.
As we left my friend asked me my thoughts on this fellow nutritionist’s talk. Honestly I was a bit disappointed. In my healthy living journey, I have experimented with a number of diet styles. I adopted a Paleo diet which meant no refined sugar, dairy, grains, alcohol, processed foods, beans or legumes. I’ve eaten a plant-based diet whereby I stopped eating all animal products, eggs being the exception. Right now, I am at a place with my diet where I literally eat anything and everything. Obviously the bulk of it centers around whole foods i.e. LOTS of vegetables, fresh fruit, chicken, seafood, eggs, Greek yogurt, nuts & nut butters, cheese, avocados, oats, rye bread & brown rice to name a few. However I don’t only buy dark chocolate (Hey Reese’s!); I eat ice cream multiple nights during the week; I don’t freak out if the biscuit I pair with my evening cup of chai doesn’t contain a ‘clean’ ingredient list; I’ll drink an adult beverage if I want to…sometimes 3; I’ll eat the damn pizza even if wholewheat crust is not available. Despite all that, I can, hand on heart, say that I have never felt better, both mentally & physically. Weight-wise, I am probably at my lightest & it feels almost effortless.
My point is that when it comes to diet, there really is nothing more effective than finding a balance…and that goes far beyond eating a balance of carbs, protein, and fat. You need to find a diet that feeds you both physically and mentally. Eat foods that make you feel good and allow your body to function best. Occasionally that might mean giving the nutritional label a blind eye. Plant-based diets & eating “clean” foods are super and I certainly think they should constitute a large part of our diet.
However if adhering to these idealistic standards causes even a marginal amount of stress, those apparent health benefits are slowly getting cancelled out. I’ve discussed the effect of stress on weight & health more in depth here, but essentially when our bodies are constantly put under stress, it results in elevated cortisol levels. This condition ultimately has a domino effect on our weight, heart health, insulin levels, hormonal health, blood pressure, immunity…you get my point. I will leave you with one of my favorite pictures that sums up eating a balanced diet that incorporates everything versus eating a rigid & restrictive diet:
No questions today! I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue…