Behind The Diet Dogmas

Kidding, Lindsay.....unless it's a deadlift day.

Kidding, Lindsay.....unless it's a deadlift day.

In only 57 short days, Lindsay and I will finally be getting married.  Now, I haven't spoken a ton about our wedding on here, but Lindsay has been as cool as a cucumber....while I'm finally starting to realize/stress out about everything that needs to come together.

Marriage day events/antics/cowboy dances aside, I haven't mentioned on my blog how great Lindsay is in the field of nutrition.  She already has her Masters in Nutrition Communication, and is currently pursuing her PhD in Applied Nutrition and Food Policy at Tufts. While I tend tease her and call her a "professional student" (I mean, it's true) I like to think we make a pretty good nutrition power couple.  After all, it's not like I can ask many other people what the recommended daily intake is for manganese, and what are symptoms of toxicity? (Nerd alert!)

Anyway, the two of us are always pondering different questions, such as what makes some individuals such ardent supporters or particular diets?  In other words, why are some vegans so convinced their way is the ONLY way....while, Paleo people are convinced that having Bacon for breakfast everyday is somehow going to make them less fat and live longer?

Speaking of which, I'm reminded of one of my favorite jokes:   How do you know if someone is Paleo?  They'll tell you! Hahahahahahaahahahahha!!!1!!11!

I'm hilarious, I know.

Moving on, nutrition science is constantly emerging and revising old trains of thought.  But, the one fact we do know is that everything can work.  To that point, I've recently started reading  "Diet Cults" by Matt Fitzgerald, and he makes a great summary of human nutrition research: 

"There is no such thing as the healthiest diet. On the contrary, science has established quite definitively that humans are able to thrive equally well on a variety of diets.  Adaptability is the hallmark of man as eater. For us, many diets are good while none is perfect."

Whether it's low-carb, no carb, high protein, high fat, low fat, or the Columbian Metabolic fasting diet (no need to Google, I made that last one up), they can all be healthy ways to eat when followed in the right context.  By the same token, what works for one person may not necessarily work for someone else.  So why, then, are certain people so convinced their way of eating is THE correct one?

Fitzgerald states that it's not the science that catches people (all the common diets spout similar pseudo-science claiming they're superior), it's more to do with someone's personality and their need to find an identity.  

And you know what? I agree.

First off, many people pick a certain way of eating because it fits their personality and the way they live their life.  Many of the extreme diets out there are followed by Type A personalities, and those that go with the all-or-nothing mentality.  

Take, for example, one of my clients who is a passionate vegan.  In the nutritional world, we know that being vegan or vegetarian isn't necessary to be healthy, and if it's not done correctly, being either one can actually be somewhat unhealthy.  But, the client I'm speaking about is super intense about everything in their life - incredibly high achiever, lots of energy, and an endurance athlete.  For this person, the extremism of being vegan is probably one of the appealing factors, as it goes with their balls-to-the-wall philosophy.

Likewise, diet can also help us find a sense of community, identity and belonging.  The client I'm speaking about is friends with other vegans, can state famous endurance athletes that are vegan, and they openly advocate for others to join.  In a way, this is very similar to Crossfitters that are staunch Paleo advocates.  Paleo and Crossfit simply tend to go together, but I'm now thinking it's because it helps people identify with Crossfit when they aren't in the gym.  Everytime someone eats, they know they're not alone in shunning bread and asking for butter in their coffee....but part of a larger group.

And, can you guess the type of personality that tends to do Crossfit and be Paleo?  You got it.  Type A.

Roads?  Where we're going we don't need....roads.

Roads?  Where we're going we don't need....roads.

While this post isn't meant to blast Paleo or Vegan approaches (after all, they all work!), it's important to point out that the similarities I posted above can be applied to almost all famous diets.  Find a way of eating that's sustainable for years to come and fits with the way you live life.  Any road can take you there....but finding the correct one for you is the challenge.

And hey, if nothing else, just eat more vegetables.