I love when people ask me this question because it reminds me of the 22 year-old version of myself entering Naturopathic School, with hopes to answer this exact same question. Actually, let me first take you back a bit in the history of my quest for the right diet. In middle school, I had a friend who was dieting (because all middle school girls should be dieting, right? So sad.) She touted the wonders of Slim Fast shakes. I tried one. It was disgusting but I thought it must be good for me because it was a fancy shake.
Then in high school, when I was training to be a “professional field hockey player” my coach insisted I eat bagels after every work out for best results. Hmmmm…
In college, I gave vegetarianism a go. That resulted in a hair loss, a vanishing menstrual cycle, and Raynaud’s disease. Sweet.
When I reached Naturopathic School, I was determined to figure it out once and for all. After all, if I was going to discover the world’s perfect diet it would be during a doctorate program grounded in nutrition, right? Wrong.
I had people telling me to eat more grains for B vitamins. Others were telling me I’m missing kale, beets, and raw milk in my diet. “Nuts and seeds are the way to go”, “Eat Organic”, “Raw Food”, “Gluten Free”…AGHHHH! It’s enough to make you want to just stop eating everything all together, breatharian-syle (those people exist by the way).
While I didn’t necessarily answer the question for myself at the time, I did learn that I wasn’t alone. “What diet should I follow?” is probably the biggest question in the nutrition industry.
A quick search on diet books on Amazon for “diet book” results in over 63,000 results in the “Health, Fitness & Dieting” books category. Seriously? We need that many books on how to eat?
Let me summarize what most of these books say. Eat lots of green leafy vegetables, some fruit, lean meat, healthy fat, nuts, legumes, whole grains, drink plenty of water, stay away from processed foods, and choose organic when available. Done. You really need that many books to say that? Give me a break.
Where some diet books diverge is in how much of those things you need. Vegetarian books will suggest little to no meat and more veggies. Paleo-type books will recommend more meat, less grains and legumes. Gluten-free books will have you eating largely the same thing, but with gluten-free options.
So what diet do I personally recommend? Any of them. Whichever one works for you. If Paleo makes you feel great, eat Paleo. If vegetarian gives you more energy, eat vegetarian.
Every diet book will attempt to provide evidence that theirs is superior. But as I’ve said before, most people aren’t interested in information, they are interested in confirmation – something that supports their view, perspective, or bias. Show me a study demonstrating that vegetarian is the way to go, and I’ll show you three that suggests otherwise, and vice versa.
I say, choose a diet, see how you feel on it for a few weeks, and make tweaks to it as you go. If a diet book recommends oatmeal for breakfast every morning and it makes you nauseous, don’t eat oatmeal for breakfast. If you want to lose weight, eat less calories and exercise vigorously. If you’re short on time, buy a slow-cooker diet book.
The best diet you can do is one that is in alignment with your personal goals. It shouldn’t cause you stress. We have enough of that already. Find a diet that works for you, your lifestyle, your financial situation and . . . makes you happy.
I do want to make a quick plug for one more diet that in concept is fantastic, but in practice can take a little more work. It is called the Metabolic Typing Diet by Bill Wolcott and its basic premise is that we are all a little different on the inside and thus should be following slightly different diets. Some people feel fantastic eating a lot of protein and fat, others not so much. Some people can handle carbohydrates, others get puffy and bloated. If you’re interested in putting in a little extra work into your diet, but also better results, I highly recommend checking out the Metabolic Typing Diet.
The biggest problem is we’re making nutrition decisions in our mind rather than observing how we feel in our body. It’s easy to get caught up in the mental shoulds and should nots of what to eat. That’s where I can help. We’ll take the nutritional questions out of your mind and into mine. I’ll help you focus on how you’re feeling rather than what you think is the right choice. In the end, you’ll finally be able to stop obsessing over food and jumping from one diet rule to another. It’s a great place to be.