You will rarely hear me slap a label on the way I eat. I know it’s the hip thing to do, but I don’t do it. People love to flaunt their food preferences for everyone to see, waving the vegan, keto, paleo, or fruitarian flag for everyone to see. Declaring food preferences makes sense in a way, considering that these diets veer away from the Standard American Diet (SAD) in such a way to be considered “odd” and it cuts down on awkward “I can’t eat that” occasions. It is also a popular conversation starter.
I don’t label my diet for a few reasons, first and foremost because once you put a label on a diet, much like putting labels on people, it becomes something we are able to compare and contrast. It becomes subject to the secondary label of a “fad diet.” Once you have been caught with a fad diet, watch out! I mean, I can’t even keep up with the clothing fads, let alone the food fads.
Once you declare that you’re keto, or vegan, or whatever, you are automatically placed in a category. If your friends roll their eyes and exchange knowing glances when you tell them you can’t eat gluten or meat, you have been caught with a fad diet. Best to back away and have lunch elsewhere. Once you start to listen to the negative reviews and “evidence” against how you have decided to eat (because everyone has an opinion), you stop believing in it, and believing in it is half of the reason it works.
Remember back when we talked about limiting beliefs and the placebo and nocebo effect? These work in diets as well. Whether you are following a new diet for health reasons or to lose weight (which is also a health reason), belief that it will work is a large part of the reason it works and will also help you stick with it. Quitting a diet two weeks in because your friends laugh at you is a sure way to fail.
Flaunting a diet label also binds you to the rules of that label. My diet, for example, is based on several complementary theories that I have honed over the years via trial and error. If I merely described it by plopping a popular label on it, I would have to call it low-carb, or maybe keto-ish, or Paleo. My favorite label was coined by Dr. Mark Hyman. He calls his diet “Palegan,” or Paleo-Vegan. There is also Whole Food Plant Based Omnivore, which is another of my faves. Mine is a little different. It’s a veggie-heavy; no beans ever; high (healthy) fat; high polyphenol; moderate protein; gluten-free; ultra-low sugar; occasional wine, whiskey, or gin; show me the berries and maybe a green banana; intermittent fasting; protein cycling; and Bulletproof coffee kind of a diet.
That’s the thing, everyone is different. Sticking to every nuance of a diet because that is the rule of the diet is like buying the new trendy jeans even though they are terrible for your body type. There are redeeming qualities to almost every diet out there, with the exception of the processed and fast food heavy SAD paradigm that is the most popular, but not every diet is right for all people straight out of the box.
For example, I do terrible on a vegan diet. Contrary to expectations from an “ultra healthy” vegan diet, my blood pressure elevates, so do my triglycerides, my skin suffers, I lack mental focus, I experience depression, irritability, and lethargy, I pack on the pounds, and I lack motivation. I know this because I’ve tried it. My family will testify. This is because I am super sensitive to carbohydrates. My body is unusually good at taking carbs and sending them into storage as fat, but not until they wreak havoc here there and everywhere, making me a very unhealthy person who isn’t fun to be around. In contrast, I am really good at using fat for fuel. When I follow the diet I have formulated for myself I am a much happier camper, I lose weight, my blood pressure and triglycerides return to normal, my HDL is high, my LDL is low, and I am once again creative and motivated. This observation and blood profile has been seconded by analysis of my intestinal flora.
Not that my road getting here has been easy. Limiting beliefs have been a factor up until just recently. There is a social stigma surrounding dietary restrictions. It is difficult to be one of “those” people who avoid the junk food, or dairy, or grains that everyone else is enjoying. Performing at a higher level and not being sick is highly motivating, but grabbing a quick bite with friends often proves to be a pain. So, I have cheated on myself. Quite often, as a matter of fact. Despite seeing positive results in my waistline and my mood, I cheated. The reason why is a matter of mindset.
I tend to think that this aversion to grain is in my head. Maybe I generated a malady because of all of the research I inhale on the subject of functional and integrative nutrition. I think about nutrition and diet all of the time. Did I make this all up as a consequence? So, I had a little of this and a little of that thinking it will be fine. The thing is, it doesn’t always bite me back immediately. Sometimes it will be the next day or the day after that when problems arise. Sometimes I won’t notice the effects until way later when I think back and realize the poor choices or angry outburst was maybe a product of the foods I ate. Or, it may strike right away and strongly like the time I was at the restaurant with my little girl and didn’t think I would make it out of there without an incident; or the time when I had to find an emergency bathroom in a grocery store because I was going to have disaster pants; or the time, just recently, when I thought I was going to have to call someone to rescue me as was I doubled up with intense digestive stress.
So, I’m over it. I am now faithful to the grain-free, gluten-free, veggie-heavy, high-fat, omnivorous diet that I formulated for myself that works for me. But I don’t label it. Labeling a diet, like labeling people, allows for pigeonholing and unfair expectations.
Is it hard to be grain-free? It really isn’t that hard to do from day to day. Holidays are a little rough, sure, but there are ways to thoroughly enjoy yourself and live a full and happy life without the grains. In my case, I’m actually happier without the sickness and brain fog they cause. I’m happy to say “no thank you” to the birthday cake or muffin and enjoy the time with friends rather than the time in the bathroom or doubled over in pain wondering if I’m going to puke. It’s a matter of mindset and not getting trapped into the need to flaunt a label.
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