Do You Believe In Your Diet? – By Dr. Alan Christianson:
Hi there. Dr. Alan Christianson here. This is a topic I’m really excited to spend some time with you on. Do you believe in your diet? What does that mean. Well its a funny thing but diets have become so polarized and so controversial that its difficult to have rational discussion about what’s effective and what is not effective. We would think that as people could communicate more freely that logic, reason, evidence and modern views would end up winning out but many social scientists have argued that this is not how things play out. You know when you have groups of people and people are forced to interact with those who are diverse or different we are exposed to views that contradict our own and we tend to get some what closer to common ground and we tend not to be so extreme in our views. When groups can communicate very easily they get to choose who they talk to. You know in terms of politics you see this. You know you have the red states and the blue states. We have news stations that really cater to that. In the past you would watch one or two network channels and the channels could not be to to diverse or opinionated or else they would lose viewership. Now we can find and select from a larger number and find outlets that have views that are very supportive of ours and we can get more deeply entrenched in that. The same thing happens in terms of nutrition.
I think it is probably a lot of the same psychology. The way we form the leaps and ideas based more upon association then based upon justification or facts. So the views about what we should eat have gotten more diverse. We now see some of the top books in nutrition and the top views and top bloggers are very plant based and totally vegan. There was a time not that long ago where that was a very fringe position that was not common and you would not see many taking that stance because it was rather extreme and people thought it as such but now it is very mainstream in some circles to go on a plant based diet.
We also have the other extreme taking a large amount of market share. Those who encourage an almost carbohydrate free, fat based Paleo diet. They have also taken up a large following and how can this possibly be. If you look at any of those views each side will have lots of testimonials. There will be those who will say I switched to this diet and I lost weight. I hurt less. My diseases have reduced or improved. Each side can also give some evidence. Some data to support that. Each side can also give plausible arguments.
You know like the vegan side says that we get sick because proteins cause us to have these growth factors that cause cancers to grow and cause plaque to form and the Paleo side says no we have these anti-nutrients. These grains and beans and humans never ate those foods more then ten thousand years ago we must give them up. So plausible arguments, testimonials and evidence on each side and they are so different. So how can that be? How can it possibly be that people can genuinely do one diet or do a very opposite diet and claim health improvements.
You know like many of us I got into this space from struggling with my own health. First off it was really about weight loss. How could I drop some pounds and that was at twelve years of age. Some basic stuff worked for me. I cut sugar. I cut bread. I started exercising gently and sort of building it consistently and stuck with it and it totally worked. Somewhere along the way the efforts took on a life of themselves and it almost became an unhealthy zeal.
There were some books I was exposed to early on where there was this thing that we need to do called natural hygiene. That it was dangerous to combine proteins and carbohydrates. That we should base our diets more on plant foods. As a young man who had seen my health improve after going over a lifestyle change I found this very compelling. I found it pretty exciting to be a part of an inner secret. I was going to be in this group in the know and be aware of something that most people were pretty ignorant about. I found it pretty easy to move into that but it wrecked it my health.
You know my diet quickly became very restrictive and at that time I was pretty athletic. I was running you know forty miles a week and doing strength training and you know burning a lot of calories and using a lot of energy. You know in really restricting my food intake I became much less healthy. My moods plummeted. I took on very difficult to control cravings. I had a lot of loss of muscle mass. My performance started to suffer as well. My athletic performance. You know what happened was that you know is that the trick early in life is changing the diet and it worked and when i first embarked on this dietary plan of going more plant based. You know just vegetables and not too much else. I felt for the first several weeks respectively much better. I told many about these great positive things that were happening to me and I became quit righteous and pious about it and as my health declined I extended the process and all I did was keep thinking what I do is I cut a bunch of stuff out and I felt better at first but now I am not feeling good so I must need to cut more stuff out. So I kept getting more and more restrictive and more and more narrower on what I would and would not eat.
You might be able to guess it did not serve me. I ended going from diet to diet to diet. So often the first several weeks of a new diet and even though it was just one that ended up lasting or that was clearly was not sustainable for me I would be on cloud nine. I would be okay. Now I know the truth. Now I am on the one way. I am doing things properly. Yet there would come a point that I would argue that those benefits that were more psychological became overridden by the detriments that were clearly more nutritional and biological. So there really is this kind of pitfall of being a true believer.
It is so tempting to be in a place of knowledge and of certainty. You know the human mind is so uncomfortable not being certainty and in so many circumstances we will grasp upon an answer or a solution and just cling to it with all the tenacity we can muster. Even if it is not right or accurate. We would rather have a bad answer then no answer and if we get and answer that seems plausible and seems to make some sense and others have agreed with it and if there is a contrast between that view and other views if could be brought up as being wrong or different and boy that is an easy mental pitfall to go into.
The mental state itself does create a lot subjective benefits. Just feeling in a state of aww security, confidence at last I know the truth. That by itself is powerful medicine. You know look at all the studies and if you just go to medical databases. There is this really cool thing called Pub Med. Many do not know this but all peer reviewed published medical studies are there. You some studies have the whole text available? Most have at least abstracts. Most any person with Internet access can get a hold of the greats minds in all of medicine. In all the venerated published reviewed data. That people argue have some validity to it. So you can jump on that. So you can research topics.
If you look at topics like meditation or placebo. Kind of narrow down and you can select studies to focus more on. Human studies. Perhaps like last five years. You can even look for those topics in the title as opposed to those appearing in the article. You can even select those that have three fold studies available where you can read the whole thing. If you look at topics like that. Like mind and body type topics. Then you look at topics like stat and medication or vitamin C or anything about weight loss diets. What you realize is that there are mountains of data showing that the mind is more powerful then anything else you can imagine.
You know we have this saying. Powerful things come in little pill bottles. In reality the powerful things are between your ears right now. Its in your mind. So having your mind be congruent with the diet. Even if it is not a diet that is nutritionally sound, takes you a long ways. It becomes very compelling and people take on a religious fervor and become very identified with that. Contrary views become quit threatening. If someone voices a view that now someone says I am on a Paleo diet and this is the one true way i am eating as my ancestors did. I am avoiding all these foods that I am not capable of genetically processing. If someone comes along and says hey I just lost ten pounds by going vegan and I feel so much better. That is kind of like raining on your parade or killing your buzz. That is risking you going out of your state of security.
So you know, you react to that in ways that are more emotional then neurological. People tend not to sit down to say oh okay well lets examine the evidence, compare back and forth. No. People get very angry and very threatened. That is because they are more basing their reactions upon belief and emotions then upon reason and logic. So if that is the case and people can get endorphins and people can get into some place of authority and security because of their beliefs about their diet as opposed to their diet well then what should we do for our diet. What is the best diet?
This is wild. There is a wonderful recent National Geographic Magazine article hitting that very question. What is the original human diet and the answer to that question is there is no one answer to that question. The super power of humans is that we are omnivores and we are super crafty omnivores. So you know herbivores have to eat plants. They can get by with tiny bits of other things here in there. By an large they run off of plants. Carnivores need animal flesh. You know same thing a little bit of grass here and there it will not kill them. Omnivores can do a lot of things.
You can make someone vegan and they will not die in a week for sure. You can make them Paleo and they will not die in a week. You know humans have thrived on arctic diets on diets that are pretty much whale blubber or seal fat. Then also we have got tons of populations that have done great on riced based diets. You know Asian agriculture type diets. We have many varieties of the hunter gather diets to. There is not really a one type of hunter and gather diet. Many who have looked at this through a base of science and history and paleontology that have shown that hunters and gathers probably did a lot more gathering then hunting. That a lot of diets were plant based and per season and per game access. They were fortified with some animal foods here and there.
So humans have done fine on a big variety of diets. I really think that if people have enough food and they have got some diversity and they are physically active and you know emotional engaged and connected with society and they are going to do fine on a big variety of diets. It is not as critical in terms of chemistry of what that mixture is. You know the human body and the intestinal tract is totally amazing. If you dump different amino acids, different fatty acids, different nutrients into it, it is all broken down and it is all absorbed as pieces and your body can rearrange those pieces and make due with them in such a big variety of ways.
So we have an incredible capacity of surviving on a variety of fuel sources. There is really not one perfect true diet. I would really encourage about not being on any extreme diet. The more stuff you take out the more you run the risk of having some important deficiencies. There are many nutrients we get from each main type of food and the fewer food types we the more we have to be careful and strategic and be involved with testing and supplementing. I would argue that is true for diets that are very restrictive of animal foods but also argue that is true about diets that are very restrictive of carbs in general. Some diets go very low carbs and there are problems with that as well. The more narrow you get on your options the more strategic and cautious you have to be.
So omnivores really did well because they can do well with a variety of things and that is a good lesson to act on. You know if your current diet even if it is restrictive but hey look if your feeling good and your energy is great. You know you can play hard and you recover and play hard again tomorrow. Your happy with your weight. Your tracking your health. You are watching your chemistry. You and your doctor are feeling good about where your long term risks are. If your diet is providing all that. Please do not change that. You know I would not even consider changing that if that is the case. If it is really working well for you keep it. You do not have to put too much thought or stress into it. I would also consider about being ecological sustainable. You know we are on this little blue marble for the long haul it seems and we got to make it work for awhile.
Now if your diet is missing something. Maybe your energy is not at its best for food based reasons. Maybe you are not pleased with your weight. You really do not enjoy exercising. You are not recovering well. Perhaps your blood sugar or your cholesterol are not ideal. Its time to change. It is time to reconsider that. In doing so a smart thing to think about first off is what are some simple foods that your great grandparents ate. You would be amazed at how far that one little step would take you.
Just cutting out all the random foods with strange chemicals that you can not pronounce can help. Just go to foods that have a single ingredient or a couple of ingredients at the most. Nothing past that. Give that a shot for a month and see where you end up before you put much more stress into it then that. You might really be amazed. You know going back to before.
If you are on a diet that is working again please do not change it but please do not try to make me change mine. If your works great but just know people are different and someone else may do great on a diet that is not the same as yours. It is totally fine. It is a big world. A lot of ways to skin a cat. Whatever analogy that it takes just know that people can do things differently and that is all right.
There are some ways we can predict diets and our bodies reactions to food. We are really at our infancy in understanding this but we have got some good tools. There are some genetic tests. There are some genes like I could talk about like the APOE gene which determines what ratio of protein to carbs would be better for you is.
There are other genes as well that dictate how you convert certain nutrients. You know which types of fat you will do your best at. There are food and tolerance studies that can show at this point how your immune system feels about one food over another food. You know which ones are best tolerated and least tolerated. This is good data to be aware of too.
You can also get measurements on some of your micro nutrients and even your macro nutrients. You can see from blood tests your protein status. Your vitamin D or B12 levels. There are also some good measurements that show how fast your body is burning calories right now. How many calories your body needs to break even. You know the science of calories is not a perfect one but it is a good ballpark to work with. If you know what your current needs are in terms of daily fuel that is a good thing to work on.
Between those factors and also paying attention to your body. Watching how you are feeling you can really put together an awesome body as well as your mind and your beliefs. It does not need to be complicated or extreme or risky and it can really work well for you. When it does you can really fuel your body and you can fuel your mind to where you can flourish and really function well.
Somewhere along the way diets can be a danger. If you find that your diet is taking up more focus then the rest of your life is it is time to look at those priorities. You know take time to find some great mind body workers who are skilled in the psychology of eating and learn more about that. Find some true things to put your energy into.
Find good ways to fuel your body and from there rock your like and make your mission go! Dr. Alan Christianson here thank you again for hanging out with me for a bit. I look forward to talking with again really soon. Take wonderful care of yourself bye bye.