Why I focus on Nutrients - not Diets
Secret's out!!! I'm not a "diet" girl. If you really feel like you need a list of foods you CAN eat, and a list of foods you CAN'T, I'm happy to provide that as your practitioner. But I'm not a diet girl.
But wait - what about Paleo? What about Keto? What about GAPS? What about AIP?? What about Mediterranean? What about juicing? Atkins? Come on, Tiffany. Diets are where it's at!
Well, those first four are definitely "diets" that can be healing. Let's talk about why, and then I'll explain why I feel these diets aren't always the best idea.
Aww, dear Paleo. If someone asked how I eat, I would probably say I'm Paleo-ish. Or Paleo-You. The Paleo Diet (or the Caveman Diet) typically focuses on higher fat (with coconut oil, avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil, butter, and animal fats!), moderate protein (eggs, pastured meats, wild caught seafood), and low to moderate carbs (fresh veggies and fruits, mostly). Nuts and seeds are allowed, but most paleo diets remove all grains and legumes (this includes, but is not limited to, wheat, barley, oats, rye, corn, brown rice, soy, peanuts, kidney beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, black eyed peas and products derived from these foods (think whiskey, and hummus!). No processed refined carbs!
Essentially, the paleo diet focuses on whole, nutrient dense foods. No processed, no vegetable oils, no cheesecake. Although if you google "paleo cheesecake", you will find a ton of delicious recipes! To be fair, they do use "paleo" ingredients. Almond flour instead of all purpose flour, etc. But to really be paleo, in my opinion, you gotta skip the cheesecake. Paleo is typically fairly plant-based with a good balance of animal proteins.
Oh, Keto. You are SO misunderstood. Keto should ALSO be plant based, with a good balance of animal proteins. The goal of Keto is to get your body into KETOSIS. Ketosis means your body is adapting to burning FAT instead of SUGAR as it's main fuel source. Yes, you can test for ketones, yes, you can potentially lose weight with Keto. HOWEVER. If you are not properly digesting, Keto can cause some major issues. Too much fat in the body and a leaky gut can send toxins out into the bloodstream causing all KINDS of issues. But let me back up a little.
What is Keto again? Keto is a high fat, low carb diet. So far, fairly similar to Paleo! Did you notice in the Paleo overview that I stated it was higher fat (not high fat)? I also didn't toss out any percentages or stats. But oh the glorious Keto. Keto likes STATS. As in "70% of your daily caloric intake should come from healthy fats". Now, there are varying ranges, but in general. Higher fat means typically 30%-50%. A "balanced" plate might often be what we call the 40/30/30. Carbs/Proteins/Fats. With Keto, we're jumping that fat percentage up to at least 60%.
Now, there's nothing WRONG with Keto. Don't let me scare you with that leaky gut warning. Although if you DO have any signs of indigestion (bloating, burping, gas, heartburn, swollen tummy, feeling of excess fullness), I don't recommend you try Keto until you get your digestion in better order. Those symptoms are not normal! However, let's keep going. Keto should actually follow the same TYPES of foods that you see in Paleo. No refined processed carbs or sugars. But there's also no fruit, minus the occasional berry. And no root vegetables or tubers (say goodbye to those carrots and sweet potatoes). You DO get to keep some yummy treats like BUTTER, unprocessed cheese, and avocados. But it is definitely more restrictive than Paleo.
Ok, now we're getting into HEALING diets. GAPS was developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, and it stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome. She has a wonderful book you can find here. She spent a great deal of time studying autism and ADHD, focusing on the link between nutrition and mental health. The GAPS diet is meant to be temporary.
Allowed foods are non-starchy veggies, squash, nightshades (eg tomato, eggplant), meat, eggs, nuts and seeds, honey, coconut, fruit, aged cheese, fermented veggie and dairy products, cacao/chocolate.
The AVOID list contains grains, legumes, sugar (including maple syrup and coconut sugar), veggies like okra and seaweed, starchy veggies (like sweet potato and parsnips) and starchy non-grain flours like cassava, arrowroot, and tapioca.
This diet can absolutely do wonders for those that need healing, but I recommend it under guidance of a professional trained in the GAPS protocol.
AIP stands for AutoImmune Protocol. It was developed by Loren Cordain PhD and grown by Sarah Ballantyne PhD. AIP is an elimination diet that lasts 30 days, focusing on nutrient dense whole foods, and a solid reintroduction of foods to gauge an individual's reaction to these foods. In theory, I love where AIP has gone. It can address gut health and re-establish hormone balance, while strengthening the immune system. It's sort of magical! (But wait, didn't I say I don't like diets? We'll get there! Keep going!). So what can't you have on AIP?
Foods to avoid: Alcohol (yes, most of these recommend no or very limited alcohol). Eggs, coffee (except for the occasional cup), grains, grain-like seeds like chia seeds and quinoa, dairy (all butter, cheese, milk, yogurt, kefir, ghee, whey), legumes (again, let's not forget about chickpeas and peanuts), processed oils (vegetable oil, canola oil, peanut or soybean oil), processed chemicals, sugars, sugar substitutes (aspartame, stevia, sucralose), nuts and seeds, nightshades and spices derived from nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant, cayenne, ashwagandha, bell peppers, hot peppers, paprika, potatoes (although sweet potatoes are ok in moderation), tomatillos), and spices derived from seeds like mustard, celery seed, dill, fennel, nutmeg.
That's ALOT. So...what does one eat on AIP?
Foods allowed: Pastured meats (keep in mind no eggs), wild caught seafood, fresh and frozen veggies (minus nightshades), fruit in moderation, healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, animal fats), bone broth, organ meats, and some grain free baking flours (like cassava and coconut flours).
AIP can be a wonderful protocol under the guidance of someone trained in nutrition.
ALL THAT BEING SAID!
Here's my problem with diets.
1) It's a diet. That means it should be temporary. Most of the people I work with think a diet means "ok, I do this for 30 days, then I go back to the stuff I like. I can't wait to grab some Chick-fil-A after my 30 days is up!". No, girlfriend. That's not how this works. Therefore, I tend to steer clear of recommending "diets".
2) I look at all those rules and I'M overwhelmed! If you decide to try a protocol, I cannot recommend enough that you find someone well trained in nutrition AND physiology to work with so that you can properly prepare for the protocol you choose.
3) I look at the foods you can have, the foods you can't, and I sit and wonder what I would even eat. I'm allergic to carrots. And tomatoes. And avocado. And most fish/shellfish. And most nuts. And a fair amount of veggies. If I tried to go full blown with AIP, I feel like I'd be eating meat, limited veggies, and berries (but no strawberries). With fat. It's DOABLE, but I'm not sure it's entirely healthy. In other words, the diets can overlook basic food allergies, and I want to be conscientious of that before I recommend any protocol to someone.
4) Food fear. Even though it's typically seen as a female trait, both men and women struggle with their relationship with food. Not everyone does, but a lot of people worry about what will make them fat, or what will make them itch, or what will make them xyz. I get it. Obviously. I have allergies too! I'm not always right at my ideal weight either! But not eating, or becoming obsessed with skipping meals, cutting calories, or only eating these five foods, can be dangerous for someone towing a line of an eating disorder. I want you to love food. I want you to love food in a healthy way, and see food as nourishing and healing. I want to help you find the best way to eat for you, so that you can feel your best. Without slapping down a strict, pre-planned diet. Now, the foods I recommend you eat and don't eat may look ALOT like one of the above protocols. If you noticed, I actually quite like all of them. I just don't want to make a habit of putting someone in a box. "You should eat Paleo" or "You should try AIP!". There's so much more to a working body than putting you on a list of do's and don'ts.
At the end of the day, food is a big deal. It's social, it's how we get our energy, we eat without thinking. The modern world has made it easy to eat on the go. Whether that's grabbing an RX bar or pulling into the drive-thru. But if you aren't feeling well, then that way of eating isn't working for you. If you want to talk about how to help your body heal through food, how to feel better when you eat, and how to love food again without over-loving, don't hesitate to reach out!