ONE-SIZE-FITS-NONE: WHY DIETS DON’T WORK

You tried the Special K diet…

And then the Atkins diet…

And when that didn’t work out, you bought a special weight loss tea…

But you swore it actually made you crave more food, so you finally tried keto…

And you lost some weight but you started to feel like poop, so now you’re back to square one (of 12 of the Dove chocolate bar you bought in line at the grocery store).

Today, we dive into:

  • Why one-size-fits-all diets do not work
  • Why microbes play a starring role in our diets
  • A meal planner that takes into account where you are on your healthy-eating journey

If you’re ready to learn how to create healthy meals without the one-size-fits-all approach then check out The Build a Meal Workbook.

Why Diets Don’t Work

Today, I’m going to share something that no author of any diet book wants you to know.

Diets. Don’t. Work.

Year after year, you see celebrities and influencers promoting new diets.

And year after year, you watch as these trends fade.

If you’ve jumped on the diet train, you’ve likely jumped off.

And if you haven’t, your healthy skepticism has probably saved you a load of stress. 

So why don’t diets work?

First, let’s define what I mean by “diet”.

A diet is a specific set of rules about what to eat, when to eat, and how to eat certain foods. 

The decision about what foods to eat, when to eat, and how to eat is made by the person who created the diet.

And, usually, that person had good intentions, did their research, and found a solution that worked for their specific client base.

And when helpful people find solutions, we generally like to share them.

But problems arise when this diet is shared with those of us who are not in this specific client base if the diet is assumed to function as a one-size-fits-all approach.

Why?

There are a million reasons why a diet may not work for you, but today we’re going cover two reasons.

Reason # 1: Gut Microbes

The first reason why a diet that worked for one person may not work for you is that you likely have dramatically different gut microbiomes.

A microbiome is the collection of microbes all interacting together within a system (“a bio home”), such as your gut.

After food is initially processed by the stomach, it is released into the intestines where microbes begin to further break down the food.

The first microbes to encounter the food will effectively poop out by-products, which other microbes then process.

Some of these by-products are absorbed back into your body as nutrients, and others are discarded as waste. 

However, no two microbiomes are alike.

Meaning that the first and subsequent microbes to encounter food in your body may be different from the first and subsequent microbes to encounter food in my body.

And so, then chain of by-products that are produced varies.

Why the difference in microbiomes?

Because your microbiome is established over your lifetime and is impacted by a variety of different factors.

And while your gut microbiome is initially established by the birthing process, your mother’s milk, and microbially-rich food, it can be altered by illness, antibiotics, and new microbially-rich foods.

Meaning that even twins birthed and fed by the same woman, likely do not have the same gut microbiome.

And because our gut microbiome plays such a critical role in how we process and metabolize food, it would stand to reason that we all process and metabolize food in slightly different ways.

So, the fancy new diet that helped your friend lose weight and clear up her acne may have little to no impact on you simply because your gut microbiomes are so different.

Reason #2: Food Quality

The second reason why the same diet may not have the same effect on two people is related to food quality.

Food quality is made up of several different factors:

  1. Microbial diversity
  2. Nutrient density  
  3. Genetic diversity

Staying on the subject of microbes, there is an important relationship that I’d like to focus on.

That is that the microbiome of soil influences the microbiome of crops, which in turn influences the microbiome of your gut, which then influences your own metabolism.

And there is growing concern that pesticides may actually disrupt one of the sources of your microbiome – the soil’s microbiome – by both increasing certain microbes and depleting others.

Aside from this direct relationship between pesticides and soil microbes, there is another relationship that is indirect and also impacts us.

And that is that disruption of the soil microbiome influences a crop’s ability to absorb water, protect itself from pathogens, and break down nutrients.

And the nutrient density of crops influences the quality of our food.

So, not only does food quality differ because of the soil microbiome, but because of the nutrients the crop was able to absorb.

Unfortunately, due to years of agriculture practices that rely heavily on pesticide use and do not adequately replenish nutrients in the soil, as well as due to the impact of climate change, our food is becoming less nutrient-dense.

So, kale from a small-scale sustainable farm differs in nutrient density than kale from a big box store that buys from large-scale manufacturers using traditional farming practices.

In addition, as consumers push for more food to be produced cheaply, manufacturers tend to choose crop lines that produce quickly, prolifically, and with fewer pest problems.

The result is that our food supply is becoming white-washed of its genetic diversity and therefore white-washed of its nutrient diversity. 

So, if the majority of your food comes from global suppliers and the majority of your neighbor’s food comes from multiple heirloom varieties grown in her own backyard, there may be differences in the quality of food you are both accessing.

So, with all of that in mind am I telling you that the only solution to accessing high-quality food is to buy organic, locally-grown, sustainable, genetically-diverse superfood?

No.  

While I’m sure we all wish we had this option, suggesting that would not be in line with the constraints that most of us face in modern-day life.

So, what can you do instead?

The actions you take to improve your diet and move the needle towards a healthier version of you depend on where you are in your healthy-eating journey.

In other words, if your diet is mostly made up of fast food and pre-packaged meals, I would not suggest making the commitment to eating homemade, Rachel Ray-inspired superfood meals just yet.

Why?

Because making changes slowly is what makes change sustainable.

With that being said, here are a few quick solutions for what you can do to improve your diet starting today…

  • Eat more green leafy vegetables
  • Try fermented foods (such as kimchi, keifer, and Sauer kraut)
  • Consider purchasing some produce from your local farmer’s market or small-scale sustainable farm

If you want more ideas for how you can improve your diet based on where you are on your healthy-eating journey, check out The Build a Meal Workbook.

Cover Image Credit: https://www.pexels.com/@athena

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