Diet Culture and why we should be counting nutrients not calories!

The word DIET – it’s the buzz word of any new year – in January sales of diet books go up, it’s part of most peoples new years resolutions, it’s when memberships of diet clubs go through the roof. 

But what do we mean by diet?

Most people associate it with weight loss, deprivation, restrictive eating and punishing work out routines. But actually it’s about understanding that food is our diet and we should be treating it like our friend and not our enemy. Food sustains us, it nourishes us, it provides information to every cell in the body. It builds our body, our bones, our brain, our heart, our liver, our hormones. Why would we not recognise this and give our body all the right tools it needs to do this?

The food we eat, our diet, also shapes our mood, our mental health, our thoughts, feelings and emotions and they way we regulate our anger. It activates our fight or flight response. And in a time of heightened stress, when we are already in fight or flight mode and have our stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline running wild, we don’t need to add highly processed food, sugar and restricted eating to this list of things that stresses our body.

There is no such thing as the perfect diet. 

We all probably have friends who have lost weight on the paleo diet, and others who lost weight going vegan, or on a low fat, no carb diet. Each of these friends swear by their method, convinced its the only one that works. but clearly that isn’t the case as they’re all following different diets! If there was indeed one diet that worked for everyone – then there would be no multi billion pound diet industry! or a food industry that peddles the low fat, heart healthy , zero sugar processed foods. 

Yes you can keep going for a few weeks or months on any of these diets, but eventually any kind of deprivation will lead to your body doing all it can to hold on to any food as fat storage – and it will slow down your metabolism as a result. 

And this is why when you come off a diet and go back to how you were eating before the diet, you actually end up putting on more weight than you started at – because now your metabolism has slowed down! So the body doesn’t know if there will be another period of starvation or deprivation, so it will go into survival mode and hang on to the food as fat storage in case there is another famine coming. And now your weight might rocket and so you might be told to eat less, exercise harder, all of which will be punishing your body and as i said, having the opposite effect, and all unhelpful

Food behaves differently in us all. 

We all have different genes and different microbes. Research is now proving that genetics can also control the way we are able to process, absorb and assimilate food, and influences our tendency to put on weight, and the impact that our diets have on our health. This new area of research is called NUTRIGENETICS

People with longer intestines for example will extract more calories from their food than people with shorter intestines. So this example goes some way to explaining why the same food will make some people put on weight and others won’t.

This means that there is no such thing as a universal diet that works for everyone. There are always new diets touted as the best for weight loss, heart health, mental health, diabetes, immunity. They’re marketed as a one size fits all, suitable for everyone, that will work for everyone, and this means that the people who it doesn’t work for feel that they have failed. You can buy all the diet books, download the apps, follow the plans, cook the recipes, all in the hope that these amazing diets will have the desired effect.

Our narrow and blinkered view of nutrition and weight as a simple energy in versus energy our process without recognising the role that our genes and microbes play, is really the main reason for the failure of so many diets and nutritional advice.

We have to take into account our individual biochemistry. Our genes. Our microbes, Our lifestyle, Our stress levels, Our environment, Our sleep. Our exposure to toxins, Our medical history. This means that the way we process and metabolise food will be different in everyone. This is largely down to our own MICROBIOME – that ecosystem of bacteria that live in our gut and are responsible for how we process food, calories, metabolise cholesterol, extract nutrients for energy etc from our food. Given this microbiome is different in everyone, it’s not surprising that actually FOOD BEHAVES DIFFERENTLY in everyone and we will all absorb calories differently. These bacteria determine our appetite and our eventual weight, and our genes also contribute to this too, as well as to our behavioural habits. This will be DIFFERENT for everyone and so the universal dietary advice CAN’T be applied to everyone! 

Perhaps you’re average – and fit into this universal mode – but perhaps you’re an outliier. And so if this diet doesn’t work for you but you see celebrities and friends around you raving about it – then you feel like a failure and that it’s all your fault and that you don’t have any willpower. 

This is why I work with clients on a really individual basis to really get to the bottom of what works for them and why. We need to take into account your own medical background, your likes and dislikes in terms of food, your digestion, what foods suit you and which bloat you, what your lifestyle is like and how much time you have to cook, how your self care is, what your work routine is – and making that all work for YOU! 

Taking a personalised approach to nutrition and lifestyle is the best way forward to get results.Edit