Hello! Long post ahead. I don’t usually do these type of posts but I felt compelled to share some of my greatest diet and health lessons today.
I started this blog because I felt like I was a human science experiment of sorts. Well…I have learned a lot about health and nutrition along my journey and I want to kind of summarize my experience for anyone else who might be walking this same path.
Obviously I have many more lessons than this but I don’t want this post to get too long!
7 Diet & Nutrition Lessons I Learned the Hard Way
- There is no such thing as a perfect diet.
When I first became vegan I was quick to latch on to all the vegan spokespeople who preach veganism as the perfect diet and I really bought into it. I mean, I saw incredible benefits and it seemed to really be working for me for quite a while. And then I did the whole Paleo thing for a while because proponents of that diet say it’s the perfect diet. And honestly I did feel really great on the Whole30 (I just didn’t feel great beyond it). But it left me thinking, “who is really right?” The truth is, there is no such thing as a perfect diet because we are all so different and our dietary needs are all so different!
I know, I know, you see the Vegan Triathletes that are just crazy fit and they say they can train hard because of their plant based diet. And then you see the super ripped paleo folks who say they look like that because of their diet. It never really occurred to me that those people would probably be super fit and ripped no matter what they ate. There will always be a small percentage of the population who can eat pretty much anything and look incredible.
- Carbs are really important.
If you are a healthy, active person you need to be eating carbs, period. I’m not talking about eating crazy insane amounts of bagels like we did in the 90’s, I’m talking about healthy carbohydrates obviously. Low carb and grain free diets can be really helpful for people with insulin resistance and they certainly have their place. I don’t want to get too much into the science here, but what I want to say is, I see a lot of young, healthy, active people giving up carbohydrates just because going low carb has become mainstream and it really isn’t advisable for many people.
- Fat is really important but not eating too much fat is also really important.
Fat matters. Just like everything else we put in our mouths, it ALL matters. I think fat is shedding its bad rap which is a good thing, but now I’m seeing things swing too far in the opposite direction. People are eating copious amounts of nuts and putting butter in their coffee thinking there won’t be any negative backlash and that’s simply not the case either! It all matters!
- You CAN have a protein deficiency.
So many famous vegans preach about how “over protein-ed” we are in the U.S. and how nobody really gets protein deficiencies. This is false. I was vegan for a long time and I never tracked how many grams of protein I ate but I would estimate I probably never ate more than 60 grams of protein on any given day. This wasn’t nearly enough protein for my activity level which consisted of marathon training + strength training.
- Vitamins are a must no matter what diet you follow!
Ahhh the great vitamin debate. It seems like everyone likes to say “I get my nutrients from my food” these days (I used to say this as well until tests revealed massive vitamin deficiencies). Well, good luck with that. The truth is, our soil is so nutrient depleted there’s no way we can get all out nutrients from food even if we are eating 10 pounds of vegetables a day. Also, the “Recommended Daily Allowance” for vitamins and minerals is so we DON’T GET a deficiency. It’s not the dose we need to THRIVE and be at our OPTIMAL LEVEL. Sorry for the all caps here but I wish someone would have shaken me and been more stern with me on this one. But do you see there difference there? One level is just the basic minimum needed to survive, but we need much more to function optimally, especially if you are active. Dr. Hyman has great things to say about this topic if you are interested in doing more research.
- When it comes to your health, “Test Don’t Guess”.
I haven’t written about my latest thyroid testing debacle, but the short version is, I got tired of guessing what was wrong and I took a list of tests I wanted to have run to my doctor and made him run them all! I lied and told him I was working with a dietitian who suggested I get all these tests done. He was very receptive to this and gladly ran all the tests, haha!! It revealed my thyroid was pretty low (very low in some aspects), but my DHEA levels were non-existent! I simply started taking a DHEA supplement and that got all my other levels back up to normal. There was no way I could have ever guessed that. So whatever issues you are having, get tested for it. If it’s stomach stuff, get tested. Don’t just assume you have too much stomach acid because it could be more than that.
- Quality water and food DO matter!
I’ve written about water quality before and how I’m convinced it is what cleared up my acne, but I’m serious when I say clean water is important! There are so many contaminants in our drinking water and they simply don’t get filtered out with regular filtration systems like what we have in our refrigerators.
Ditto for food quality. I was resistant to this one for a long time, simply because I didn’t have the money to spend on higher quality food. So you know what analogy I like to use? The home:body analogy (I made this one up and I’ve very proud of it)
When people go shopping for a new home they will typically get approved for a loan and then go shopping for a house that is in the very top of their price range. People will calculate the monthly payments and buy as much house as they can afford because it is an investment. You see where I’m going with this? We spend our maximum budget on our homes and in some cases our cars/clothing/purses/shoes etc. But for some reason, when it’s time to buy fuel FOR OUR BODIES we buy the absolute cheapest food out there because it’s good ‘nuf. Just think about that one. Isn’t our health really our best investment? I certainly think so.
Alright, that’s all for now, I’ll try to think up some more hard lessons learned!