Seeking nutritional advice can be a very confusing endeavor to say the least.
One expert says carbs are bad and you should eat lots of fat.
The other says fat is bad and we need a very high carb diet .
One theory says red meats are linked to heart disease.
One documentary says veganism is the cure to all disease.
You could literally Google a list of superfoods and a list of foods to avoid. And a lot of the items on those lists would be Identical.
So who should you listen to then?
We’ll answer that question at the end of this post.
Why the Diet That Got Your Friend Skinny Can Make You Fat and Sick
We all have that one friend who seems to be able to eat whatever they want and still look good.
And we’ve all seen people attempt popular diets that work for many people, only to get horrible results.
Usually in these cases people say to the fast-food-binging skinny friend: “Wow, you’ve been blessed with a great metabolism!”
While the overweight friend who’s always dieting says “I can’t help it. I’m just built with a heavier frame than others.”
Still, there’s many cases of people like that suddenly finding the one “magic diet” that can make them skinny… After everything they tried.
How is that possible?
Well, when you look at humans, it’s clear that they are not all built the same:
There’s different skin colors, different shapes, different timbres of voice, different body odors,... It’s clear that different humans have very different external traits depending on their ancestry.
But what about the inside?
If we all look so different, why would we be exactly the same internally? The same stomach, the same bacteria in our gut? It’s very unlikely. Scratch that, it’s just not the case at all. We are as different on the inside as we are on the outside.
Years ago, our ancestors evolved for centuries and centuries, to eat a certain diet that was tailored to the environment they lived in, the sorts of foods that were available in that environment, and the specific demands that surviving in that environment placed on their bodies.
For example, that means if you are of 100% Japanese descent, your body would be very good at processing rice, fish, soy, seaweeds, etc. But very bad at processing milk products.
However, in the modern world, most people do not come from a very one-sided lineage. Most of us have ancestors from all sorts of countries and different parts of the world. So that means the diet that would be best for us is also influenced by a mixed bag of ancestral stomachs, guts and appetites.
Roughly speaking though, there are 3 metabolic types that are recognized in humans:
The Protein Type: Does best on protein, fats and vegetables, doesn’t do well on carbs.
The Carb Type: Is the healthiest on a diet that includes mostly grains, fruit, vegetables, and light meats (or vegetarian products).
The Mixed Type: Performs best on a diet that’s roughly a mix of all three macronutrients (fat, carbs, protein).
This explains of course the often conflicting results when studies are done about one particular diet.
It also explains why your friend seems to be able to eat anything.
For example, I can munch down on lots of fatty foods and still look lean and muscular. On the other hand, when I eat just one pizza or a sandwich, I look noticeably more bloated the next day.
If my body was a pure carb type however, I could eat lots of fries, bread, pastries, etc. And it would serve as efficient fuel for my body (not considering micronutrients of course).
A carb type or mixed type would also be the kind of person who can get very healthy on a vegan diet. While a protein type would reap the benefits of a “keto” diet or a “carnivore diet”. So as long as these diets are matched to the right bodies, there will always be stories of dramatic results.
On the other hand, if you have been trying out all sorts of diets and following them religiously, but still nothing changes, then it probably just means those diets were no match for your metabolic type. (Side note: Be honest with yourself here though. This only counts if you have actually been following the diets religiously. Not if you have been eating like a pig three times a week and telling yourself “you deserve it” because you’re on a diet 😉 )
Of course, since our heritages are so mixed and complex, you can see these 3 types as somewhat of a continuum. The exact macronutrient ratio you need to function optimally will differ from person to person.
And depending on how your genes evolved, you will also have some specific types of food (certain vegetables or fruits for example) that are healthier for you than others. Perhaps even some foods that your body doesn’t tolerate at all.
Other Factors That Influence Your “Ideal Diet”
Other than your baseline “metabolic type”, there’s a lot more things that can influence your dietary needs. Going from physical activity, stress levels, a change in environment, even the seasons!
For example, I have a body that generally thrives on a high fat, high protein diet with very few carbs (other than light vegetables).
But suddenly last week, I found myself craving carbs all the time. Normally I only eat something starchy on sunday. But now I found myself eating them throughout the week. And not the good kind: Ice cream, cookies, packaged cereal, etc. All things I would normally never eat.
And I could feel it was not a psychological issue. I wasn’t running away from myself or feeling stressed out.
I took me a while, but then I realized what it could be: Summer is over. So with the weather conditions, my body’s needs are going to start to shift as well.
Now when that happens, how do you find out what those needs are?
What’s the perfect diet for you (or me) this upcoming season?
Which Expert Should You Listen to for Dietary Advice?
Since you have a unique body, and none of the people selling their fancy diets have actually seen that body (let alone on the inside 😉 ), who would be the best expert to consult?
Your body itself of course!
If you pay attention to what happens to that body when you change the foods you eat, do you…
• Get more or less pimples?
• Does your skin become dry or oily?
• Have improved or impaired concentration?
• Have more or less energy?
• Sleep better or worse?
• Feel more or less emotionally stable?
• Gain fat or lose fat?
• Get constipated or runny?
• Feel happy and alive, or depressed and lethargic?
• Feel hungry or satisfied after eating?
• Feel mentally more sharp or more foggy?
These are all indicators of how well those foods are in alignment with your optimal health.
For example, now that I noticed I started craving different foods, I will:
Eat no carbs for a week, then check all these parameters to see how good it was for me.
If I score great on all of them, then that’s how I need to eat for a while, and the cravings were a one time thing.
If I feel worse, I add just a small amount carbs for a week and check how I feel after that.
Then repeat this cycle, until I have found the amount of (healthy) carbs I need to eat in order to function optimally right now.
You can do the same thing with different types of food. Eating one type of vegetable (or protein source) for a moment and checking how you feel on them. Then eating another type for the next 2 days (or week).
Follow the signals your body sends you, and make your conclusions based on that.
Nobody knows your body better than , ehm… your body itself.
So learn to listen to it. Learn to speak its language. And act on the advice it gives you.
Over time, your body and you will learn to trust each other, and you can develop a strong relationship with it. Then it becomes very easy to recognize these signals.
Once you’ve established that habit, you can always keep adjusting what you eat, through the months, seasons and years, while your body’s needs fluctuate.
That is the best diet for you 😉
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