“Eat Real Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.” -Michael Pollan
Today we live in a world where everyone has to be right – especially about diet and nutrition. There is very little effort to try to understand others’ perspectives. In the nutrition world, we have created select groups of “diet tribes” where you have to subscribe to a particular diet and theory. Paleo, Vegan, Mediterranean, Ketogenic, Vegetarian, Pescatarian, Carb-free, Dairy-free, Fat-free, Gluten-free are all popular diets we may be familiar with. However, the truth is there is no “perfect” diet or nutrition plan.
“Butter is back! Meat is bad! Eat as much grass-fed and pasture-raised meat as you want! Only eat fish! Pounds will shed overnight! Muscles will build on top of muscles!” are nutrition commands and benefit promises we hear daily. These popular diets and cookie-cutter weight loss programs have the “my way or the highway” mentality. They feel like narrow-minded, exclusive clubs that shun you if you don’t follow their philosophy. They have created profit-driven food products that only benefit their bottom line. Ultimately, strict adherence to any one of these diets may actually be hurting you more than helping you long-term.
In 1956 Roger Williams created a theory called “Bio-Individuality” that goes beyond this flavor of the month approach to nutrition and health. He states “every person is unique, and the diet that will work best for them is also very distinctive and individualized.” What Williams means by this is that fad diets are created without any regard for an individual’s personal goals, lifestyle, and preferences. Factors in favor of bio-individual that affect one’s nutritional needs include one’s physical fitness activity, age, gender, lifestyle habits, and local environment. A diet that may make one individual feel amazing, lose weight, or gain lean muscle may not work or have the same benefits for another person.
However, it must be emphasized that Bio-individuality is not static. Most important to understand is that the nutritional needs for every individual are constantly changing! If your nutritional needs are constantly changing, how could one diet fit your needs every single day or year after year? It doesn’t make sense. For example, in the short-term your body may require animal protein after a hard workout but it may require all plant-based foods the following day while you’re recovering. Age may also play a role long-term, as we usually have different nutritional needs at age 60 than we do at age 20 or 30. As you age throughout life a certain food you absolutely loved may not fully agree with your palate after a certain age. Your nutritional needs and food cravings are different in different seasons of the year, most likely when those foods are naturally in season in your local environment. Due to these facts, it makes it impossible to follow or create a one specific diet plan to fit every individual’s short-term day-to-day, seasonal, and long-term needs.
This is just the tip of the iceberg on some of the main factors that prove why no one particular diet is best! Therefore, it is important to practice “Diet Variation” – the regimen of regularly switching up your diet. Bottom line: Everyone’s physical body & environment are different and constantly changing so our dietary needs are also distinct and constantly changing at the individual level.
Lastly, if I had to recommend any diet or nutrition theory, it would be Michael Pollan’s “Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.” Understand that “real food” does not include any highly processed or packaged food because it has been chemically manufactured in a lab or altered from its original form in nature. Follow Michael Pollan’s broad-reaching guidelines, but it is your personal decision as to what type of real foods and how much of each that you eat.