The ‘how to’ of weight loss is everywhere. From the bikini models of social media telling you how to shred 10kgs in 5 days to magazine articles telling you about the latest ‘must have’ weight loss product. From the 855 million websites dedicated to weight loss on Google to the health section in your local book shop or library with a blinding variety of books telling you how their weight loss method is much better than the other 1000’s of books available for purchase. It’s no wonder that everyone is so confused! So who is right? The answer is – they all are in some shape or form. Many of these individual social media ‘influencers’ and bloggers have found the optimal diet for them and they are getting great results. They are super excited about it and want to tell the world their secret to achieving weight loss success because it’s going to work for you too – right? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is a big, fat no! We as humans are individuals in every sense of the word. We look different, sound different, feel differently, have different emotions and our bodies are unique to us. No other person on the planet has exactly the same body as you. Even identical twins start to become unique pretty much seconds after they are born as they are exposed to different environments, their individual microbiomes start to form and their DNA starts to change through epigenetic variations. So how can one size fit all when it comes to diet and weight loss? The answer is it can’t. We have to find what is uniquely our own individual pantry when it comes to food.
Think about it. Have any of your friends every recommended a must do diet where they lost 10kgs and feel amazing? It’s usually something crazy like you only eat bananas for the first week then only steak for the second – you know the one?! You try it and you don’t get the same results and you feel pretty horrible in the process. These diets are usually completely unsustainable so they don’t last and you’re back to square one. So why did it work for your friend and not you? Because everything from personality, genetics, metabolism, current diet, stress levels, hormonal health, gut health and ancestral diet comes into play. There is some very interesting genetic testing being performed at the moment that can identify what type of diet suits you based on your DNA. For example, all of us have different variations of the AMY1 gene, which is related to the type of salivary amylase we have in our mouth (an enzyme responsible for the breakdown of carbohydrates). This testing can tell us if we are more suited to a low carb, mid carb or high carb diet. So if your AMY1 gene is at the different end of the scale from your dieting friend, the diet they are on is not going to suit you at all. Also, look at your ancestry. I was brought up on a Scottish diet so is a predominantly Asian diet going to make me feel great? Probably not. If you were brought up on a Asian diet, the dairy in a Western diet is going to kill you! Also, the research on our gut bacteria and weight loss at the moment is mind-blowing. Scientists are consistently identifying parts of our microbiome that can either have a beneficial effect or detrimental effect on weight gain and weight loss. Everyone single one of us has a completely unique microbiome so how can one diet get us all to an ideal weight? Even a round of antibiotics can adversely change our microbiome and send us into a period of weight gain.
So how do we go about finding this holy grail of our ultimate personalised diet that is going to give us the body of a teenager and the energy of a race horse? The answer is simply trial and error and listening to our body’s response to different variations. Your body will soon tell you if your diet and lifestyle isn’t working well for you. If you have a spare tyre or 2 then that’s a big, whopping signal. If you are constantly exhausted there’s another red flag. Your skin is an amazing indicator of health – do you have acne, psoriasis, dermatitis or it is a grey and lifeless. All may indicate an unhealthy diet or foods included in the diet that are not right for you. The gut is super sensitive and will tell us almost immediately if our diet and lifestyle is working for us. If we eat the wrong foods we get constipation or diarrhoea or it feels bloated and aches and if we are permanently stressed it can feel like it’s in knots. Swollen joints, cartilage degeneration and body stiffness can be big indicators of the wrong diet, lack of exercise or too much exercise. Chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, alzheimers, dementia, inflammatory bowel disease and autoimmune conditions are positively screaming at you that diet and lifestyle changes need to be made.
However, I find that many people are oblivious to the signals that their body is sending them. In clinic, I have seen plethora of women and men who are ignoring many diet and lifestyle related symptoms meanwhile labelling them as part of the ageing process or just something that life has randomly thrown at them. This attitude has been perpetuated by the medicalisation of our health whereby we have been taught that we don’t need to take responsibility for our health because there will be a pill or procedure to cure any harm we have done. Our doctor’s are usually our first port of call when we are not feeling at our best and they are not being educated in lifestyle and nutrition. A GP/Nutritionist friend of mine recently did a nutrition lecture for medical students at a local university and it was the only nutrition training they were to receive in their entire degree – 3 hours!! How are medical professionals supposed to provide nutrition advice with 3 hours training?! Unless they are self motivated to learn, they will resort to what they know best – drugs.
When I meet my clients for an initial consultation, I spend an hour listening to everything they have to say about their health. I want to know if they struggle to gain or lose weight, do certain foods make them feel better or worse, do some foods trigger gut issues such as bloating, indigestion, constipation or diarrhoea (it is amazing how many people react adversely to foods but continue to eat them – listen to your body!!), are their hormone cycles regular, pain free and light, do they get sick with colds etc a lot, are they happy and positive, do they have muscle aches and pain, are the ageing well, are they mobile and happy to exercise, do they have a good sex drive, are they constantly sugar craving, what do they regularly eat, what foods do they enjoy, what foods do they positively detest, what is their energy rating throughout the day, how well do they sleep, do they feel particularly anxious at certain times of the day, how is their hair, nails and skin……….and on and on. The first consultation is one hour long and I am on a mission to work out if the diet and lifestyle choices my clients are currently making are the best fit for them and them only. Every single person I see leaves with completely different nutrition and lifestyle advice, personalised for their own individual health and happiness.
So it’s time to assess – are my diet and lifestyle choices working for me?? If not, you know who to call.