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Think You’re Healthy With A ‘One Size Fits All’ Diet? Think Again. ‘Suck It And See’ Is Where It’s At

by Sadie Roberts

New Year = being bamboozled from every which way by what we SHOULD be eating. Veganism is hurling the most at me this year, it seems to have taken over the ‘on trend’ pedestal from Paleo. Chowing down on a grass fed steak for breakfast is so 2014, silken tofu is where it’s now at! Although these diets have the odd thing in common (loads-a-veg, no dairy) they are poles apart (the whole meat thing – obvs). So how can these disparate ways of eating both be THE healthiest diet going in the past few years? Our constitutions can’t have changed that much in the 5 years since Paleo’s heyday. And it’s not just these two, there are oh so many others to add to the mix.

I’ve been around the diet block over the years and I come at healthy eating with no real bias, I like all foods and from a taste point of view, I’ll chomp my way through most of them. (Except raw celery. I abide it cooked, but not raw. Easy to avoid right? No, celery is a temptress, luring me onto the rocks of the buffet table like a siren lures sailors; it’s just transport for dip that’s all, just transport…and before I know it, its sweet song has clouded my better judgement and I’m crunching away, only to be retching moments later.)

While I like all foods, they don’t all like me.

Veganism’s superstar, soya and I hate each other. Or rather, it hates me. Soya is Satan’s seed as far as my system is concerned; immediate headache, inflammation, mucus… I keep on testing our relationship; a bit of organic tamari here and a Christmas cocktail with soya cream there. But no, we have irreconcilable differences that years of mediation hasn’t and can’t fix.

Vegans and vegetarians love a bean and a pulse, as do I. Kidney beans might be my all time fave, I can eat them straight out of the tin. The whole legume family is excellent at soaking up flavour and intensifying it – nom nom nom. But yep, they no likey me in too great a quantity. I treat myself once in a while with some kidney beans in chilli, or a daal, but there are always consequences. Damn you legumes!

Cauliflower is the champion substitute for grains and white potato in the Paleo world. You can; rice it, mash it, make pizza bases with it, use it to thicken sauces, make a poultice with it to regrow severed limbs etc etc. Turns out cauliflower also hates me, I haven’t wronged it as much as soya, but I’ve obviously seriously offended it. Contrary to all held dear by Paleoists, I’m actually fine with a bit of basmati rice as opposed to the cauliflower variety, despite its toxic lectins (other grains are a different story).

Then there’s the Ketogenic diet (low carb high fat) which will cure all ills; diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, Brexit etc etc. But guess what? I need some carbs. My endocrine and nervous systems have made it very plain that they’ll have no truck with very low carb shenanigans.

So far not so good, none of the above fit. I could go on with other foods and other diets, but you get the ‘no one size fits all’ picture.

I was a militant Paleo type for many years, even went full fascist on the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) – no; grains, dairy, nuts, seeds, nightshades, spices or eggs. Basically, anything that someone somewhere has once had an allergic reaction to, you can’t eat. Bees – they’re off the menu, pollen, dust, pet dander… But this fascism made a big improvement to my new found crappy health, this hardcore version of Paleo really helped heal my leaky gut. So I stuck with Paleo after AIP, even though some things didn’t sit with me, they were Paleo and therefore totes fine, regardless of what my gut said.

Bags of seeds

Sustained improved health meant I could allow myself to dally with the dark side and I experimented with introducing some gluten free grains, high fat organic dairy and even the odd white potato. Some have stuck in moderation; I’m fine with the odd bit of greek yoghurt and every now and then some cheese (especially goat and sheep), a small amount of basmati once a week, an oat or two every now and then, a new potato or five.

I’ve settled for the moment on a diet whose foundation is Paleo, with the odd bit of the above. This is based on how I react to food, not what some article or blog has told me is the way I SHOULD be eating. This will remain fluid too, no longer being intolerant to egg has proved to me that intolerances come and go, so I’ll continue to be open minded about food (except celery).

Isn’t this suck it and see approach what everyone should be doing instead of being tribal about what we eat? Aren’t we all different and therefore should be eating different things?

My friend thrives on a vegan diet, but I would probably die if I followed one. Too many of its go tos (soya, legumes, nuts) I find inflammatory, leaving me with a high proportion of carb based calories which would lead to palpitations, candida overgrowth, brain fog from hell etc etc.

I know of loads who have cured chronic illness (or seriously improved it) with a ketogenic diet, but again, I’d probably die on that too, my hormones would go on strike.

So listen to what the various diet gurus say, see what resonates, but don’t follow blindly. Pay attention to what your body tells you after certain foods. Have a suspicion about one? Perhaps you get bloated, your joints ache, you get a headache, change in mood, itchy, your condition flares…? Cut it out for a while (symptoms gone?), reintroduce it (symptoms back?), ditch it for a good while. Become your own detective. But you have to seriously tune in to what your body is telling you, we get used to a bit of discomfort etc, think it’s normal, but it is not. If you listen properly, turn the dial all the way up to 11, that niggle may well turn in to a ruddy great fog horn.

There is no ‘one size fits all’, ‘suck it and see’ is oh so 2019!

Eat what makes you happyI understand there’s a whole other ethical side to Veganism, but I’m coming at diet wholly from a health perspective.

If you have a serious health condition, obviously don’t deviate from a prescribed diet.

If you are chronically ill, I would highly recommend a strict elimination diet like AIP. Remove all potential offenders and when symptoms have abated, reintroduce one by one to identify the offenders.