Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Nutrition Rant Part II: How we help people with nutrition

In Part I, we outlined all the reasons that we do not like nutrition competitions: food is an emotional topic, food is personal, things change, and real changes come from within. So how do we help people with their nutrition? We like two approaches: gradual and elimination-and-test.

With the gradual approach, you make one change in your eating behavior each week. This can differ depending on the person and their goals. Someone with straightforward weight loss goals may first cut out sugar and other carbohydrate sources. Someone with digestive issues might first target wheat and dairy. Someone with mass gain or strength goals may focus on getting enough high-quality protein, and someone with endurance goals may focus on incorporating more high-quality fats to shift to a fat burner from a sugar burner. And someone who has struggled for a long time with weight loss may focus on substitutions rather than rules at first (for example, eggs instead of cereal for breakfast).

With the elimination-and-test approach, you need to set aside a block of time for the elimination period, at least a month, longer for people with tricky health concerns. During this period, you completely eliminate the foods that are most likely to be problematic. For some, this may mean following a basic Paleo or primal plan. For people with a history of autoimmune disorders or other health red flags, a stricter autoimmune Paleo protocol would be more appropriate. After this trial elimination period, you start experimenting by adding back one eliminated food at a time and seeing how it affects you. This way you can learn what limitations are necessary for you to feel good in the long-term.

Which is the right approach for you?  Health status, goals, age, mindset, past experience, and personality can determine this. If you have a serious health condition, we recommend the eliminate-and-test approach. It can be difficult to know if a food is causing a problem for you if you don't cut it out for a period of time, and if your health is suffering, we want you to feel better as quickly as possible. Elimination-and-test is also good for people who are completely committed to the process of making a change and want to jump in with both feet. The gradual approach works better for someone who is more hesitant, who has some anxiety about making large changes all at once, or who has practical/life obstacles to jumping into an elimination diet (for example, work or family demands, high levels of stress, or a history of disordered eating).

Neither of our approaches is cookie-cutter - they should be highly personalized. That's our role - to guide you through the process and help you determine what is the right plan for you to dial in your nutrition and feel your best, physically and psychologically.
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