Bio-individuality is a popular word these days, and it has to do with the fact that there are so many different diets out there. Paleo, primal, vegetarian, vegan, autoimmune protocol, raw, fruitarian, low carb, high carb… the list goes on and on. It’s freakin’ overwhelming and SO confusing for people who are constantly looking for the “right” way to eat. Nutrition is one of the most controversial sciences and there are new studies that come out everyday claiming what’s healthy and what’s not, and many times they contradict each other. Have you ever wondered why there are so many ways that people choose to eat or are being told to eat?
What is Bio-Individuality?
Well, that’s because there isn’t one diet that works for everyone. As the quote above states, a food that is healthy for one person can be quite inflammatory to another. A northern European person may thrive on high quality dairy, while someone from East Asia can suffer with stomach pains when consuming any kind of milk or cheese. And its not just what our ancestors have been eating. A young healthy athlete may find that eating grains and carbs like white rice and potatoes fuel them and help them recover after training, while someone with an autoimmune disease knows that these foods only worsen his or her condition.
News flash: We are all different. Our dietary needs are based on our genes, gut microbiome, our activity level, health history, stress, sleep, metabolism, blood type and the list goes on. This is why you aren’t seeing results when you are trying out that diet that’s working so well for your friend. This is called bio-individuality.
Finding Your Bio-Individuality
It is up to us as individuals who are seeking optimal health (and that should be all of us!) to find out what diet works best for us. It can be challenging and time-consuming, and it’s not just about “listening to your body.” For decades, we as humans have been bombarded by processed foods, misinformation, and marketing from food giants, and we’ve lost touch with what “feeling good” feels like. We don’t know what our bodies need, because our bodies themselves are confused with all the junk and stress that they’ve been put through for years. If I decided to listen to my body with what I ate 8 years ago, I would’ve eaten chocolate chip cookies for every meal (I may or may not have actually done that).
So Where Do I Start?
The first step is to go back to the basics. Remove sugar, processed foods, and common allergens out of your diet for 3 weeks, and nourish your bodies with real, whole foods. We need to reset our health and retrain our palates so we develop a taste for real food. The RESTART® program that I instruct is the perfect way to start this process.
After the initial 3 weeks, it’s time to add in foods you have given up during the initial 3 weeks one by one to figure out your food sensitivities. And by this, I’m not talking about waffles and Oreos. Processed food is still processed and sugar is still sugar, and those things aren’t good for anyone and should be avoided. To find out what you may be sensitive to, add a single ingredient back for a day (for example, choose cheese, not pizza, or a banana, not banana bread), and eat it with every meal for just 1 whole day. See how you feel for the next 2-3 days. If you react in any way (digestive issues, acne, depression, foggy brain, low energy, etc), you probably have a sensitivity to that food and it should be avoided. If not, you can add that food back into your diet. Repeat the process with another single ingredient.
The next step is to play around with your macronutrients. This is especially important when finding out your fat to carb ratio. By this point, your sugar cravings are minimized so you can start listening to your body and see how you feel with low-carb/high-fat, high-carb/low-fat, and moderate-carb/moderate-fat. This is all while you are still eating real, whole foods and high quality proteins. I highly recommend keeping a food journal to record what you have been eating and how you feel afterwards. Are you hungry an hour after you eat your meal? Sleepy or exhausted? You may need to up your fat and lower your carb intake.
Finally, look into the diet(s) of your ancestors. You inherit your genetic makeup from them, even your digestive system. You may thrive on foods that were a big part of their diets. Once you find out what macronutrient ratio works best for you, and what foods you thrive on and which ones you should avoid, you have an empowering tool and knowledge to take control and improve your health. This process may not be easy for everyone and can be quite frustrating for some. Don’t give up. Your health is far too important. Feel free to contact me for additional help.
My Personal Experience
About 6 years ago, when I first found out that I have gluten and dairy sensitivities, I started a diet that eliminated those things but not in a health way. I ate gluten-free and dairy-free processed foods, and while that got rid of some of my bloating issues, I still had low energy and poor skin. It was about a year after that when I discovered the Paleo diet, and I started feeling amazing compared to before. I started losing weight, my skin cleared up, and my digestive distresses improved.
However, after about a few years of this way of eating, I wasn’t feeling great again. I thought maybe I was eating too many carbs, so I cut that down and I started experimenting with low carb Paleo and intermittent fasting. It worked for a short time, and then it didn’t. I was also going through a stressful time in my life at the same time. I was working a job that I didn’t like, just moved across the country, and didn’t have many social interactions being completely new to the area. This stressful situation, coupled with going too low on carbs, was too taxing on my body and I started gaining weight again. My digestive issues and acne also came back. As much as I wanted it to, fasting and going low-carb wasn’t really working for me anymore, and I started having adrenal issues as well.
After a frustrating period of time of not knowing how to eat, I decided to add back grains and healthy starch into my diet. I also quit my job, and prioritized sleep and my happiness. I focused all my attention on getting back my health with plenty of rest and light exercise. I’m not sure which of these things factored into it the most (probably the combination) but I started feeling like myself again. My symptoms slowly started going away and I realized that I feel great on white rice and soaked grains and legumes, which isn’t totally surprising being that I’m Korean and grew up on plenty of traditional Korean foods, and so did my ancestors.
It took me a long time to figure out what works for me, and this may change again. Some people rave about low carb diets and how much weight they lost on it and how great they feel. Clearly, my body needs more carbohydrates to run properly. This is why we should never judge others by the way they eat because we don’t know their story and what their body is going through. It fascinates me learning how different we all are everyday, and I think it’s well worth all your time and effort to find out what food makes you feel great inside and out.
Key Takeaways & Suggestions
- No one diet works for everyone. Stop looking for quick weight loss solutions that do not last, and many times, do more harm than good.
- If you want to improve your health, it’s your responsibility to find out what diet works best for you.
- To simplify how to find your ideal diet, go back to the basics. Remove all processed foods, sugars, and common allergens, find your ideal macronutrient ratio, and then add individual ingredients back in one by one to find out if you are sensitive to them. Look into the diet of you ancestors.
- Your dietary needs may change over time. After you find a diet that works best for you, always stop to listen to your body and see how you feel. Keeping a food journal is a great habit to start.
- Processed foods made in a lab and high amounts of sugar do not work for anyone. Find your bio-individuality within a framework of high-quality, real foods.
- Questioning the food choices of other people is NOT okay. Your body is different from theirs, and you will never know what their personal experiences and relationships are to their body and food. Again, what works for you may not work for them. Eyes on your own plate.
- If you need help, see if the RESTART® program could be a good option for you, or contact me for a 1-on-1 consultation.