~ Dr. Sonya Nobbe, ND
Eating to lose weight can seem complicated; no sugar, low fat, good fat, and even… maple syrup and lemon juice. And if choosing your food wasn’t confusing enough, multiple studies suggest that starting a diet is one of the best predictors of weight gain. Is the problem our inability to stick to a diet, or is it the failure of the diet industry to understand us? Is there such a thing as a perfect diet for you?
The science of “let food be your medicine” is more complex than the philosophy conceived by Hippocrates circa 400 B.C. The food we eat impacts our health well beyond the calories, fats, and vitamins we spend most of our time focusing on. We now know that certain foods flip our genes on and off, which can be the difference between experiencing the heritable disease your mother had and bypassing the poor health outcomes experienced by your father. Your food creates your health from the level of your DNA and up.
Though older cultural medicines lacked an understanding of unique genetic makeup, they offer an extraordinary appreciation for the qualities of different foods, and how foods complement particular disease patterns expressed by a person. For example, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, foods and people are categorized by their amount of heat, cold, dampness, and dryness. Accordingly, warm foods can be used to treat conditions characterized by a lack of heat or by excess cold. Meals might incorporate a balanced amount of yin and yang, so as not to cause a health problem.
More contemporary approaches to dieting may include specialized laboratory testing that evaluates your metabolism, hormone status, and food allergens. The corresponding food plan includes foods that support, and excludes foods that hinder, your particular metabolic state. For example, raw cruciferous vegetables such as kale and broccoli, can improve liver and estrogen metabolism which makes a healthy weight more attainable. However, these vegetables can also interfere with the thyroid gland which slows down metabolism! Whether these vegetables help or hurt your ability to attain a healthy weight depends on your particular metabolic balance.
Beyond the biochemical, organ-specific, and genetic impact of certain foods, lies the more complicated aspect of our emotional and spiritual response to food. For many people, food is a social connection, a comforting activity, a method of control, or an escape. (In fact, “comfort foods” may actually make us feel better by supporting serotonin production in our brains.) How each of us relates to food can quite surprisingly reveal how we relate to life in general.
Consequently, your perfect diet incorporates 1) a thorough appreciation for food, and 2) a deeper understanding of your unique biochemical and emotional makeup. With these 2 principles in mind, most any traditional diet plan can be improved. Attaining a healthy weight is a lifestyle, and a philosophy. Support from a knowledgeable health professional will take you further in your search for optimal eating, but the majority of the work occurs in challenging yourself to broaden your understanding of your relationship to food, and of food’s genuine capacity to change your life. You are what you eat