Choosing an eating style that’s right for you

Choosing an eating style that’s right for you

For this topic, I could go into vague generalizations about how to choose an eating style with tips like –

  • Choose foods with less saturated fat and refined sugars
  • Limit processed foods by eating whole foods at least 80% of the time
  • Start with small changes to build healthier eating habits in the long run
  • And so on

While this is all true and a very good place for you to start, I wanted to provide some clarification for anyone confused by all of the different “eating styles” out there. Also, many of us have nasty allergies and food intolerances, and unfortunately, the general information above doesn’t cover these issues. So, I thought I’d dive a bit deeper than these generalizations about “eating healthier” that you may find on the internet.

VEGAN AND PALEO AND KETO, OH MY!

What Are “Eating Styles?”

There are various “eating styles,” such as vegan, paleo, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, vegetarian, pescatarian, ketogenic, raw foods diet, and more. For example, I am a plant-based (vegan), gluten-free, refined sugar-free eater. Phew, isn’t that a mouthful? Get it? 😀 With all of the different eating styles out there, you may be confused by which one to choose. I won’t get into my entire healthy eating journey in one post (if I did, we’d be here all day) but after a few years of research, trials and testing to see what my unique body dislikes, and one health coach certification later, I was able to find which eating style made me feel my best, and helped produce the healthiest version of me.

You Are Unique, So it’s Likely That Your Diet is Too

This is not an article explaining all of the reasons why you should go vegan. There are plenty of articles like that out there, however, I have to be frank – I am a big advocate of a plant-based diet (someone who eats mainly, or only plants) that consists of as little processed foods and refined sugars as possible. There are scientifically proven methods for healthy eating, including plenty of evidence that points to a plant-based, whole foods diet being the healthiest. Don’t believe me? Check out The China Study and thank me later! However, I also understand that everyone is different, coming from different cultural backgrounds and upbringings, and that cutting out most of the food groups that you’ve known and loved your whole life seems like a daunting and difficult task.

There’s also the fact that how our bodies respond to different food groups varies from person to person. For example, although it was indeed a process, it wasn’t extremely hard for me to cut out meat and dairy because I always saw immediate effects in my digestion after consuming these products – like bloating, nausea, and IBS, and that wasn’t fun. Others around me were able to eat these foods and be perfectly fine in the short-term. Like a snowflake, every one of us is miraculously unique. The same can be said for our bodies! I believe that’s why there are so many different eating styles. I want to share a few tips on how to find an eating style that is non-restrictive, delicious, and maintainable for you. And hey, perhaps through your own research and testing, you might find that a plant-filled diet consisting of primarily whole foods makes you feel your best, too.

The Elimination Diet

The elimination diet is one of the first things that helped me to choose my eating style. From a young age, I dealt with having a sensitive stomach (IBS), sensitive skin (eczema on and off), and various allergies. Through the elimination diet, I learned exactly which foods triggered these symptoms and ultimately prevented my body from fully thriving. The elimination diet is a “diagnostic procedure used to identify foods that an individual cannot consume without adverse effects. Effects may be due to food allergy, food intolerance, other physiological mechanisms (such as metabolic or toxins), or a combination of these.” Elimination diets typically involve entirely removing a suspected food from the diet for a period of time, usually anywhere from two weeks to two months, and waiting to determine whether symptoms resolve during that time period. These suspected foods usually consist of the top 8 most common allergens. For me, it was one of the best ways to see what my body dislikes, which helped me choose my current eating style.

My Experience with the Elimination Diet

For about 2.5 months, I detoxed my body of the top 8 most common allergens, and all processed/packaged foods and refined sugars. These are foods that are commonly suspected to cause issues related to food intolerance, allergies, and other forms of inflammation within the body. The top most common allergens are dairy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, wheat-gluten, soy, and fish.

After the 2 and a half months were over, I introduced foods back into my diet one by one to see which triggered a reaction in my stomach (for IBS), and in my skin (for eczema). I was excited to find that my body doesn’t fair well with gluten, refined-sugar, processed foods, and animal products. The more I stayed away from these foods that were triggering and increasing inflammation, the more my body began to thrive!

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Listening to Your Body

Over the past couple of years, I also became more keen on listening to my body outside of the elimination diet! I observed how my body reacted to “normal” foods. For example, I noticed that rice tends to make me hold on to water weight. I now severely limit my rice consumption. Isn’t that strange? Where as some people can eat rice daily, I can literally have ONE CUP and wake up the next day with tummy bloat. This just proves my point about how everyone’s body is different and unique. I also noticed lots of adverse effects from refined sugars. Now I do my best to stay away from them (also simply because of how inflammatory they are, but that’s for another post).

Incorporate Food That is Healthy, but Also Delicious

I believe that eating good food is one of the many pleasures of life! I’m a huge foodie (as you can probably tell by that statement) and always have been. In my past, it was difficult for me to eat healthy because I hated the taste of “health foods.” It wasn’t until I became plant-based that I was forced to learn how to cook and get creative in the kitchen. This led me to find healthy meals that were not only satisfying, but also got me excited to eat. Through research and a little creativity, I was able to find out what I liked and didn’t like.

Finding healthy food that is also delicious is an important step in making healthy eating a lifestyle, and it will be a major help during the process of choosing your specific “eating style.” Nobody wants a diet full of food that tastes like cardboard… If you are going around eating celery sticks and beets because you read somewhere how healthy and low calorie they are, but you absolutely hate the taste of both celery and beets, you will ultimately not be able to maintain this way of eating. You will likely end up binging on unhealthy food due to feelings of depravity. There are plenty of other super healthy, nutrient-dense veggies out there that will satisfy your specific taste buds, especially if you season them right 😉 You just have to do some trials and testing to find them!

Plants for the Win

While I do believe based on scientific evidence and research that the whole foods, plant-based eating style is the healthiest eating style for the human body & digestion, I also believe that an individual’s eating style is a highly personal choice. I would not tell a client that they should become a vegan eater, because that is not a decision I can, or should make for someone else. However, like I said earlier, that doesn’t mean I’m not a huge advocate for the plant-based way of life! I’ve enjoyed seemingly endless benefits from vegan eating, and eliminating refined-sugar and gluten has taken it to a whole new level. Will I mess up every now and then and have something with processed sugar or gluten in it? Yes. However, I know how beautifully my body thrives when I’m eating in a way that makes it happy. I see the results both in how I look and feel daily, and my lab results and blood work became increasingly better the longer I ate this way. These positive changes have become deterrents from eating refined-sugar, gluten, and of course, animal products.

Have you tried the elimination diet? Do you have allergies and food intolerances but continue to consistently eat your “trigger foods” regardless? I did that for a long time, too. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!

Talk to you there, xx.

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