Whether you are looking for fat loss or anti ageing, it’s a question that many people ask and even more people have an opinion on.
I am no different; I have asked myself the same questions over and over again for many years. Interestingly, my thoughts and opinions have changed many times over the years depending on my knowledge and as that grows every day, as does my fine tuning of my own nutrition.
Herein lays the first and most common problem in the industry today. Who do you talk too for advice?
The majority of people giving an opinion truly believe in their methods and teachings and why shouldn’t they? From a client point of view though, how do you know if their opinion is valuable? What is their experience in the field of nutrition? How many people have they advised in the past?
All valid questions and they would all give you useful answers. The trouble is, even after you get all the answers will you be any less confused? The fact that you have more information does not mean your decisions will be any easier.
So, what is the ‘perfect’ human diet?
My answer is……..wait for it…………..read it carefully………..
here it is………..THERE ISN’T ONE!
Not in my opinion anyway. I am of the firm belief that the best diet for ‘you’ will be specific for ‘you’, sure there may be some similarities to others nutritional plans but overall your nutrition will be specific to you.
It will also be specific to you right now.
This is an interesting point because as you grow and change so does your nutritional requirements. At a young age (I’m talking mid-teens to mid-twenties now) our requirements a very different to when we are middle age for example. One would require more support for growth and energy and the other may need more support in anti-oxidants and hormonal issues.
When I recommend a nutritional plan to a client it is built over an 8 to 12 week term. It is not something that is written in one session and given to a client; it is something that has a starting point, a review, an adjustment, a review, an adjustment and so on until we both feel as though we’ve cracked it.
I find by doing it this way we are able to test which types of foods, amounts and frequency of meals work best in their current metabolic state, all of which is very individual.
The question then is where do you start?
If you have read any of my previous articles you will know that I place great importance on the health of the gut; this then is where we start. Are there any digestive issues which need addressing urgently? Does the client show signs of systemic inflammation or auto immune disease? If things are not all rosy in the garden then let’s get to work on the weeds!
I’m also very interested in where is the client metabolically at this time? Do they handle carbohydrates well or do they hold a lot of excess weight and tolerate certain foods badly?
For me, step one would be a bespoke, nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory nutritional plan that would help address any of the existing conditions a client may have. This would consist of lean protein in the form of grass fed beef, free range poultry, wild fish and animals, organic eggs etc. it would also include high amounts of non-starchy vegetables and a decent amount of good quality fats like grass fed butter, coconut oil, avocado, olives etc.
Things it will NOT include are any wheat derived products, grains (including quinoa), legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts, etc) or dairy for now. By cutting out the above products we are removing the majority of the irritants and inflammatory foods the gut finds difficult to process. This anti-inflammatory approach gives the gut a chance to start to repair itself and get prepared for the reintroduction of foods later on down the line.
Occasionally clients experience a slump in energy after about three days as their usual source of energy (refined sugar, carbohydrate etc) has been removed from their daily routine but once their body starts to turn to fat as an energy source, all of a sudden they have an abundance of energy, for some it is the first time they have felt this way since childhood!
Most clients will also report a sense of ‘feeling’ lighter and certainly many have a reduction in any bloating or digestive issues within a week. This is just because the gut is not being fed supposedly ‘good’ foods which in actual fact irritate it, and is being allowed to function properly with a high amount of nutrient dense foods.
Along with the high amounts of nutrition, the gut will also be getting a good dose of helpful digestive enzymes and pre biotics to help with its healing.
The next crucial stage is for the client to note how they feel after each meal. Take a look at the blog entitled ‘healthy on the inside make you sexy on the outside’, and you will see more detail about this and why it is important. Each meal will tell its own story and give its personalised unique feedback to the client; are they feeling bloated, is there any puffiness around the eyes, are they feeling sluggish or are they feeling full of energy, light and firing on all cylinders?
By having this information at hand it becomes easier to tweak meals so that they give a health enhancing result of energy and wellbeing as opposed to a detrimental effect on the body.
So let’s say we have tried, tweaked and tried again for a period of 4 weeks, by now we should have a really good idea as to what is good and what is not so good for that individual. Now would be an ideal time to go back and assess if the client is still having any health issues. If they are then we need to look deeper into what may be causing the problems. Many times I find just a few weeks of using a good nutritional plan, which the client has monitored, deals with most issues.
The next stage would be to start to re-introduce some of the foods which may be irritating to the client. I would start with the least irritating first and that would be certain dairy products like ghee. Ghee is a clarified butter that has had almost all the milk solids removed and so has little if any lactose present. Lactose is generally the irritant that people react too so by using ghee as the first food to re-introduce into someone’s nutrition, we can see if there are any reactions without them being too severe. Here is where we need to be patient, it can take up to three days to feel or see any effects from the re-introduced foods so each time we try a new one it must be closely monitored.
From there we can begin to bring in more dairy such as Greek yoghurt, cream etc. The next group of foods to bring in would be from the nightshade family; this includes items such as tomatoes, potatoes, aubergine, cayenne pepper etc. Remember, take note of how you feel after each meal and only re-introduce a new food every 3 days allowing sufficient time to gauge its effects.
From here it is up to the individual client what they wish to start to bring back into their diet. I would strongly suggest leaving any wheat or grain based products until last so that your gut and metabolism has had a chance to be robust enough to handle it.
As you can see, this is a long process which takes a lot of monitoring and patience, however, within 4 to 5 months (which really is not that long in the grand scheme of things) you will know exactly what works and what does not work for your body giving YOU the perfect diet.
But the journey does not stop here, do remember way back at the beginning of this post that I said your nutritional needs change as you go through life? Well I did, just go back and have a look. Anyway, your body changes, your hormonal balance changes and indeed your goals change. There may come a time when you wish to meet a particular challenge, maybe to run a marathon (although I cannot think of anything worse for your long term health!) or climb Mount Everest or get through a particularly stressful time in your life. All of these situations require specific support nutritionally and if you know what works for you on a base level, what keeps you lean, gives you lots of energy and keeps you healthy, then adjusting it for the various events life throws your way is a much easier task.