As a registered dietitian for over 20 years, I look at food in a very different way. I consider food to be medicine, and I understand the value of the intricate detail and synergy that these nutrients have in regard to optimizing our health. I respect the fact that food plays an important role in our culture, our social life, and our emotional well-being. Whether you eat to live or live to eat, as a human being you always have to have a relationship with your food. After all, we cannot divorce food. We need it to live!
Over the years I have watched fad diets come and go: high-carb/low-fat, low-fat/high protein, high-fat/high-protein/low-carb, eat for your blood type, find your right Zone, live on cabbage soup, and count those points! There are so many diets out there, no wonder it is so confusing! Whether you prefer to eat vegan, are an omnivore, or follow the SAD (Standard American Diet), I feel people often label themselves with a certain “diet” in order to feel they have some form of identity with their eating.
What if I challenge that thought? What if I told you that it is better for you to not stick to one style of eating? I like to call it a “flexitarian” style of diet, matching your diet to your metabolic and nutritional needs; a diet style that flows with your body as it changes. What your body needs nutritionally as an adult is very different than the foods required as a child or a teen. As disease sets in you may need a specific style of diet to correct the issue. Finding the right style of diet can sometimes be tricky if you don’t know how to assess your needs, and the media exacerbates this problem by promoting the hype of a particular diet style or trend that tends to be a one-size-fits-all approach. I firmly believe one diet is not meant for everyone. Depending on where you are on your health journey, whether you are younger or older, metabolically compromised, battling an autoimmune issue, fighting cancer, or trying to achieve sports performance, your style of eating needs to match your health requirements.
It is also possible that adhering to one style of diet over time can actually cause more health risks, especially if you don’t understand the science behind the diet. Strictly vegan eating can cause a host of nutritional deficiencies. A keto-style diet can cause an imbalance in your gut microbiome from lack of fiber; a high-fat keto diet can promote inflammation if you’re eating the wrong types of fats. Working with a professional who understands the fundamentals of human nutrition, who can perform a proper assessment to identify inflammation, nutritional insufficiency, and imbalances in the body can best guide you on a diet that will help in healing you. Going in and out of different eating styles also offers flexibility of nutrients, more enjoyment of food, and helps prevent you from getting into a diet rut. Eating should be fun, not restrictive or boring! When you find the right style of eating that meets your needs you will feel better, have more energy, and enjoy a variety and abundance of foods that are meant for you.
Betsy Opyt is a Licensed and Registered Dietitian as well as a Certified Diabetes Educator, Integrative & Functional Medicine Nutrition Therapist, and RYT200 yoga teacher. She specializes in nutrigenomics, gut health, food sensitivities, detoxing, inflammatory diseases, and longevity living. She understands the importance of living a mindful life and incorporates her background of mindfulness and yoga teaching to her practice. Betsy is a professional speaker and advocate for healthy living and is available for individual consultations, group programs, and speaking engagements.