[T]he problem with our diets these days stems not necessarily from what we eat, but rather how we perceive whatwe eat.
The other day, as I was stalking browsing through some athlete profiles on the CrossFit Games site, I came across something that made air flow out of my nose a little faster than normal. Under the “How I Eat Section” on their profile, one athletes had checked off that they “ate Paleo,” but in italics written underneath, they elaborated, saying that they “ate Paleo, but also ate dairy products, oatmeal, and rice.” Last time I checked, the Paleo diet meant completely eliminating dairy and any form of grains as well as a plethora of the world’s most delicious foods — including pop tarts, any sort of peanut butter product, cupcakes, and donuts — in order to live a “healthier” lifestyle. Being that I am a passionate donut connoisseur, coupled with the fact that I consume large portions of Peanut Butter cups on a weekly basis, I am certainly left with little room to judge others on their eating habits. However, the problem with our diets these days stems not necessarily from what we eat, but rather how we perceive what we eat. To put it in simpler terms, we need to stop putting labels on our diets.
Because I work at two different gyms, each having their own unique culture and set of people, I find myself in a position where I am exposed to a variety of different eating habits and diets. On the one hand, one of my gyms consists mainly of people who are at the gym to get in shape and maintain overall health. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, I consider this pursuit of CrossFit to be the purest form: fitness for the purpose of general health and well being. These people eat what they consider to be the paleo diet, eliminating dairy, grains, and processed sugar, as well as legumes, and avoiding foods too high in natural sugars. On the other hand, my other gym and the people I hang out with there is made up mainly of Olympic and power lifters, who eat what they like to call the “gainz” diet. A diet where nearly any kind of high calorie food is acceptable so long as one utters the phrase “but…gainz” before consuming the actual food. That is to say that eating a bowl of Lucky Charms with heavy cream and pancakes is a completely acceptable dinner (you know who you are), as is excessive amounts of bacon and steak, because…”gainz, bro.” Two radically different types of dieting. One incredibly restrictive, and the other well… not so much. So which one is the right one? The answer is neither.
There is no single diet that we can place on every single person that will allow them to garner maximum fitness, health, and performance for their body. Every single person has a different metabolism, exercise habits, and body composition. The diet that works for your best friend might not be the same for your friend.
This is why diets like the Paleo diet end up being so bad for some people. While some people with minimally active lifestyles whose goal is to lose and not gain weight can get away with a carbohydrate deficit in their diet, for others who are extremely active or looking to gain weight, the Paleo diet can actually make them lose weight, which makes it counterproductive. Same goes for all other “diets” out there. Just because some man halfway around the world tries it, sees results, and writes a best-selling book about their painful journey to this point, does not mean the diet will or should work for you. You need to develop your own eating habits on the basis of what works for you, not what Becky at your gym swears by.