Bioindividuality – How to Find the Diet That’s Right For You
Nowadays there are about a million and one diets out there. From Atkins, vegan, paleo, ketogenic, low carb, specific carb, mediterranean, FODMAPS, gluten free, whole 30, the candida diet, macrobiotic, raw….it’s enough to make your head spin. So how in the midst of all the diet madness can you find the diet that is right for you?
For years I didn’t have a clue how to answer that question myself. But a few years back I attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I learned so many amazing things during my time in IIN, but one of my favorites was the concept of Bio-individuality. Bio-individuality is a theory does not view food as one size fits all, or see one diet as the magic answer for all people. It is about valuing the uniqueness in each human being, and understanding that even though one diet might work amazingly well for one person, it may not for someone else.
Your own unique bio-individuality will depend on a bunch of different things. Things that make you the special magical unicorn that only you are. Things like:
Your ancestry can play a huge part in what food your body yearns for and what it happily digests. Someone with a Japanese heritage is much more likely to digest soy well, but may not tolerate dairy all that much. People with Cuban ancestry may digest beans bueno, but have major issues with soy. Your background DOES make an impact. Many of us (like myself) have so many different ancestries that it can be tricky to find the common denominator.
Now I know this sounds like a weird one. It sure as heck did to me when I first heard about it. But believe it or not, your blood type can influence what diet may work best for your body. Yes…for real. For example type O’s tend to need more protein and a have a tougher time with grains and beans, while type A’s have a tendency to do well without meat and make great vegetarians or vegans. I myself am a Type O and have experienced the truth of this myself. A few years back, during my time in IIN I went on a vegan diet. I lasted 6 weeks. The first 2 weeks were great (likely a result of some detoxing), but after that I just felt…meh. Weak really. Once I started up with the meat again, my energy came back. To learn more about the blood type diet click here.
Your fitness regime and overall activity level in general can influence your diet needs a ton. Someone who’s training for a marathon is going to need a bunch more carbs than someone parking themselves on the couch every night for a Netflix marathon. Cross fit aficionados and heavy lifters will have a much greater need for protein than yogis twisting it on the mat. And of course your diet needs will ebb and flow as your activity level shifts and changes.
Nutritional needs can be hugely impacted by hormones. Especially for us women. Think about all the crazy things these female bodies go through. Whether it’s your monthly menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or menopause, women’s bodies are constantly changing. If Aunt Flo is in town, there’s a good chance you will need to up your iron intake (hello steak & hamburger cravings!). And when you’re pregnant your body is constantly sending you wackadoodle messages in the form of weird cravings. These cravings can be difficult to understand, but basically your body is telling you that its needs have changed. Listen.
State of Yo Gut
When your gut is in a compromised state, your dietary needs will be quite different from someone with a stomach of steel. If you’ve got a leaky gut, there’s a good chance you’ll have to keep a careful eye out to avoid multiple allergens. Limiting sugar is also of utmost importance if your gut is a bit wacky as is eating easy to digest food. That may mean eating less raw foods and/or avoiding beans and even grains (at least until your gut balances out).
You may take all these things into consideration…your ancestry, blood type, activity level, hormones, gut… and find the diet that’s the right fit for you. And that’s GREAT. But the the thing is, our bodies are not static. They are ever shifting, as is our lives. So it’s not a simple matter of finding some magical diet and you’re done. It’s about listening to your body day to day, and realizing and recognizing when your body’s needs have changed.
One perfect example of this is Alexandra Jamieson, wellness guru and fellow IINer (woot woot!). If you’ve seen the movie Supersize Me (and if you haven’t…well why the heck not??) you’ll know who she is. She was Morgan Spurlock’s vegan chef girlfriend in the documentary that helped him put his jacked up body back together after his demented experiment with an all McDonald’s diet for a 30 days.
So after the movie Alex went on to do pretty amazing things (and still is!) in the wellness world. She became an extremely successful health coach, and was a go to gal for all things vegan. And then she had a baby. And a pretty terrifying thing happened to her (at least to something that’s vegan). She started to crave meat.
Knowing how difficult to take this would be for all her followers, she struggled with this a bit. But being the ballsy gal she is, she eventually did come forward that yes she the vegan poster child, was now eating animal protein. There were definitely plenty of critics out there that had some pretty harsh words for her. But there were also plenty of peeps that were inspired by her bravery to listen to her body, even if doing so would cause a whole mess of backlash socially and financially.
For myself, my time in IIN was all about experimentation. I learned about so many different dietary theories, and each time there would be a little spark lit under my butt that wanted to test it out myself. And through all that experimentation there were definitely some hits and misses. But the most important thing I learned about seeing my body as a laboratory was slowing down and listening to my body.
So listen to your body. Trust it. Do you notice a certain food leads to cramping or bloating an hour later? Listen. Do you get lethargic and need a nap after certain foods? Listen. What foods and meals leave you satisfied and full of energy? Listen and eat more of those.
Slow down and give yourself space to tune into your body during meals. That may mean turning off the tube, putting down the phone, and just chewing and savoring your food. Robyn Youkilis has a quote I love that sums it up pretty well:
“How we digest our food is how we digest our lives”
-Robyn Youkilis (author of Go With Your Gut)
No doctor, book, healer, or trainer can truly know what diet is right for you. The answers are right there within yourself, just waiting to be discovered. We all just have to slow down and be willing to listen.
So rather than looking out there for some magic fix it plan that worked for someone else, why not begin that conversation with your body? What is your body speaking to you at this moment in time? You just might just discover your body is much wiser than you gave it credit for.
“There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophies.”
May your journey to discovering your own bio-individuality lead to feeding yourself in a way that nourishes the magical unicorn you are! 🦄