It seems to me that in order to stand out from the rest new diet regimes build the majority of their information off a "fear-based" foundation. That is, instead of teaching you why something is awesome, you are force fed why all the other diets will kill ya.
I am going to pick on the Paleo diet. Not because I do not like it, I actually love the foundation and principles of the paleo diet, but because it is one of the worst at pushing this fear based approach.
The Paleo diet flips conventional nutritional wisdom on it's head. Fat isn't bad, sugar is, consume red meat, do not consume grains, limit or eliminate dairy.
While I almost agree entirely with these statements, how this information is pitched is not necessarily good.
Back track about 5 or so years ago and there I was reading everything there was to know about the Paleo diet. Man did it make sense! I wasn't achieving my goals with my current approach so why not give something new a try? I mean hey...if we are designed to eat this way then what can go wrong?!
I, along with my wife and a few family members, had some great results following the Paleo diet and I was a true believer. Unfortunately I was such a believer that it became somewhat "difficult" to be around me when it came to food.
I didn't want to eat out unless I knew I could get a Paleo friendly meal. Eating at friends or families homes just made me cringe? The thought of a little flour slipping into my meals was not cool.
Crazy shit right?
Well it was the unfortunate reality of my mindset at the time. I was so entrenched into the Paleo dogma that it truly took over my life. But why did this happen?
It was the style in which the Paleo principles are taught. The constant comparisons of the "new age" diets to the "caveman" days. We now eat this...we used to not eat this...and now degenerative disease run ramp-it through our societies.
Some of it is true there is no denying that. But this fear based approach of teaching can really rattle your chain.
Let's pick apart the grains issue for a moment...
Ok, if you strictly follow the Paleo diet you should not and will not consume any grains. This means wheat, oats, rice, barley, corn, rye, quinoa, I am sure I a missing a bunch but you get the idea.
The reason for the elimination of grains comes down to two principles.
1) Grains contain anti-nutrients (lectins and phytates) that when consumed wreak havoc on your gut and thus your overall health.
2) Grains induce a rather large insulin response when eaten and thus are a main culprit of fat gain. The Paleo diet focuses on a very low carbohydrate approach.
Ok I can wrap my head around the first statement for the most part. But the problem is that all grains are not equal and perhaps the pros may neutralize or even surpass the cons.
First lets take wheat. Wheat has very little nutritional content, has a lot of anti-nutrients, contains gluten, and has a very large insulin response associated with it when eaten. So should most people reduce or better yet eliminate it from their diet? Probably.
But does quinoa fall into the same category? Amongst "Paleo'ers" the answer would be yes. It has anti-nutrients and is fairly carb-dense therefore should be avoided.
But quinoa does not contain near as many anti-nutrients. It also is one of the only plant based foods that covers the full spectrum of essential amino acids. It has a good amount of protein associated with it. And it's insulin response is much lower than that of wheat.
So you make the call? Does quinoa fall into the same grain category as wheat?
The idea that grains are one of the leading contributors to degenerative diseases may or may not be true. I do not have the ability to make that call.
But enforcing that idea that if you eat grains your body will become completely inflamed, you will get brain fog, and soon die due to some degenerative disease seems a little extreme to me? Yet that is the way the Paleo, and most new diet protocols, are taught.
Now don't get me wrong I due believe that most grains should be reduced in our diets. But the way that I approach that school of thought has totally shifted. Here is an example.
When I was strictly following the Paleo diet I did not even come close to oatmeal. After all I needed to eat low carb and god forbid any of those anti-nutrients got into my system.
Well fast forward 5 years and I have a bowl of the delicious gruel virtually every single day. Why? I learned, very slowly might I add, that I needed to eat more carbs then was pitched with the Paleo diet. I train 4-5 times per week and I was constantly depleting with glycogen stores and not "re-filling" them back with the proper carbohydrates.
My energy levels were low, I had totally plateaued in the gym, and my hormonal levels were a little messed up. However, once I started to eat more carbs everything changed.
I gained 20 pounds of muscle, actually lost fat, had more energy, slept better, and my hormonal levels re-balanced...just ask my wife.
So why oatmeal?
It has fiber, has a lower glycemic index (GI) than other carbs, contains some protein, tastes awesome, and is super convenient. Does it contain some anti-nutrients, sure. Im I worried I am going to develop some disease from them, nope.
In my mind the positives that come from in the inclusion of oatmeal into my diet far outweigh any negatives that are associated with it. Some people will probably disagree with me but that is ok.
Now I want to make it clear that I am not saying this gives you an excuse to eat pizza because you can teach yourself to be un-afraid of the stuff. There are obviously healthier foods out there that need to make up the majority of your diet. Yes certain foods over time will increase your chances of developing a degenerative disease.
What I am saying is try to focus on a non-fear based approach to food and nutrition. Life happens. You need to be able to go out with your friends or your family. If they want to go to a Italian joint go. Don't stress about eating a bowl of spaghetti once in a while.
Personally I think this fear based style of nutrition is truly unhealthier than taking a more relaxed approach. I don't mean like (cue my cliche surfer bum voice) "hey dude I don't care what I eat cause I just like to be chill".
What I mean is eat a very healthy most of the time but DO NOT stress about little details here and there. Want a pizza now and again go for it? A burger...indulge. Learn what works for you and stick to it!
Living a life of "nutrition fear" will probably end up killing you faster than taking a more well rounded balanced approach.
Live Your Best Life!