Now I know I am an anomaly in that I absolutely LOVE to research everything that deals with movement of the body and current research in the field (I always say I think that health and wellness is on an upward trend in research because we are seeing more and more collegiate and semi-pro athletes drive into fitness careers post retirement from competition - which is great because they ask the right questions!). This includes looking at how environment, diet, biochemistry, and other factors affect the body. If you’ve been training with me for a while now then you will know that for the last 5+ years I have been diligently shifting through research about diet. And to my early frustrations and now acceptance I have found only ONE absolute. And that is THERE ARE NO ABSOLUTES. The truly humbling truth about the body, my body and your body in question here, is that we know only one thing. And that is how the same movement, exercise, food, amount of rest, or anything else we can fathom will affect you and I in vastly different ways. Let’s start at the beginning, and then we’ll get into documentaries (Game Changers; as seen on Netflix and Fed Up) and articles and books to continue the discussion. We know that our country is run by corporations and big business. This means corporate lobbying is a very real and unfortunate thing in our economy. These lobbyists from major companies “incentivise” members of our Congress to earmark bills with legislation benefiting their prerogative. Companies like Coca-Cola and Kellogs get a bump in their sales albeit from incorporating their items in schools or adjusting dietary guidelines across the nation to form new standards for their benefit.
It’s a tough pill to swallow, but an absolute truth. I remember being a student in high school and having fried chicken patty’s, wienerschnitzel hot dogs, and pizza as some of the recurring menu items. Pizza was something we all looked forward to every Friday. And from what I have seen these things have only gotten worse. I’ve been to various college campuses, as of lately UCI campus for seminars, and got a full experience of their food court. Panda Express and Wendy’s are some of the many options and it’s the same sad story at many campuses around the country. I’ve seen campuses with various vending machines chock-full of candy, sugar filled snacks and beverages, processed junk, and the list goes on and on. Not to mention an exquisite cafeteria experience including all the burgers, fries, and high sugar options. Please see the sarcasm I am attempting to convey here.
Now I don’t want you to get the wrong impression here, I’m not attempting to sell you anything. And I hope speaking on those facts doesn’t trigger any hunger cues, and if it does it only goes to show how deeply psychological this all is. However, I am trying to show the power of these large corporations. Nestle alone is worth over $240 Billion dollars. And they have a laundry list of food items we should be staying away from such as chocolates, high sugar beverages, ice cream, cookies, and so on. Other corporations such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Co are no different. To keep it simple our government has been letting corporate lobbyists do as they please for several decades so long as it brings a check in the hand of our politicians and a medical bill into ours. There's evidence to prove Food Corp lobbying began as early as the late 1970s. At this time Senator George McGovern created a report in which he wanted to establish dietary guidelines in the US to battle obesity. These were the very first dietary guidelines for Americans. At this point they had already established the fact that our diet (as a nation) had become too rich in fatty meats, saturated fats, cholesterol, and high sugar foods. However, the egg, sugar, dairy, and beef associations foresaw plummeting product sales and drew together to reject the guidelines and demanded a rewrite. Within the rewrite we saw the change from favoring fatty foods to high sugar foods. Which did nothing to fix our diet. Only made the switch from one area where we were already failing in keeping ourselves fueled appropriately to another area where we can fail; by driving massive amounts of sugar into our bodies. Suffice it to say the McGovern Report (as it was named) failed to meet its goal. Which was to educate us on what proper nutrition is.
It’s only been until the last decade or so that we’ve now learned to accept what is actually healthy. And that is high quality meats and proteins, clean carbs, healthy fats, and a healthy and large variety of vegetables and fruits. The mediterranean diet is the most balanced and recommended in this regard. However, what do we know about how to choose the right foods? Well that is simple and challenging. It’s one of those things that’s so simple it’s hard to believe. And there is still enough speculation and confusion around to keep individuals weary of where to place their trust in food and nutrition as a whole. When it comes to picking meat; grass fed red meat and farm raised chicken are the best. You see, corn fed beef has higher amounts of omega 6 fatty acids which causes inflammation in the body. Omega 3 (found in grass fed animals; bison, cows, elk, etc.) decreases inflammation in the body. So more grass fed, non GMO (genetically modified organisms), and no hormone meat is best to add to the diet. The same is shown with how we grow crops. We need to be sure that the fruits and veggies we are consuming contain as few pesticides and GMOs as possible. Now here’s the kicker, these are all the best options for people. But this DOES NOT mean these are the BEST OPTIONS FOR YOU. What we have to pay closer attention to now that we know what the body prefers is how your body reacts to these things. We can have all the right ingredients but the body can still be lacking in results and have high amounts of inflammation. This is because some people do best on high protein and especially meat based diets, some do great on higher vegetable and fruit diets, and some do better on something like a Keto diet or a Paleo Diet. What I advise before attempting to discover THAT portion for ourselves is for you to cut all the processed junk, high and added sugar foods and beverages, unnecessary snacks, and all the other crap out of the diet. Once you’ve done that we have our baseline. From here we see which foods on the raw and natural list make you feel best and which are inflammatory causing.
The next approach we are currently driving into with all of our members and clients is taking a Functional Medicine approach in how we treat the body. Now with diet what this means is we are using food as the primary source to fuel the body to fight infection, disease, bacteria, injury, and ultimately heal from ANYTHING! Why are we taking this approach you might ask. The research has shown a number of life changing effects of improving one’s diet for the better (which we will dive into later in our discussions). The benefits simply outweigh the small risks that this change may bring. These risks include trying out a new diet without knowing that you have a food sensitivity, which can leave your body inflamed for weeks. For example, an individual who is sensitive to gluten will have symptoms like bloating, constipation and fatigue. If these symptoms subside after you remove gluten from your diet, then you have identified your food sensitivity. Now you can rule out gluten and adjust the diet accordingly. However, the insane benefits we’ve seen include curing cancer, improving or even getting rid of things such as MS and Parkinson’s, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and IBS just to name a few. This is the fuel of the body we are talking about here! So it makes sense that compounded effects are compounded effects at the end of the day (you’ll hear me come back to this frequently so be mindful of that phrase). To keep it straight forward if you are feeding yourself crap for 5, 10, 15 + years expect to feel like crap long term. And this doesn’t mean things go away once you make a switch; no matter how much of a 180 you take. As a matter of fact research has shown that once we see things under a microscope to diagnose your heart disease, type 2 diabetes, or Crohn’s Disease that we are now dealing with literal years (if not decades) of damages done to our bodies. We are measuring where you are NOW. And in that lies one of the many systemic inefficiencies in our medical system. We treat a diagnosis. Which means we did nothing to PREVENT you from getting to that point. And once you're diagnosed enough is not done to switch that individual's diet or provide knowledge on why the medication they’ve been prescribed is not the right way AT ALL to fix the issue. You are still eating like crap and not moving enough. Meaning constant inflammation and damage is still being done.
So let’s understand that when we think about food it is not a primary source of pleasure, even though it CAN be and SHOULD be when we look at the long term. Now what do we mean by that statement exactly? Long term? Does that mean to sacrifice our current way of thinking about diet and food as a whole? PRECISELY! Say I am an individual who wants to lose 50 pounds of fat mass. I am overweight and inactive and I hate my current condition. I feel horrible, I lack confidence, I’m not comfortable in my environment, I cannot move around as easily as I once used to even though I love exploring the greater outdoors. I haven’t even gone on a hike or the beach in so long and I pour sugar filled snacks and fast food down my throat daily. And I hate myself for it immediately after every time. Now in order to see any kind of improvement I will need to sacrifice this lifestyle to accomplish not only being 50 pounds lighter, but also being lean, strong, and confident. That means fixing the diet completely and moving a whole lot more to achieve that goal.This requires me adapting a whole new lifestyle with a growth mindset. Good riddens with the old me I say! This being a hypothetical situation with myself does not take away from the fact that this is a similar story to many people in our Primitive Movement family and many others as well. The work had to be done. One of the toughest things is battling the adjustment of your “taste buds”. You must understand that when you eat fast food and processed food daily your palate adjusts to the tastes of those foods. And the biochemistry of your body is affected in such a way that the hormones being released to transmit hunger and savory cues are built to continue to crave and favor those foods. Regardless of how much it is hurting you long term (short term as well; you ever eat a high fat meal and train? Bet you felt like garbage. I have, and it feels absolutely horrible).
So how do we fix that? Through a process I like to call “fix yo shit”. I don’t care how much you dislike the taste of certain vegetables, lean meats, or clean carbs without the extra butter and fat all over them. Adjust your damn palate! I promise you veggies, potatoes, etc. have their own unique taste and it’s wonderful. Give your body the chance to adjust. However, this doesn’t take a day, week, or month. If you’ve been eating horribly for 10+ years (let's be honest many of our parents didn't have the best diet growing up so many of us grew well into our 20’s with horrible habits) then give it a proper amount of time to completely reshape your relationship with food. Six to twelve months at least. There is a lot to unpack there.
The next challenge is what do we do with extremes such as plant based diets (vegan diet) and all meat diets (carnivore diet). The research I’ve seen points to both diets not being ideal in the long term. Plant based diets seem to contribute to lower muscle tones and strict meat based diets seem to avoid any actual energy source and a large array of micronutrition that’s needed from fruits and vegetables. Not that people can’t live their lives with those diets; what becomes the question is what is the quality of life of these individuals when on these diets? Especially when attempting to add an active lifestyle to the mix. The people I’ve seen most successful with both diets (I have several peers who’ve done and continue to live with either diet choice) are those who live primarily on one end (either vegan or carnivore) but always routinely add some foods from the other group to keep certain macronutrients, micronutrients, and hormone levels balanced. Books such as “The China Study” (interesting read by the way if you’d like to learn about the biochemistry of a plant based diet) and documentaries such as “Game Changers” bash those who incorporate meat in their diets. But what we have to see is that these are cherry picked studies that are being used, a lot are improperly funded, and lack proper resources to back claims. The reason I know this is there are many research articles debunking the statements made in said books, articles, and documentaries advocating for plant based diets. When I’ve looked into other diets (such as our traditional diet which includes meat as primary proteins, clean carbs, and healthy fats) the research doesn’t bash vegan diet trends and states that meat is an addition to the diet. Now when looking at the carnivore diet it’s been interesting. There aren't enough accounts of people and decades of research to see the long term effects of an all meat based diet. Much of what we know is anecdotal claims and research. However, as stated earlier our goal is to find the most beneficial outcome for each individual. Carnivore diets at the end of the day highly lack large amounts of micronutrients that we tend to receive from plants and fruits. So as mentioned earlier, find the appropriate mix of each while seeing which foods cause inflammation in YOUR body.
Now when looking at Dr. Mark Hyman’s research (a prolific Functional Medicine doctor) we see that the Mediterranean diet is shown to be the most beneficial and balanced diet out there. Keeping the amount of overall inflammation in the body low through it’s whole foods approach. Lean meat, various nuts, variety of vegetables, whole grains, unsaturated fats, etc. We will most definitely be coming back to the specifics of this diet. Overall I think looking at each side is necessary though. We need to know how to draw information for ourselves and we can’t do that if we are too scared or unwilling to look.
Diving into research for health and fitness can be a scary thing, especially when looking at terms and studies we can’t exactly understand. That is why I am more than willing to shine light on all topics. I still have much to learn myself, but I assure you the knowledge I possess is yours as well :).
I've enjoyed this discussion today! And I hope you draw a lot of useful information from it! Make sure to stay ready and excited for next week's discussion as we are coming back to this topic! Nutrition and all its glory.
As always love and support from myself and the rest of the Primitive Movement family and be sure to have a great rest of the day!
Blessings, Coach Adan