Genetics and the Diet Mentality

Genetics and the Diet Mentality

I’ve started working with a couple of clients who’ve had their DNA tested for the purpose of finding solutions to their weight loss dilemma. In my assessment of them, they both suffer from what I describe as having a ‘diet mentality’. That is, they try to ‘be good’ and follow all the ‘rules’, but cannot attain the level of perfection they expect of themselves. When they fail by falling short of perfection, their good intentions go into the ‘f*#@ it bucket’ and they end up on a binge, promising that they’ll ‘be good’ tomorrow.

The food and diet industry has messed with our minds. We’re told to restrict our meal sizes, and even eat off a smaller plate so we don’t eat too much. Some sources advocate eating 4-6 small meals and snacks per day, others say three meals per day with no snacks in between is better. ‘Breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ has been rammed down our throats since childhood, and now there’s the intermittent fasting protocol, that says not to eat anything before midday! According to the sugar and carb police, we can’t eat fruit, bread, pasta, potatoes or any starchy vegetables. Porridge and breakfast cereals are off the menu, and cake is the devil. If you’re into paleo, not only are the items on the above list forbidden, legumes and beans are as well, with limited nuts and seeds. Next there are the raw foodies who dictate that everything has to be soaked and sprouted or juiced, and of course it has to be organically grown – but you’re allowed fruit, dried fruit and coconut sugar. Now there’s the vegan food camp that doesn’t allow anything that comes from an animal into your lifestyle so meat, eggs and dairy products are off the menu. Vegans need nuts, seeds, legumes and grains to provide their protein, which conflicts with the paleo diet regime.

So now the confused masses are afraid to eat real food and instead resort to packaged and processed food, low quality takeaways, or peanut butter on toast because they’re so hungry from their tiny portion sizes, terrified to eat meat, bread or potatoes, and sick to death of kale and cucumber smoothies.

After being in the natural health industry for 18 years (and being interested in health for a lot longer), I’ve gone through my own journey of exploration of various diets and eating protocols, read a lot of books, and spoken with a lot of people. I’ve seen various trends come and go, and seen the results they produce. What I’ve discovered is that there are principles to follow rather than rules – if you get too rigid about your food, you can easily become obsessed and that can make life difficult for you and the people close to you.

Some of my principles are as follows:
1.    Eat when you’re hungry rather than according to the clock. Some days you’ll be hungrier than others.
2.    Eat balanced meals including protein, carbohydrates and fat
3.    Eat your five plus per day of fruit and vegetables – including something green. Eat seasonally.
4.    Try to get as much variety of food into your day and week.
5.    Have treats on appropriate occasions and in limited quantities.
Basically we all have risk factors for weight gain and obesity, so learning to manage your particular set of genes will help you gain more control.

With the DNA testing it can refine how to balance your diet, in particular:
·     Whether a high protein diet will be of benefit for weight loss
·     If you’re healthier with high fat low carb or low fat high carb
·     Whether saturated fats are good/bad for you
·     Whether polyunsaturated fats are good/bad for you
·     If you have high requirements for nutrients found in highest amounts in non-vegetarian diets
·     If you have risk factors for coeliac disease in which case gluten free may be the best option for you
·     If you’re lactose intolerant
·     Other vitamins you may have higher requirements for e.g. vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, and your B vitamins
·     Are you better off with regular large meals, or more frequent snacks
·     Do you have risk factors for sugar cravings, food addiction, or overeating?

When I take you through the DNA testing programme (that I’ve aptly named ‘Eat to Fit your Genes’) I translate the jargon into practical steps that you can implement. I also provide resources with additional information that will help you to understand the what, why and how to make appropriate changes.

Understanding your genetics, and knowing your risk factors means we can work out strategies to work with your unique genetic code to help you be the healthiest you can be. Once you know your strengths and weaknesses, you can relax a whole lot more because you know what you need to do to be as healthy as possible. It means no more guess work, no more jumping from one diet to the next, no more trying out the latest health or weight loss product or pill, and no more confusion about which eating pattern or regime to follow. Once you’ve had your DNA tested once, there’s no need to have it done again – it won’t change! I regard having your DNA tested as a worthwhile investment into your long-term health and wellbeing.

Helen is a registered medical herbalist and naturopath with 15 years clinical and teaching experience. She aims to help her clients to create vibrant health through improved nutrition and better lifestyle practices, and uses herbal medicines to support healing processes. Her philosophy on health is to keep it simple and find easy ways to fit 'being healthy' into your life.

Helen is passionate about health and wellbeing, and understands metabolism and weight management as a holistic practice - working with physical, mental and emotional aspects of health, weight and body image.

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