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Diet VS. Dieting

Updated: Aug 31, 2021

Firstly, I understand that I am not currently a doctor, dietitian or nutritionist. However, the majority of people who start learning about a healthier approach to life are not. Although plenty of research is offered online for little to no cost about certain diets, I wanted to share some of my personal experiences all the way from following a high protein and low carb diet to paleo diet, and everything in between. Also, know that I believe the term "dieting" is not applicable for growth; either physical or mental. The term "dieting" implies on a subconscious level that great restriction has to be made for growth and that does not vibe with me. I believe that a diet is a part of life; it's what you consume to foster a nurturing and positive body to thrive. I think it's important to change the coined term of "dieting" to diet to understand that a diet is in fact a healthful and effective lifestyle component.

I started becoming highly intrigued by working out and eating healthier in high school (senior year). I was never termed as "over weight", but I knew that my body was capable of more, plus I enjoyed working out. I worked with some of my friends who at the time in my opinion were super knowledgeable about putting on lean muscle mass through diet and exercise, but it was never an individualized approach to diet, nor did it assist my already stressed out endocrine system. Yet, for two years I did follow a relatively "strict" body- building- type diet. Within that diet, I greatly limited anything processed or extra sugary...which was great, however, I rarely ever ate any fats on it. If I did, it would have been maybe a little here and there from olive oil or almonds. At first, I did enjoy the physical aspects of this approach because I was getting lean fast and did put on a considerable amount of muscle. But after around a year, I started having problems. My digestion, my acne and period were all out of control, and especially my digestion... I felt lethargic and bloated, even though I was eating little to no sugar.

So, after doing some research and talking to my doctor's, I integrated healthier fats such as avocados, sesame seeds, pecans and yogurt/cheese. It helped my digestion a little initially, but I still has minor acne and digestive frustrations (constipated, bloated, gurgle stomach, you name it). So, then I decided to see what would happen if I went boarder-line Keto. For around 3 months I ate less than 50 grams of carbs a day and around 100-150 grams of foods rich in fat and a moderate amount of protein (I think around 130 g). It seemed to help my digestion and my acne was not a problem anymore, but GUESS WHAT? My period left. Yup, it hit the road, Jack. The only problem was that I was more ripped and shredded in this point of my life than ever before... so I only upped my carbs by only 40-60 grams a day, but still no period. It became evident to my doctor that my body was in "fight or flight mode" and I needed to add in more calories. But, being a "body builder", I was not about to give up my gains. So what did I do? I started carbohydrate cycling.

On the carb cycling plan, I had a high carb day, medium carb day and low carb day. The fats alternated as well, on high and medium carb days, I would have lower fats, but on lower carb days I would have higher fats. This worked at helping regulate my period a little bit, but my acne and digestion were thrown off a little again. So what did I do? I tried a new "diet": the Paleo diet. In essence, this diet plan is modeled off of the paleolithic diet, and it encompasses only eating meat and food that comes from the ground (fruit, nuts/seeds/legumes, vegetables and starchy vegetables like potatoes). I really loved this dietary approach for a multitude of reasons:

Reason #1: I became super conscientious of labeling and processed foods.

Reason #2: My skin was thriving.

Reason #3: My digestion was much better.

Reason #4: I was able to stay relatively lean while also maintaining my muscle mass and strength.

This diet really allowed me to get creative with vegetables and legumes and I really loved the benefits, but still no period.. So now what? Well, back to the doctor. Apparently, I was not consuming enough healthy fats or calories so my body's endocrine system was still stressed. So fast forward to today. Currently, I am on a relatively high healthy fat and medium protein/carb plan and it has changed my digestion, period and skin the most in a while. And also, besides ditching hormonal birth control (that's another blog post for another day), I have upped my vitamins and minerals B,C, D, magnesium, zinc, calcium, and potassium. I also added in collagen too which I feel like has helped my digestion greatly. Although I was not sure about the steady carb and protein approach with higher fat, I can tell that my hormones are becoming more balanced than ever on this diet. With carbs, I like to stick with organic oats, fruits, Ezekiel bread, rice, gnocci, potatoes, butternut squash, beans/legumes, whole grain tortilla, kombucha (though I try not to have a ton of carbs in here), and wild honey. With healthy fats I really have honed in on avocados, pecans, sunflower seeds, almonds, almond butter, organic grass-fed yogurt, olive oil (fave), coconut oil, pistachios and chia seeds. For animal-based protein, I rely a lot on organic grass-fed beef, organic chicken, shrimp, wild-caught salmon, and occasionally nitrate-free ham/bacon.

Now after reading this you're probably shocked and maybe even concerned. I don't blame you, but you have to realize too that I wanted to try different approaches to a diet because I wanted to see how it would affect my body. Yes there were problems and this approach is very trial and error based, but I did learn a lot about what my body prefers and how it impacted my workouts, mood and hormones especially. So next time you think about following a specific diet regimen, talk to a trusted expert and know there may be some growing pains, but in the end you will have enhanced your knowledge of food sources and your body's capabilities. Today, I'm still looking at new ways to better my health, but I am very happy with my present diet and I hope it stays that way for a while.

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