Recently I was up in Virginia presenting at a fitness conference. As I was walking through the lobby I got stopped by a nice looking fit couple who was familiar with my work and the ME team. They were a really sweet couple and we chatted for a bit about fitness. I am always flattered and humbled to be recognized for my work. I am often asked about my views on nutrition and this conversation quickly headed in that direction. The girl asked me if a vegan diet could produce fat loss. I said, “Absolutely. I have worked with plenty of vegans and vegetarians who have developed very lean physiques”. The guy then looked at me a bit confused and said, “I thought you were an advocate for the Paleodiet? Isn’t that the best diet for fat loss?” My answer to that question, a question I have been asked several times, represents one of the biggest obstacles I feel that exists in the world of health and fitness.
I am going to share my answer with you in a moment, but first I want to give you a historical frame of reference of where I am coming from. I am a passionate guy. I love, absolutely love what I do and live for health and fitness. In my younger years I read probably every book on nutrition and tried every single diet there was. I did Atkin’s, followed Ornish, did the Macrobiotic diet, was Zoning for awhile, experimented with many fasts and detoxes, bulked up on WEIGHT GAINER 3000 (those who used this product too will likely remember this bucket of cement fondly) and was a vegetarian (somewhat militant one) for many years.
During my younger years I believed every eating regime I tried was THE best and only way to eat. Then I would read the next book and be 100% convinced I had found an even better way, often scoffing at my idiocy for following the last way of eating……….how could I be so dumb, I would think. When I was a vegetarian I was convinced meat caused cancer and I had toxic sludge floating around in my intestines :-). It is comical now to think about my early twenties.
Lucky for me during that time I always wanted to learn more. If someone disagreed with my vegetarian regime I wanted to learn their point of view and read their sources (mostly because I wanted to find holes in their arguments :-). But, as I grew in my studies and furthered my research, as well as continued to personal train individuals in the trenches of fat loss, I started to see something crystal clear. The holes were not in other peoples messages, they were in my own arguments. When I honestly peeked around the corner of my own narrow-minded bias, I constantly saw evidence against what I thought was the truth. It was everywhere. When I looked I could not escape the fact that every where you look there is overwhelming evidence against what you believe. What I learned is that you can either choose to ignore it, stubbornly claim it must be wrong, or acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers. After many years of stubbornness, I finally relented and chose the latter.
Now, back to the couple’s question. My response was that in truth I believed that the best nutrition plan was the one the person could own, love, live with and stick to. The one that suited that person’s individual metabolic expression, psychological sensitivities, and personal preferences. In essence, my view is there is no perfect diet and for every approach that exists you will find people who not only do well, but thrive. I am not on team Paleo or team Vegan, I am on both. And that is why I called this company Metabolic Effect or ME, because it is all about the individual.
As a body change coach I feel it is my job to honor the individual and help them understand how to build muscle and burn fat no matter their dietary choices. And it can absolutely be done. Many people have proven this over and over again both with and without my help.
Just as with fitness, there is not one way in nutrition. Health, fitness and fat loss is NOT black and white but rather GRAY. Too often those of us passionate about fitness and nutrition set up camps, cling to our biases, and like to claim the other team is wrong. I believe this does not serve us or the clients we work with and the friends we want to help change. My choice now is to allow an individual’s unique preferences, sensitivities, schedule, responses, metabolism, and genetic components to supersede any specific “plan.” The plan that they can stick to, while also responding to, is indeed the right plan.