Over the years I’ve experimented with almost every kind of dieting (a way of eating, not a short term weight loss plan) you could imagine. I was vegetarian for two years, vegan for two and paleo for one. Most of my major dietary changes were brought about by the need to be a better athlete and to be continually improving. Because I’m an all or nothing type person the “everything in moderation” mindset never worked for me, I’m either going to eat no junk or all junk, nothing in between.
Nothing ever seemed to work for me. I always felt like I had so much more potential, if I could only fuel myself better. I began using myself as a guinea pig, changing things here and there, tweaking my diet to find the perfect balance. I researched and read almost every book written by ultra marathoners in the hopes of finding that one key thing I was missing.
In my attempt to create the perfect diet I’ve hit many bumps in the road. After being vegan for so long, my body stopped producing lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose) and my doctor told me if I just slowly started introducing dairy back in, I should be okay. I tried but my body kept rejecting it, finally they told me I had most likely permanently lost the ability and to just consider dairy products a no-go. I was fine with this as the reason I’d stopped being vegan was mainly missing chicken, I had no cravings for dairy, and on the contrary a lot of research led me to believe that dairy products weren’t that great for you in the first place. Then again, just last year, another entire food group was taken out of my diet. Finding out I had celiac’s turned out to be a blessing in disguise, cutting out gluten also cut out most of the processed foods I’d been able to cut out purely by will power (crackers, croutons, pizza).
I have yet to find that perfect mix, and have come to realize that it will most likely be a life long journey of changing things here and there and experimenting with new methods. Right now I’m currently experimenting with intermittent fasting, specifically the 16/8 method that’s outlined pretty nicely here: http://www.leangains.com/2010/04/leangains-guide.html
The only things I’ve learned for sure are that real foods are better then anything that comes from a box. My body does not run on anything processed or with refined sugar, some people’s can. When I eat anything with sugar, I get raging headaches and feel sick to my stomach. When my brother eats sugar, he can go out and score a hat trick with none of the side effects I experience, there’s even a girl on my team who can eat a bowl of fudge before a game and play amazingly. Everybody’s body works differently. Some ultramarathoners are vegan (Scott Jurek), some eat pizzas and burritos during runs (Dean Karnazes), some are paleo, and there’s even one who only eats fruit (Michael Arnstein:http://www.thefruitarian.com/content/my-story).
When I started out my experimenting, I had the unfortunate habit of judging everyone else’s diet. My family resented my plees for them to try and eat “better” (eat like me). Now, after years of experimenting and still no end-all be-all answer, I’ve learned that no one knows the perfect way to fuel our body. Even nutritionists differ vastly form one another. I’ve read excellent papers “proving” that eating vegan is the best way to fuel our bodies, and just as many books and articles about why paleo is the only way to eat, after all we were evolutionarily adapted to eating meat. Anyone can “prove” with testimonials, data, experiments, or you name it, why their way of eating is the best way of eating, but so far I’ve learned that no one has all the answers.