Bio-individuality – why one size does not fit all
Hands up who has ever followed a meal plan / diet that tells you exactly what to eat and when? We are often lured in by celebrity or blogger endorsements, giving glowing reviews about how energised this diet makes them feel, or how much weight they lost following this ‘lifestyle plan’. Yet, when we don’t feel miraculously energised or lighter, we blame ourselves. If only we had not eaten that one cheat meal, we may cry. Or why isn’t my willpower as strong as [insert celeb/fitblogger name here]? Why do we expect that just because a diet has worked for someone, it will do exactly the same for you?
I could write many blogposts about why diets don’t work full stop (ok, I have already written some, like here, here or here). Hell, I think dieting is the worst thing that happened to society. Today, however, I am talking about why you should pay attention to your own body, rather than blindly following what has worked for someone else.
We are all unique special snowflakes
We’re all unique, which is where the term bioindividuality comes from. For those of you who were not aware, I used to be a scientist. I worked in a genetics research lab to be precise. I’m going to attempt to condense part of my knowledge into a few short sentences (wish me luck) …
From a DNA sequence perspective, we are all 90-99% identical (based on our genes and number of copies of those genes).
However, when when this study looked at our gene expression (based on the transcriptome; verrrry basically this is looking at which genes are turned ‘on’ and ‘off’ and at what level), 83% of our genes are differentially expressed among individuals. 17% of our genes are differentially expressed among populations. This means that the ways that our genes are expressed differ hugely between each of us.
This is in part down to the epigenome (I’m not even going into that right now), but suffice to say the old rules of us all being almost identical are falling by the wayside!
Not only this, but our personal microbiome (gut bacteria population) differs so much between each person that it can be a way to uniquely identify us. Kind of like a bacterial fingerprint ;) Our gut bacteria plays such an important role in how our food is digested that it is no wonder that we all respond and react to food in different ways.
Lastly, we all have different backgrounds, which has a huge impact on our emotional abilities to deal with different life events. And we don’t all like same foods (see you later broccoli diet, bleugh).
So, with ALL of that in mind, it is little wonder that what works for one person may not work for you. And that it is not your fault.
Learn to listen to yourself
When we learn not to follow strict meal plans or imitate how that amazingly gorgeous fitblogger/your BFF eats, it can feel overwhelming to know what to choose to eat, particularly if you’ve been following other people’s rules for a long time. This is where intuitive eating comes in – learning to pay attention to your physical cues, and choosing them over what you think you should be eating (again, read my blog posts here, here or here for more information, or send me an email).
Remember, what works for someone else may not work for you. This is your opportunity to explore your own dietary needs, and become an expert on you!
Explore things like:
- Which foods taste good to you?
- Which foods do you really dislike?
- What does your body need for nourishment right now, rather than going with your mental cravings?
- Which foods triggers any digestive imbalance for you?
- How do you feel when you choose food quality over quantity? Which works best for you?
- What does it feel like to eat with no distractions, and to really chew your food?
- Does it feel liberating or terrifying to eat with no rules? (And terrifying is an acceptable answer, especially at first! I promise it gets much easier, more freeing and much more fun)
- Do you need to learn some basic cooking skills or broaden your recipe list?
- What comes up for you emotionally when you eat something you love (or hate)?
- Does it feel challenging to leave a half-full plate when you’ve had enough?
- How do you feel physically to stop eating when you’re satisfied?
Understand as well that listening to your body is a lifelong journey – but it is so worth it. I know it can be tempting to try that new fad diet (hello paleo/vegan/vegetarian/keto/low carb/Slimming World/Weight Watchers etc etc) to try and lose a few pounds, but the only ‘diet’ that works long term is the one where the dieting rulebook is in the bin! Trust yourself a little bit more – and ask for support if you need it.