I was so grateful to have my cute little 79 year old mamita (grandmother) come to visit from Peru for the holidays. During her visit I asked her what kinds of medications she was taking. She gave me a strange look and said “Nada!” which means “Nothing!”. She was shocked to learn that Americans tend to be on some kind of medication by the time we turn 30 years old and that number conveniently increases as we get older. This is information I’ve gathered from working at a pharmacy throughout several parts of NJ for about a decade. She told me it was because they don’t eat real food. She was raised off the coast of Cartavio eating meat, fish, stews and legumes. It was no surprise to me that I had begun to crave foods that tailored to my metabolic type.
Metabolic typing is the practice of the idea that we are all biochemically unique and therefore we all have a different metabolism. This suggests that a universal diet such as as a “high protein, low fat, low carb” diet OR a “raw vegan” diet may not be right for everyone. Whether or not this is true can be left up for discussion – but I would like to share my experience.
When I became a raw vegan I felt amazing. “High on life” is the way I like to describe it. There was absolutely no reason for me to go back to eating the way I was in the past. I had unlimited energy, no more symptoms of ADD/ADHD, my memory had improved and I was more than satisfied with all the foods I was eating. I didn’t experience any cravings and I never thought of eating another piece of meat or dairy ever again!
Although the raw vegan lifestyle was an amazing cleansing diet, after nearly a year of being on this track something began to change. I was no longer satisfied with the same kinds of foods and to be honest I didn’t feel very healthy anymore. I felt hungry and I noticed a significant change in my energy level. Believe me when you’re feeling great 24/7 you’ll notice when something isn’t right. Previously I was a well known meat & fish lover and the fattier the better! Perhaps there was something else there. Maybe this is the way my body was telling me what I needed to eat. As mentioned in earlier blogs my cravings were for massive amounts of fat. Coconut oil, olive oil, hemp seeds, marine phytoplankton, avocados and nuts are all great sources of fatty acids. I still eat them today! But relying on these foods alone as a fat source just wasn’t cutting it anymore.
Cravings are normal – I’m not knocking cravings. When they occur often and the craving is for shitty food then I can say with all humility and respect that there is something seriously wrong. I’d like to distinguish my legitimate intuitive craving due to a biological need versus a conventional craving that many of us tend to experience. A conventional craving usually arises as a result of stress, unhealthy habits, undernourishment and emotional distress. When these types of cravings appear we tend to make poor food choices like french fries, pastries, ice cream or a 99¢ burger. When we give in to these kinds of cravings, we initially feel immediate pleasure that only lasts for a short period of time and then resume to feel unsatisfied, crappy and we desire our fix even more.
My cravings for fat didn’t feel like a conventional craving. It was subtle but distinct. I was free of stress so I knew I wasn’t burning through any extra minerals, calories or enzymes and I wasn’t participating in any unusual heavy duty exercise. My specific cravings were for egg yolks and seafood. Both are brain foods and from the right source, are rich in choline and DHA/EPA among other nutrients. So I listened to my body and I began eating pastured eggs and wild caught fish from our local markets in addition to other health promoting protocols I follow. My cravings began to diminish within a day or two and I finally felt satisfied with my food again. I also had the pleasure of traveling to the Hawaiian island of Kauai where there was plenty of freshly wild caught fish!
Many times the reasons we have cravings is because we’re not eating the foods, proportions of foods or the quality of foods that we’re biochemically designed to eat. This in turn creates an imbalance at the cellular level, which then spreads to the organ level and over time will manifest itself as aches, pains or disease. Because I’m vigorously curious, I looked into this a little further and began reading books about metabolic or nutritional typing. Everything quickly made sense to me now – and my mamita gave me the reassurance.
These books claim that there are different metabolic types which include a protein type, a carbohydrate type and a mixed type. Many of you may be thinking, “duh!” but we also don’t put this into practice! These categories are more or less a generalization of one’s metabolic individuality but one may require fine tuning (i.e. more or less of a specific nutrient, blood type, partly hereditary, etc..) on an individual basis. In addition to your metabolic type, one is also categorized as a slow or fast oxidizer which refers to the rate of cellular oxidation – in other words, how quickly your cells can convert nutrients into energy. I soon discovered that I am a fast oxidizer mixed type which means I metabolize food very quickly so I need slow burning foods like fatty proteins with medium to low starchy vegetables. This also explains why I don’t do too well with starchy foods (carbohydrates) unless they’re eaten in small quantities. Obviously one does not need to be metabolically typed if they’ve mastered the ability of listening to their body – it will tell you what it does and doesn’t want. I haven’t gained any weight despite the addition of large amounts of butter and whole milk (both from grass fed cows), pastured eggs and fish. I’ve gone for a blood test recently and my results (even cholesterol, LDL, HDL and triglycerides) were within normal range.
Although I was indirectly using metabolic typing with my clients by teaching them to listen to their bodies, I can now use it in a more direct way of guiding them to their ultimate health goal. I still believe that detoxification is a necessary step for everyone. If someone were looking for a quick fix it may certainly work, but chances are it isn’t very sustainable. There are several factors that could affect the way we metabolize food like toxicity, nutrient deficiencies and genetics but, I don’t particularly think that the human body in all of its intelligence would intentionally adapt for us to live with disease.