No, I don’t have a headache. In fact, those are a thankfully rare event in my life. (Don’t hate me for that.) What has my neurons begging for mercy is the fact that a patient asked me about the Blood Type Diet (ala author Peter D’Adamo) last week, and it got me struggling to remember the details. I’d long since donated that book and dozens of other diet-of-the-moment books. However, I suddenly wished I hadn’t as those are great resources for moments like that. Fortunately, the patient was Type O blood and so am I, so I was able to speak to her in generalities at least, being most familiar with that type’s recommendations. But, being a curious little person, I was dying to know the specifics all of a sudden. So off I went on a little journey of info-seeking…
“Gee. Not one single one of these is entitled ‘How [insert your name] should eat, given her current age, weight, activity, and hormonal status’. Now what?”
Now, if you don’t have Type O blood, don’t leave. No matter what your blood type, this blogpost, while wrapped around type O is about all of us. Anyhow, I looked up the Type O food and lifestyle recommendations and compared them to what I know about myself. Allegedly O is the “first” blood type to show up in humans, therefore O folks are said to respond to regular intense exercise (check!), are prone to thyroid disorders (check!), anxiety/depression (check!), and ulcers (no check, whew). Food-wise we are supposed to emphasize animal protein, non-starchy veggies, and good fats, while shunning grains, most beans, and certain other items that get very specific, such as: peanuts, blackberries (but not all berries), cabbage and Brussels sprouts (but more for the thyroid than anything else), any pork, coconut (and any product of it), and dairy, while also avoiding coffee/caffeine and alcohol (esp liquor and beer). There’s more, but you get the gist. Also, if you give me a metabolic typing questionnaire, most of the time I’ll come out “protein-type” or “mixed-type” (never “carb-type”) or “fast-metabolizer” (same thing as protein type, it seems). I get it—I need to eat protein, fat, low-starch. But Type O is pretty much Paleo + specific limitations. Which sent me over to Paleo… (of course). Similar lists, depending on the site/practitioner—for example, some say yes to root veggies, some say no; some say coffee okay in moderation, some say no to any bean across the board; so on, but the recommendations were shockingly similar. When I compared the success rates of the Blood Type Diet (very unscientifically), it seemed to me that the % of people who do well on it sort of matched with the % of people who are Type O in the population. Are we Type Os better at sticking with the diet? I sort of doubt it, but it almost makes me wonder if, of all folks who try the blood typing method, the Os do best due to a default portion-control or elimination of: starches, all processed foods and sugars, gluten-containing foods, alcohol and stimulants, dairy, trigger foods like peanuts, and an increase in whole fruits, veggies, lean meats, and quality fats. I’m not trying to be snarky. But, really, I wonder if the Type As (blood type, that is) really do better shifting to a vegetarian diet full of grains and starches recommended for them. (I want you As, Bs, and ABs to chime in if you have anything to report.)
To be perfectly honest, I ‘m much more concerned with knowing my blood type for emergency situations, not for things like planning my diet.
Why am I bringing this up? Partly because I know that our readers are curious folks, and have likely gone on similar knowledge-gathering journeys for information on how to best customize nutrition to ourselves. What I find most interesting, however, is that if you take Type O + Paleo + logic, shake them up in a box and spill them out, you get a good starting point for me. Do I do better on plenty of protein? Yes. Do I feel like crap when I do a lot of starch, good starch or not? You betcha. Do a couple of beers feel great at the time, but ultimately make me feel sleepy/unproductive/low blood sugar/bloated-swollen? Yeah. (dammit) Am I good with a cup or two of coffee, but pretty much WAY too dependent right now? Mmm-hmm. Throw in that I definitely thrive on intense exercise most days + tons of green veggies and some fruit and you pretty much have intuitive “Pale-O”. When considering my thyroid, however, I do need to consider that Brussels sprouts (to which I currently have an unnatural addiction) and other “Brassica family” veggies are fairly well-known to slow the thyroid down. I also need to consider the fact that peanuts seem to make my fingers swell. All of that being said, if you completely yank starch from me, I’ll bonk all over the place within 2 weeks, stick my head in bag of chips, and not come up for air. So much for exclusively Paleo. I have more little insights, but the point is that I’ve got a base to start with, and then my own observations to work with in “customizing” my nutrition and lifestyle. Well, that and intelligent testing via lab work to remove the guesswork—however educated—from the equation when getting super specific with regard to supplementation. For another person, we could just as easily take the base diet, add more starch—even some fast-acting ones, decrease some of the fats, eliminate anything known to negatively affect that individual, thereby making it more optimal for them.
Here’s the kicker: Guess who has encouraged me to take these guru-diets, extract the basics and the logic, use it—taking notes and making tweaks, for ME (not a Type O, Paleo-bodied being)? Yep, you guessed it. Jodi. Are we there yet? (Meaning: Am I the picture of perfection, inside and out, with regard to Heather-optimization?) Nope. Coupla reasons for that, one being the fact that I screw up sometimes. (“Mmmm…beeerrrrr…” I need that tee-shirt.) But also because we’re dealing with a dynamic body that is crossing over into Menopause Land. Seriously, want to stump some smart chicks? Take a female body, torture it with an eating disorder for way too many of its younger years, take it up and down the weight scale from anorexia to shopping in size 16-20 and anywhere in between, give it hypothyroidism, have it compete in 8 physique competitions until it won’t cooperate anymore, then make it perimenopausal and hormone-imbalanced with a diagnosis of infertility and predicted early-onset menopause. In case this is a synaptically-challenged day for you (hey, we all have ‘em), I just described me. Interestingly, this is GREAT. Yeah, I said “great”. Why? Because I represent a huge-and-growing-huger segment of the population that Jodi and I are both eager to help. That, and because it’s always good to find the positive in an outwardly notso-positive scenario.
Really, with some additions and tweaks according to individual need and tolerance, this just looks like good old-fashioned real whole food to me.
My bring-it-on-home-Heath point is that with Jodiojo there’s no black and white. We’ll take what makes sense generally with regard to what we know about someone, and then tweak the snot out of it until we get it right. For some clients this can take longer than for others. I am one of those “clients”, but, without our combined brainpower, I’d easily be back over 200lbs and crying on a treadmill while running my chunky little heart out for an hour at a time. (This happened.) Also, there are some gems to be found in most diet philosophies. And even BIGGER gems to be found in your journals—training, nutrition, and mental-emotional status. Track it all, that information is gold to you, and to us if we’re your coaches.
So, have you ever tried to pigeon-hole yourself into one sort of eating style based on parameters such as blood type, religion, eye color, first letter of your middle name? Did it work? Then years later did it not-work?