My name is Caitlin, I’m 25, and I’ll be finishing my doctorate in Nutritional Sciences in May 2013. My research focuses are in obesity, cardiometabolic function (i.e. glucose, insulin, cholesterol, and other metabolic hormones that influence cardiovascular health), and how these factors impact vascular health/disease, specifically. As a nutritional scientist I love food, I love the study of how food interacts with our bodies to promote health or cause disease. What I don’t like are diet patterns that are not rooted in science and are only meant for short-term adherence. What I dislike more than that is how the media portrays diets and food. Every diet you hear about is some kind of miracle cure or a quick fix, and I think we all need to consider these diets with a grain of salt and really take the time to understand what each of them means.
The purpose of “2013, With A Grain of Salt” is to test many of these diets on myself. I’ll be following 12 different diet patterns, each for a month. I’ve chosen each of these diet styles due to their popularity in the media or because there is some kind of scientific evidence supporting them. I won’t be trying to lose weight on any of these plans, and every diet style that I’ve chosen has some type of claim regarding long term feasibility. I obviously won’t be following any of these diets long term, though I think I’ll gain some insight on what the long term issues may be. (Side note: you may have noticed that I keep saying “diet pattern/style” instead of “diet.” I don’t like the term “diet” because most people associate diets with weight loss and diets seem to conjure up visions of something temporary. Instead, I think of a diet as different patterns/styles of eating: heart healthy, vegetarian, low fat, Western, Mediterranean, and so forth.)
My reasons for embarking on this year-long journey are multifaceted:
- What initially got me interested in this idea is that I read a lot of articles of dietary interventions, and I have conducted and plan to conduct diet interventions in the future. However, I can’t relate to what participants are experiencing. I’ve been able to get through life maintaining a healthy weight by 1) good genes, 2) an appetite for healthy foods (mostly), 3) an ability to control portion sizes without really thinking about it, and 4) a love of exercise. Many of the diet patterns I’ll be trying are common dietary interventions, either for weight loss/maintenance and/or prevention of chronic disease. I can speak to the physiological basis of these diets, but I think that, by trying these diets myself, I’ll be able to empathize with participants and understand the barriers to maintaining these diets.
- When someone finds out that I study nutrition, I get a lot of off-the-wall questions, and I dread most of them (a colleague of mine calls this an occupational hazard of being a nutritional scientist). I chalk up most of the crazy questions and diets out there to just a bunch of wacko’s looking to make a quick buck, but I really only know the basics behind these diets. This experiment will force me to familiarize myself with the rationale and scientific literature (or lack thereof) behind some of these diet styles, which will be good for me and anyone who talks to me about them.
- I really like to cook, and while I cook a variety of cultural cuisines, I find that I use a lot of the same ingredients and techniques. I’m hoping that I’ll learn about lots of new ingredients and techniques this year, which will enhance my culinary prowess.
- Like I said, my will power sucks. I’d like to work on that, and the only way I know how to do that is to have something to which I am held accountable, hence the blog.
- I’ll be following each diet style for one month minus 3-4 days. This 3-4 day “washout period” will allow me to recalibrate back to my normal diet and will reduce the odds of one diet influencing my perception of the subsequent diet. It will also reduce psychological burnout on my part. This is a common and necessary technique employed in diet interventions.
- At the beginning of each month, I’ll measure my weight, BMI, and blood pressure in order to have some objective outcomes.
- I’ll calculate the cost of each diet for each month.
- I’ll keep track of my sleep patterns, mood, etc.
- I’ll provide some recipes and my overall reaction to each diet pattern as I do it.
- I’ll analyze my diet for one day that seems representative of the month and provide a nutrient intake analysis.
There are obviously flaws in this design, and my results will be biased because I’m performing all the measures on myself. But this is a fun experiment, and it’s not funded by the National Institutes of Health, so I can do whatever I want 🙂 I hope you enjoy reading and maybe you’ll learn a thing or two — I know I will. Please don’t hesitate to ask me questions or suggest ideas of something I should be testing!