Thursday, April 12, 2007

Metabolic Typing - part 1

Of all the things I have tried in an attempt to improve my health, few have had greater all round impact than metabolic typing. And yet, for me this would previously have been the last place I would have looked to find health, and could not have been further away from my previous views about what healthy eating entails. For over 20 years since my very early teens I had been a strict vegetarian (I began experimenting with vegetarianism when I was 9 years old), and for seven years prior to my most major crash with ME/CFS, I was a vegan. What's more, for the last five years of that time I was raw vegan, eating the vast majority of my fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds in raw form. For most of my adult life I had obsessed about nutrition. I had studied traditional Chinese medicine and macrobiotics as part of my shiatsu training, I had been on countless courses around food and nutrition (including everything from fitness industry courses to raw food courses), I was training as a Naturopathic Nutritionist, and I had even done the first level of a raw food chef training course with internationally acclaimed raw food chef, Chad Sarno. I was actively involved in promoting raw foods and I gave talks at festivals. I was part of the vegan movement, constantly read countless books on alternative nutrition, had vasts amounts of kitchen equipment, and prepared the majority of my food myself from scratch. I bought organic, tried to shop without the use of supermarkets, was conscientious about packaging, sprouted my own foods, and made fresh vegetable juices on a daily basis. Most of my spare income went on supplements and superfoods, and I shopped for quality, spending huge amounts on the best money could buy. I didn't eat sugar, chocolate, grains or additives, and I didn't drink caffeine or alcohol. Despite this, I wasn't getting any better, in fact I was getting worse. All around me there were countless stories of people healing themselves by eating raw and vegan foods, and following the raw foods lifestyle. Whilst I bought into this 100%, following the advice to tailor the diet to my own individual needs, meticulously planning my meals, trying a host of different approaches, I was not able to sustain myself on the raw food diet. I switched between this and a 'healthy' vegan diet, but still I was hungry and dissatisfied.

When I discovered metabolic typing, the information within it was not new to me. Basically I had been following the guidance of a raw food doctor, Dr Gabriel Cousens, for many years. He was very big on individualising the diet, and upon attending his course and reading his books I learned that different types of people need different amounts of macro nutrients (protein, fats, carbs). This had made perfect sense to me as I recognised that some people were fine if they ate lots of fruits, whilst others needed more heavier foods such as nuts and seeds to sustain them. Dr Cousens explained that some people were actually protein types, some where carb types, and some were mixed types, and this was to do with the way that an individual burned the fuel they ate. The system, known as metabolic typing, is actually much more complicated and scientific than the description that I have just given it, but for this basic introduction I don't want to lose anyone in the science, just to outline the basics. This made perfect sense to me as all my life I had been confused about the food pyramid as eating the way it recommends had never done anything for me. If I ate lots of carbs my blood sugar would become quickly unbalanced, my moods would swing, and my energy would become less consistent. However, what Dr Cousens (himself a raw vegan for 20 years) had not mentioned was that the originators of metabolic typing had insisted that if you are a protein type it is impossible to survive on a vegetarian diet, as you need high purine foods, and these are found in meats alone. So originally I had followed Dr Cousens advice and tried to increase my protein intake with more nuts and seeds, but this had not worked. This is primarily because a protein type needs to eat about 40% protein, 30% carbs and 20% fat, and nut and seed contents are much higher in fat than they are in protein. So in short, I was starving for protein. This was an ongoing issue for me. I craved it all the time, I binged on nuts (making myself feel heavy and constipated), in fact, I became pretty obsessed with nuts!! I would eat and an hour or so later I was starving again, and my life, in all honesty, was one constant round of obsessing about the next meal. This was regardless of if I was eating raw foods or cooked foods. I can see now that this lifestyle contributed to my ill health but at the time I believed that I would have been in much worse health if I didn't follow this lifestyle!! It just goes to show what we hang on to and how destructive our beliefs can be.

My turning point came when I went to see Shirley Kay for Perrin Technique (see blog articles on Perrin Technique). Shirley discussed metabolic typing with me and as soon as she did I felt it was the missing link. I think what really helped is that Shirley has also been vegetarian for 18 years before she was introduced to metabolic typing. Shirley looks so healthy and glowing that I felt that she must be doing something right! She was also very gentle with me in the way that she discussed the fact that my vegetarian diet may not be suitable for my constitution. And because I had previous knowledge of this system (at least in its watered down, raw vegan form), I was able to assimilate the information easily. I went home and carried out a metabolic typing test on line, and I proved to be a screaming protein type!

So how long did it take me to walk away from my 20 year intense vegetarian lifestyle and start eating meat again? Well at first the idea was hard as I had read so much against meat eating that I had a very negative view of it - I felt it was cruel, barbaric, unevolved, unhealthy and unnecessary - that'll teach me to be all high and mighty!! In reality, it only took me a day or two to convert back to meat eating. The reason being that I was so damn starving for protein that although psychologically this went against everything I believed in, my body was crying out for what it had to offer. And in all honesty it actually felt like the most natural thing in the world to me.

So although I am not proud that I have had to revert to animal sources for protein, I accept this readily as the improvements that I have made since I did so are vast. And my partner, himself a strict vegetarian, is constantly amazed at the positive effects that eating right for my metabolic type has had for me - neither of us would have believed it unless we'd seen it with our own eyes. My energy is much more consistent, my blood sugar rarely crashes anymore, I am satisfied after eating, I feel clearer, I am more mentally balanced, my emotions are more stable, I am stronger, I feel calmer, I am more able to relax and meditate. In fact lots of the issues that I thought I had around food and eating have resolved - I realise that my obsession with food was due to the fact that I was not getting the right balance of nutrients and not because of a psychological disorder! It is my belief that we should take what we need from the planet, and when I think about it if I had been aware that some people cannot survive on a vegetarian diet I wouldn't have been so blinkered about remaining on one.

To take the metabolic typing test online visit
To read more about the metabolic typing diet:

Or for a more in depth explanation (which includes a chapter on Chronic Fatigue):