Corporate Wellness Challenge – Week 3 – Why Diets Suck

Why Diets Suck – Personalized Nutrition

Why do diets suck so badly? The answer is simple: most diets simply involve a “one-size-fits-all” approach that paints an entire population with a broad nutritional brush. They fail to consider genetics, personal health history, nutrients, vitamin, and minerals holes that need to be addressed, and they generally fail to assess biochemical individuality. 

What Is Biochemical Individuality? 

Biochemical individuality is the idea that the genetic makeup of each person is unique and that specific nutritional needs vary from person to person. There are tons of factors that influence our unique biochemistry: your unique needs are based largely on genetics and are directly affected by your age, gender, hormone status, activity levels, microbiome, methylation, organ health, and environment. Most of these variables will change over time which will result in shifting needs in different phases of your life. Your requirements are nuanced and completely different than the next person, which is why the “one-size-fits-all” diet model is destined to fail. 

Factors That Affect Our Biochemical Individuality 

We’re all unique snowflakes and shouldn’t be prescribed the same diet as everyone else. But why is that? The truth is there are many factors at play that can affect a person’s response to different foods, some of which are listed below.


Scientists have linked at least 38 different genes to nutrient metabolism. They include many you’ve probably heard of, including MTHFR (folate, vitamin B metabolism), FTO (body weight and fat composition), TCF7L2 (blood sugar regulation), APOE4 (cholesterol), and FADS1 (fatty acid metabolism). Variants of these genes are known to either hinder or help the absorption and use of nutrients in foods, which means that – depending on your genetic makeup – you might need to consume more or less of certain foods or nutrients. 

Lab testing recommendation – Strategene DNA Kit


The type and amounts of bacteria in your gut significantly affect which kind of diet you’ll thrive on or supplements you should take. For example, despite it being present in copious amounts in just about every multivitamin on the face of the planet, some people actually don’t need to supplement with any amount of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, or a form of Vitamin B called “riboflavin”. This is because some of us have more intestinal bacteria that produce sufficient amounts of each of these vitamins. But the only way to know if you happen to possess that bacteria is to do the right testing. Other gut factors such as intestinal permeability, also known as leaky gut, can also affect how well nutrients are absorbed. 

Lab testing recommendation – Genova Diagnostics 3-Day Stool Panel

Metabolic Health

Yet another example of the same dietary advice not being good for everyone is the wild variation in blood sugar response that can occur when subjects in controlled dietary studies eat foods like cookies, bananas, sushi, and whole-grain bread. My own blood sugar has been shown to skyrocket when I eat nuts, which are by no stretch of the imagination considered a high glycemic food, but it’s because I don’t tolerate oxalates very well. Heck, some people are so insulin sensitive that they don’t tolerate carbohydrates at all. You actually need to test your own blood glucose using something like Robb Wolf’s 7-Day Carb Test in order to find out whether or not a food is causing an abnormal spike in blood sugar. Unfortunately, “standard” measurements like the glycemic index can only take us so far. If you really want to geek out tracking your blood glucose levels and variation throughout the day you can opt for a Continuous Blood Glucose Monitor (CGM) device such as Levels

Activity Levels

The nutritional needs of a sedentary person, a moderate exerciser, and a hard-charging athlete are wildly different. Generally, the more active you are, the more you’ll need in terms of calories, carbohydrates, and supplementation to ensure proper recovery. Your activity type matters, too – power athletes generally tend to do better with more carbohydrates whereas endurance athletes might thrive on a low-carb or even ketogenic diet


Nutritional needs vary greatly with age. Kids need more calories, nutrients (especially fat-soluble vitamins), and food freedom in order to facilitate healthy growth. Older adults, on the other hand, have typically finished growing. They benefit from increased protein to maintain muscle and supplement with nutrients like Vitamin D3/K2, magnesium, and trace minerals, which tend to naturally decline over time. 


Women and men have very different nutritional needs. Men will generally require more calories than women due to their overall larger body size. Women tend to burn more fat during exercise, whereas men tend to metabolize more carbohydrates for fuel. Women’s bodies also shift between preferentially burning carbohydrates or fats depending on where they are in their menstrual cycle. For example, during the follicular phase, increased estrogen and enhanced insulin sensitivity allow women to burn and consume more carbohydrates. In contrast, rising progesterone in the luteal phase allows women to use more fat as a preferential fuel source. Insulin sensitivity also decreases during this time, making it beneficial to reduce carbohydrate intake. 

Hormone Status

Your hormones play a major role in determining your need for certain nutrients. If you have low thyroid, for example, you’ll benefit from eating more carbohydrates. If you have excess androgens, you’ll do better with fewer carbs. People with estrogen dominance will want to avoid consuming alcohol excessive sugar while upping their consumption of fibrous vegetables, and those with low testosterone will benefit from consuming more fat and eating at a slight caloric surplus. There are tons of other different variations in hormone status, meaning your mileage will vary. 

Lab testing recommendation – DUTCH Complete Urine Steroid Hormone Profile


Methylation is the transfer of four atoms – one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms – between two molecules: creatine and phosphatidylcholine. It’s one of the primary processes our cells use to alter gene expression according to environmental inputs, and optimal methylation is needed to regulate heart, brain, reproductive, and liver health. Our methylation capabilities vary depending on our genetics. For instance, some of us have mutations in the MTHFR gene which causes under-methylation and creates an increased need for dietary folate from foods like liver, legumes, and leafy green vegetables

Lab testing recommendation – Strategene DNA analysis


Everything in your environment, including light, water, electricity, toxins, and beyond, affects your nutritional needs. If you live in a sunny, warm environment, your body will produce more ATP from sunlight and you’ll also likely be getting more vitamin D naturally. People living in cloudier, Northern climates won’t see the same energy-deriving benefits due to a lack of sun exposure and are good candidates for an increase in supplemental Vitamin D, especially in the winter months. During week 1 we learned how to mitigate the damaging effects of the modern environment. 

Lab testing recommendation – Thorne Heavy Metals Test

Organ Health

The status of your liver, kidneys, gallbladder and other organs also contributes to your individual needs. If you have a dysfunctional liver, for example, you could benefit from an increased intake of animal protein, greater meal frequency, and increased supplementation of vitamins D, B12, K2, and other nutrients in order to avoid deficiencies. On the contrary, those with chronic kidney disease might benefit from slightly lower protein intake. And if all of your organs are functioning well, you’ll have more overall nutritional flexibility. 

Lab testing recommendation – Longevity Blood Testing Panel For Men

                                                       Longevity Blood Testing Panel For Women

In summary, because of biochemical individuality, one diet that works for one person may cause serious issues for another and ultimately affect their ability to tap into their Ki, leaving them unable to achieve the life they want to live. 

How To Customize A Diet

Test: Gold-standard lab tests that cover everything from DNA, hormones, gut health, micronutrient status, and more:

Tweak: Adjust the nutrition protocol based on lab results. 

Track: Continually analyze data such as HRV, blood sugar, sleep, etc., but also continue repeated tests quarterly to see how nutrition protocol is affecting the body. 

Some Basic Dietary Guidelines

#1 – Seasonal Eating

Focus on consuming foods that are in season in your location. This can be simplified by growing your own garden, joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), or shopping regularly at your local farm or farmer’s market. This not only guarantees freshness but also supports regenerative agriculture, which means pesticide-free and nutritionally dense produce for you.

When you purchase food from grocery stores, use the scorecard resource at to determine which brands are best and which ones you should avoid.

It is also important to keep in mind what types of foods were common for your ancestors to eat and what they had access to. Genetically speaking, your body will likely respond best to those foods. Turns out grandma (and her cooking) did always know best! Find ways to incorporate some of these into your diet.


  • Tubers, legumes, wild greens, fermented milk, soups/stews, milk, blood, wild game, fish

  • Rice, fish sauce, soy, kimchi, sea vegetables, green tea, pork, and fish

  • Fish, whale, rabbit, geese, ducks, eggs, wild berries, animal fats, roots, broth

  • Olive oil, tomatoes, nuts, red wine, legumes, cooked vegetables, fruit, fermented dairy, fish
Native American

  • Wild game, organ meats, fish, blood, corn, wild rice, beans, berries, tubers, nuts and seeds, broth

  • Fish, lamb, wild berries, milk, potatoes, cabbage, fermented vegetables
Northern European

  • Sourdough bread, raw dairy, fermented vegetables, cooked stews/soups, meat, poultry
South/Central American

  • Corn, beans, squash, plantains, chilies, berries, wild greens, tomatoes, agave, wild game, fish

#2 – Feast And Famine

Our ancestors also experienced periods of fasting, when resources were scarce, followed by periods of abundance and full bellies. 

The benefits of fasting include:

Improved Body Composition: Fasting for periods of 12 hours or more has been shown to improve fat oxidation and fat burning. Fasting has also been shown to increase the body’s secretion of human growth hormone, which aids in preserving muscle and burning body fat. 

More Energy: It’s been observed that all mammals tend to be active when hungry and sedentary when fed. As counter-intuitive as it might sound, energy levels tend to increase during extended fasts, due to a rise in the hormone adrenaline. Humans have likely evolved this mechanism as a way to give the body a boost to go hunt down some grub when food is scarce. 

Appetite Regulation: Ghrelin, known as the “hunger hormone,” is responsible for making us want to destroy that bag of greasy potato chips. Leptin, on the other hand, is the hormone responsible for telling us that we’re satiated. Balancing these hormones is one of the driving factors behind appetite regulation. Fasting has been shown to regulate ghrelin, which allows leptin to normalize and appetite to balance out. (Note: Females may not experience this benefit of fasting as much as males do.) 

Gut Health: Fasting can protect the gut against the negative impacts of stress and can lead to increased microbial diversity and elevated rates of fermentation, making your gut and immune system stronger. It’s hypothesized that fasting prompts the body to remove and replace damaged cells, as well as stimulate the regeneration of damaged tissue. 

Brain Health: Periods of fasting can induce autophagy in your neurons, thus protecting nerve cells from degeneration. Fasting also increases the secretion of the brain hormone BDNF which aids the growth of new nerve cells and the formation of new neural pathways that can improve brain function as a whole, specifically memory and learning

Heart Health: Fasting has been shown to improve a number of blood lipid markers indicative of heart health including blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, insulin sensitivity and triglycerides. 

Longevity and Disease Prevention: Autophagy is a repair process in which cells cleanse and repair themselves by removing old and damaged proteins and replacing them with new ones. This process has been associated with anti-aging, longevity, and improved metabolic health, and becomes accelerated during periods of fasting. Autophagy has major implications for longevity and anti-aging because it keeps cells young, healthy, and functioning optimally. 

Improved Self-Control and Willpower: Fasting by nature is an extreme exercise in willpower. You are consciously choosing not to give in to a deep, physical desire (to eat). Frequently practicing this kind of self-control through fasting can translate into other areas of life, improving self-discipline and the ability to withstand temptations and distractions that derail us from focusing on what matters in our lives.

Who should fast with caution: Who should not fast:
People with gout People with a history of eating disorders
Individuals on prescription medication People who are malnourished and/or underweight (BMI < 18.5)
Extremely lean individuals Pregnant or breastfeeding women
Diabetics (Type 1 or 2) Those with subclinical hypothyroidism
Pre-menopausal women Children under the age of 18
Those dealing with HPA Axis Dysregulation
People who have recently undergone surgery
People with mental health conditions
People with conditions for which Warfarin is prescribed

Type of Fasting

During this challenge, we are focusing on an intermittent fast (IF). IF of 12-16 hours can elevate fat metabolism and growth hormone secretion, leading to improved body composition. It may also be easier to maintain exercise routines during short fasting windows, which can further support body composition. It is not recommended to combine IF with calorie restriction, as the combination can negatively affect sex hormones. To keep hormones balanced, be sure to consume a normal day’s worth of calories during your feeding window.

Tips for Females to Consider When Fasting

  • Avoid intense exercise on days you fast
  • You must prioritize sleep!
  • Eat adequate calories and carbohydrates during your feeding window
  • Minimize stress as much as possible – fasting can be a major stressor on its own
  • Use the Crescendo method
    • Intermittent fast 2-3 days per week on non-consecutive days

#3 – Essential Fatty Acids

Essential fatty acids must come from food sources and cannot be produced by your body. They are required to build our cell membranes and I consider fish oil to be one of the safest and most studied supplements on the planet. In addition to providing cardiovascular benefits, these fatty acids have been shown to promote neuronal health, cognitive enhancement, mood, muscular recovery, and more.

Eat a wide variety of essential fatty acids:

  • Hemp seeds
  • Flax seeds 
  • Chia seeds
  • Algae
  • Cold-water, wild-caught fish (salmon, sardines, halibut, tuna)
  • Grass-fed, grass-finished meat
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Macadamia nut oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Walnuts, almonds, pistachios
  • Supplement if needed – Kion Omega

Almost everyone living on a Western diet is remarkably skewed in terms of their omega-6:omega-3 fatty acid balance or their overall intake of omega-3s altogether. The average American consumes a ratio of 10:1 or as high as 50:1 in favor of omega-6 fatty acids. 20% of all the calories we consume come from a single food source: soybean oil. Sadly, the majority of grocery store products are disguised as health products but filled with forms of rancid, oxidized, and poorly-sourced fish oils that contain dangerously high levels of heavy metals and other toxins. As you may already be beginning to suspect, there’s a whole lot more to consuming fatty acids than meets the eye. In order to help tilt this balance in the proper direction you should also be mindful of limiting or eliminating the following:

  • Soybean oil (found in processed foods)
  • Canola oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Most seed and nut butters

Lab testing recommendation to check your current status – Wellness FX Omega Ratio Test

#4 – Plants, Herbs, and Spices

Cultures in “Blue Zones” – or hotspots known for longevity – all eat a wide variety of plants, herbs, and spices. 

Many herbs and spices are known for their potent anti-inflammatory effects. Good ones to include:

  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Turmeric
  • Curry 
  • Cumin
  • Fennel
  • Star Anise
  • Garlic (if not sensitive or Low FODMAP)
  • Ginger 
  • Mint
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Cilantro
  • Cayenne

#5 – Be Present

Keep in mind that HOW you eat your meals matters. Focus on communal eating as much as possible. This can be sit-down dinners with the family on a nightly basis, grabbing a bite with friends for lunch, and limiting the number of meals you eat hunched over your computer screen overall. The second piece to this is focusing on slowing down and taking your time while eating. You want your body to be in a parasympathetic state, all set to “rest and digest.” Complete a set of breathwork exercises prior to eating. Challenge yourself to chew each bite 25 times before swallowing. See what a difference it makes.

Additional Resources

The Zen Of Customizing Your Diet To Your Unique Body And Goals – For Vegans, Females, Seniors, Kids, Fasting, & Ketosis

F*@# Diets – Customized, Delicious Nutrition Made Easy

How To Be Extremely Active And Eat A Plant-Based Diet Without Destroying Your Body

The Jungle Effect: Book Unlocks the Power of Indigenous Diets

Guts and Grease: The Diet of Native Americans

The Truth About Lectins And The Plant Paradox By Dr. Steven Gundry

Can a Vegan Go Keto?

Why You Should Think Twice About Vegetarian and Vegan Diets

Why You Can’t Get Away From The Toxin Glyphosate (& What You Can Do About It)

Eatwild.orgThe #1 clearinghouse for information about pasture-based farming and features a state-by-state plus Canada directory of local farmers who sell their pastured farm and ranch products directly to consumers.

Localharvest.orgA directory of nationwide CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) to get farm-fresh, locally grown produce on a regular basis while supporting farmers.

Cornucopia.orgDetermine the actual quality of common “healthy” grocery store brands using this comprehensive resource.

Ben’s Ultimate Anti-Aging Smoothie Recipe

Try all or some of the ingredients in this power-packed smoothie!


  • 1/2 frozen avocado or substitute with coconut milk or creamer
  • Collagen powder or protein powder
  • 2 tsp Cacao 
  • 2 tsp blueberry powder
  • 2 tsp Sunflower lecithin
  • 2 tsp Ceylon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Celtic salt 
  • D-ribose
  • 5 g creatine 
  • 1 scoop Dr. Thomas Cowan’s vegetable powder (low oxalate) 
  • Four sigmatic 10 mushroom blend 
  • Cordyceps mushroom extract
  • Lions mane mushroom extract
  • 1 tsp Liver
  • 2 shakes Stevia powder
  • 2 cups Bone broth or maple water

Blend for 2 minutes and stir 

Top with:

  • Spirulina chlorella tablets
  • Cacao nibs
  • Sprinkle of salt
  • 12 dried blueberries 
  • Drizzle of manuka (or local organic) honey 
  • Kion energy bar 

This week’s call info

Tuesday, March 14th at 10:30 am CST

Speaker: Coach Renee B

Zoom Link:

Presentation Slides

If you would like to work with Coach Renee, please reach out to [email protected].