Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What is N=1 and what does it have to do with diet?

When I start a new client out on their health and wellness journey, I like to make it a point to emphasize that what is best for them is best for them.  In other words, there is no best path to health and wellness, you have to do what works for you and that will be different than what works well for me.  Since no 2 people are living under the same conditions, it’s impossible to generalize a program that will work for everyone.  In scientific studies, N is the number of subjects in the experiment.  When I refer to N=1, I am referring to an experiment that involves only 1 participant…You.

So why is N=1 so important?  Some people have large appetites, some people’ don’t.  Some people work day shift, some work nights.  Some people work laborious jobs while some sit at a desk all day.  Some people genetically put weight on easily, others not so much.  Some people have kids and they can’t get away to a gym most days and others have no family and can go every day.  The point is, we are all different and need to find out what works for us in order to live healthy lives.  One person may spend 4 days a week at the gym while another exercises by playing with their kids.  The mode isn’t necessarily the important factor, only that you achieve certain parameters within the mode of exercise you choose.

As far as diet goes, your N=1 experiment begins with an elimination Paleo Diet for 4 weeks followed by adding in potentially problematic foods like dairy one at a time and measuring the way you feel.  Having a device like the Fitbit to track sleep and measuring blood glucose are valuable ways of determining how your body responds to food.  Of course, you could just go by how you feel and any sort of allergic responses you may have.

Once you have collected all of the data of your N=1 experiment, you know exactly what to do to feel good, look good, and live a long and healthy life.  Of course, it’s important to realize that there are going to be times when you don’t stick to the plan 100%.  The point of the N=1 experiment isn’t to restrict everything you eat, just to give you a framework or template to work with going forward.  If you stick to it 80% of the time and were only sticking to it 60% of the time before you would expect to see progress.  When progress stops you can decide if it’s worth going to 85-90%, but at least you have the option f knowing what you need to do.  The best part is, you don’t need to worry about how much food or exercise any more.  When you eat a diet that is congruent with your genes you don’t really overeat and your appetite stays low provided your exercise is appropriate as well.