Diets – Pros & Cons

There is natural inquiry about what to expect out of booking a nutritional counseling session with me. Obviously dietary adjustments are par for the course when you seek out the guidance of a nutritionist – it’s for the people who have a knowing deep down that there is a better solution to popping medication and spending extended hours on a cardio machine. Or maybe you feel like you’ve truly tried it all and you wish to hear nutritional objectivity.

This post is to shed some light about my professional opinions surrounding diets and to reassure those who sit at the Olive & Dove table that I take great care in collaborating with you about your unique health needs.

I have much to say in describing the pros and cons of specific diets as well (keto, paleo, anti-inflammatory, vegan, vegetarian, intermittent fasting, etc.), but I’ll save it for another day! Here’s the scoop on my philosophy revolving diets and how they can positively or negatively impact you.

The pros of going on a diet are as follows:

Oftentimes our palates are so accustomed to the intensity of flavors such as salty and sweet that we need to recalibrate our tastebuds via a diet. It can take a couple of weeks or so to retrain your tastebuds as the cells on our tongue regenerate. This should be a comforting fact in that the flavors that stem from real food, spices, and herbs will no longer seem bland once your tastebuds readjust from the over-stimulatory experience of refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, MSG, and the like.

Not only do our tastebuds need a reality check – our neurotransmitters are just as guilty. We have millions of colonies of microbiome residing in our gut, and hundreds of neurotransmitters sending messages from gut to brain. In case you didn’t know, microbes and parasites (don’t panic – it’s a part of being a mammal) have a huge influence on the cravings we experience day-to-day. Sugars and refined carbs are what these little species thrive on. If they overpopulate in your gut (i.e., the bad bacteria outnumber the good bacteria) your cravings won’t be yours. Instead of our cravings aligning with what will adequately nourish us, we are spiraling in thoughts only channeled to keep the gut-invaders alive.

This is when will power comes to play. You have to break the cycle, which I know can be seemingly impossible. As a nutritionist, I of course have many tools in my belt that help you shed detrimental cravings in order to embody a healthy relationship with your food. There is a big message going around called ‘food freedom’, which I am of course a big advocate of. The caveat to this, however, is the potential of prematurely entering a state of food freedom when you have not yet addressed your cravings, glucose levels, hormonal imbalances, and underlying addictions. You will be subjected to worse symptoms (headaches, IBS, skin rashes, mood disorders, etc.) by ‘trusting your instinct’ if your foundation is compromised.

By adhering to a diet that is geared towards your physiological needs, you WILL see your body transform. What’s great about the detoxification process is you’ll look back on all the difficult days of withdrawal and have true experiential knowledge as to how junk foods were putting so much strain on your quality of life. This is POWER! It is even more so a testament to how dangerous these non-foods are – as they have been engineered to be addictive & void of nutrients (to keep you coming back for more 😉 $). Foods that I am referring to encompass the world of any processed product with an unreadable ingredient list, anything containing refined sugar, artificial colors & flavors, etc.


The cons of going on a diet are as follows:

Diets may not be suitable for those with a history of an eating disorder such as anorexia or orthorexia. Encouraging control over what should and should not be eaten could trigger even more detrimental habits leading to poorer health outcomes.

For some, relying on ‘having to diet’ instead of a healthy lifestyle could also pose some problems. It’s difficult for some individuals who only know two extremes pertaining to their food – ‘anything goes’ vs. ‘restriction’. I am sure the ‘all or nothing’ mentality also sounds familiar. Ladies (especially), your delicate and intricate hormonal system DOES NOT like yo-yo dieting. It needs consistently nourished with slight deviations / alterations between the phases (follicular, ovulatory, luteal, and menstrual). Relatively new science is showcasing our different needs in each phase pertaining to exercise regimes, sleep duration, caloric intake, protein and carb differentiation, and more in order to fulfill our life’s duties with ease & in alignment. That being said, those who are only accustomed to eating healthy when under the confines of a diet may need to have food relationship coaching sessions in order to break free of their myth-full paradigms and into a world of balance, thoughtful cooking, and intuitive eating.

Dieting can also lead to out-of-control feelings around food. It’s a really difficult way to live when your brain exists in a constant battlefield. Not only that, but guilt & shame are right around the corner. Deviate from the diet? It’s hard not to feel like a failure. Instead of moving past feelings of guilt from a slip-up, many sit in shame (thus hindering them from growth and feeding the fire of poor self-esteem). Oftentimes, the expectations surrounding diets are too high – beating yourself up for being unable to reach unrealistic expectations is no fault of your own!

Diets also do not include the power of the mind. To explain, I am a holistic nutritionist because I believe in the reality that food is information that directly affects our DNA. If you eat foods that are a chemical sh*t storm, you will undoubtedly feel the consequence as you invite disruption and inflammation into your temple. Gluten is inflammatory because of modern day wheat farming practices. Meat & dairy are susceptible to hormones and antibiotics which thus disrupt our endocrine and gastrointestinal system. Sugar is highly addictive, feeds cancer, and is a sure prerequisite to chronic disease. These are all physical realities that I base my counseling decisions on in my practice.

However, there is the beautiful power of speaking grace over your food. No matter where someone got the food, how they prepared it, etc., the energetic component of cooking and creating with love and to feed the bellies of others holds ground in the holistic world. Diets – which have a micro-focus on the nutrition facts label – fail to see beyond the veil of traditions within our culture that are a God-given gift. If you are on a diet, and have to either bring your own food or skip a meal with loved ones, you are missing out on crucial communal elements that are spiritually fulfilling. I know many in the culinary field who use the very ingredients I would tell me clients to abstain from. I still recognize their craft, profession, and skills using these food groups to create delicious dishes for others to enjoy. I, too, can enjoy their splendor; giving thanks for the thoughtfulness and effort it took to make said food. That is also a healthy eating practice.


Which leads into my next point; diets are very isolating!

It is one thing when you are struggling with your health day after day, when going out and drinking don’t actually feel good (exacerbates your symptoms), and you are undeniably at a place of desperation. THIS is the time to be an nonconformist. When you choose yourself over social inclusion because the health of your brain & body are at stake.

If you are not in a place of dis-ease, diets might bring more harm than good. The healthiest cultures around the world take their social organizations and fellowship very seriously. Livin’, lovin’, and laughin’ are oh so important. When you are in a world of obsessively weighing your meals, drilling your server at a restaurant about ingredients, and counting your macros, the energy expenditure required is doing worse for your health than simply skipping the bread basket or your second glass of wine.

Intuitive eating is where I steer all clients. Depending on the health issue at hand, most people can find a balanced world of intuitive eating once they shed any undesirable eating behaviors, quit the cravings, and solidify long-lasting habits. It’s amazing to look back and see the habits that were once difficult to implement are now ingrained effortlessly into the day. Protocols to follow help give the necessary goal-structured layout to stick to that becomes more important than falling into old cycles. Intuitive eating is the gift at the end, when your cells are renewed from all of your efforts and you now have a trusting connection with your physical vessel

Truth be told, I haven’t been on a ‘diet’ in years. I know what it’s like to eat 4 small meals a day in conjunction with calorie counting and exercise. I know what it’s like to go on an extra run BEFORE I have a collegiate soccer practice (the classic no pain no gain mentality). I know what it’s like to embark on a 40 day elimination diet, consuming a whole food diet void of refined sugar, dairy, gluten, corn, and alcohol. All of these diets served a purpose in the way I understand food and nutrition now, which I now integrate into my nutrition counseling practice.

Work with me to learn about yourself better, feel confident about which direction to go with your diet & lifestyle, & come to a place of food freedom in a body you’re joyful in.

Diets are not a punishment. They are a segue into a better way of living that you have never felt before. They will empower you to say ‘no’ to toxicity on a daily basis, and ‘yes’ to times of vin & celebration!


Bee Westwood, MScN