It’s in the genes Rewire your metabolism
No two people are the same – and nutritionist Susie Cleland says this should apply to our diets. She tells Kylie Bailey why metabolic typing could be the approach for you
Humans are amazing in that each and every one of us is unique. This fact holds true for both our eating habits and how we process food. What we eat, when we eat, how we eat, our genetics, our stress levels, our ability to get a good night’s sleep, exercise and our gut health all intermingle in a series of complex equations. In recent times, these processes have been complicated further by the fact we live in a world in which food is available 24/7, and we have access to every flavour combo imaginable.
It’s no surprise that all this oversaturation has a dramatic impact on our genetic expression; we’re actually training ourselves to eat more. But although our environment has changed, our bodies have not. In an underfed state, we have hormonal signals that release stored nutrients. But when we break the neuroregulation of our appetite – aka the body’s appetite control – by chronically overeating, we actually produce a state in which the brain and liver think we’re starving, despite being awash with energy from excess food (see box over the page). Thankfully, by recognising the unique interactions at play in our bodies – from our genetics to the health of our microbiome, ie the micro-organisms in our body – we can take steps to ‘rewire’ our metabolism and regain control of our appetite.
Understanding the mechanisms at play is something owner of Suna Pilates, Susie Cleland, has specialised in since starting her practice 15 years ago. Susie uses the concept of metabolic typing – the scientific methodology for customised nutrition. This methodology identifies the best fuel types for a person’s metabolism, to help clients understand the different roles of carbs, fats and proteins.
“It’s about understanding what carbs do best and what carbs do worst, and then choosing to take in sufficient essential nutrients, including protein, fats, vitamins and minerals that support our activity, growth and repair,” says Susie, who is also a holistic life coach and kinesiologist.
Susie says the concept of personalised nutrition is gaining ground as more people begin to realise it’s up to them to take control of their health and their environment. Whereas many nutritionists and dietitians prescribe meal plans based on generalised percentages of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, metabolic typing looks at how much of each we should be eating based on both our biological heritage, ie the genetic characteristics that have been passed down to us, and what’s happening in our environment.
Often it’s a mismatch between the type of fuel we are consuming, our genetic history and our environment (both external and internal) that causes the breakdown of the body’s appetite control, makes our hormonal signals go haywire and causes us to consume too much of the wrong types of food.
“We used to believe that what your DNA is, is what you’re stuck with. But when it comes to genetics, the biggest indicator of genetic change is environment. It’s not just what we’re eating or how we’re exercising, it’s also our beliefs, our words and our deeds.”
So how do we eat in a way that’s in harmony with our genetics?
“The idea is to eat a diet built around largely whole, unprocessed foods that don’t cause dysfunction of the neuroregulation of appetite,” says Susie. So although the details of our diet will depend on our individual metabolic type, Susie says there are some guidelines that apply across the board. These allow us to optimise ourselves (mentally and physically) and our environment to help us retrain our appetites. This means opting for meals that are simple in texture and flavour, that change with the seasons and where we have to expend some amount of energy before we get the goods.
It’s also about hydrating ourselves well, reducing stress and increasing the amount of time we spend doing things that activate the parasympathetic nervous system, like exercising outside, meditating, or socialising with friends.