As someone who is always looking to shed some extra pounds, I have tried my fair share of trendy diets over the years (Whole30, bone broth, and Beyonc
As someone who is always looking to shed some extra pounds, I have tried my fair share of trendy diets over the years (Whole30, bone broth, and Beyoncé’s 22-day vegan cleanse to name a few), and like most people, I have repeatedly been told that the key to losing weight is cutting carbs.
But despite this, I’ve never been able to say goodbye to pizza, pasta, and bread for long periods of time, and I’m certainly not alone.
Enter LifeDNA, a Hawaii-based biotechnology startup, which insists that these one-size-fits-all eating plans are bound to fail because they don’t take into account the one thing that makes us unique: our DNA.
With my sister’s wedding a little over a year away, I jumped at the chance to try out the company’s tailor-made nutrition and fitness plans with the hope that I would be told carbohydrates were not the enemy, or at least not my enemy.
Before and after: I tried LifeDNA’s custom nutrition and fitness plans based on my DNA and lost about five pounds without depriving myself
Cyril Moukarzel, the co-founder and CEO of LifeDNA, stresses that the fundamental problem with all-in-one health and wellness solutions that are being offered is that they don’t take genetics into account.
‘We’re discovering new ways of how our DNA is impacting our health and wellness every single day,’ he told DailyMail.com. ‘Your DNA is the blueprint of your life. It’s essentially the instruction manual to how your body functions and how you’re built as a person. So, ignoring that doesn’t make any sense.’
LifeDNA was founded in 2017 with the goal of creating supplements specifically tailored to customers’ DNA, but it has since evolved into offering meal and fitness plans based on customers’ genetic strengths and weaknesses.
Moukarzel explained that our DNA is about 99.9 per cent the same, but that 0.1 per cent difference is made up of single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs for short. Some SNPs lead to differences in physical appearance (eye color) or health (susceptibility to certain diseases).
‘We curated a list of hundreds of SNPs that we’ve identified that have a particular impact on certain things, like for example your carbohydrate sensitivity,’ he said. ‘We take that information, we understand how that particular SNP impacts your health and wellness, and then from there, we create personalized solutions, recommendations, and insights.’
The company’s nutrition, fitness, and health and personality reports dictate what type of diet people should follow and what workouts will best transform their bodies, though Moukarzel makes it clear that genetics is just one part of the equation.
‘Just because something is in your DNA, it doesn’t mean it’s going to determine your destiny,’ he said. ‘You are who you are because of a combination of your genetics but also your lifestyle and your environment.’
Surprise! After years of trying to follow a low-carb diet, I learned I have a low carbohydrate sensitivity and should be incorporating them into my meals, according to my DNA report
Saying no to no carbs: I also have a mid-range level sensitivity to fats, meaning a high-fat, low-carb plan like the keto diet doesn’t work for my body
According to Moukarzel, following a fad diet was one of the worst things that I could do to lose weight. Not only are they often unsustainable, but they also don’t take into account how people’s genetics come to play.
Even before I got my results, I was convinced I was going to be put on a low-carb eating plan and couldn’t resist asking him about the increasingly popular Keto diet that has gotten a lot of attention over recent years.
‘You cannot label Keto as the magic diet,’ he said, much to my delight. ‘It could be a blessing or it could be a nightmare. It really depends on the person’s individual genetic makeup, environment, and lifestyle.’
After years of hopping from one eating plan to the next, I knew I needed a lifestyle change, not a get-thin-quick plan, so I was happy to put LifeDNA’s customized program to the test.
LifeDNA now offers automated nutrition plans and an introductory consultation with an expert for $199 per year, but when I tried out the program, it was still in its testing phase and my meals were manually created by Peter Curry, a consultant at LifeDNA.
Before I got started, I had to submit a DNA report (LifeDNA offers its own testing kits, but I already had one from 23andMe) and Peter walked me through a series of personal questions.
We talked about my medical history, age (34), activity level, dietary restrictions, and whether or not I have access to a gym. Because he would be creating my meal plans, he asked if there were foods I didn’t like, and I completely blanked.
Workouts: Based on my DNA, my body is better suited for endurance activities, such as long-distance running, swimming, or boxing
Taking a break: I almost cried tears of joy when I learned my recovery rate requires me to rest a full 48 hours between strenuous exercises
I told him I really didn’t like shellfish, but somehow forgot about the dozens of other things I’m not a fan of eating. (This would later lead to plenty of emails to Peter about the variety of foods I’ve suddenly realized I don’t like.)
My ultimate goal was weight loss, but as someone who is perpetually tired, I also opted to focus on my energy levels and cognitive function.
I like to meal prep out of sheer laziness during the week, so he agreed to send me recipes for two options that I could make in bulk for lunch and dinner for six days, leaving me one day to be a bit more lenient.
As for breakfast, I would continue to make my morning protein smoothies. My Whole30-approved, dairy-free Nutpods coffee creamer was also approved.
What struck me about my conversation with Peter was that this was meant to be a lifestyle. I wasn’t going to get docked fictional points for falling off my diet. In fact, I was expected to slip up every now and then.
Peter even provided an exchange list for things such as pizza, tacos, and cheese, so I could indulge a bit and still keep myself accountable.
When he went over my nutrition report, the first thing he looked at was my carbohydrate sensitivity, which was low. I was delighted to learn that carbs are my friend.
‘You’re pretty lucky on that one because it basically means your genes are better at processing dietary carbohydrates than the average person,’ he explained, noting I would want to keep my carb count a bit higher than average.
Pretty good: For the first week, I mustard-marinated chicken and a full cup of white rice with a side salad for lunch (left) and pork loin with rice and balsamic glazed carrots for dinner (right)
Say what? I meal prepped everything on Sunday and was shocked to learn that I could have a full cup of rice with each meal
What he was saying made sense, considering I’ve spent the last eight years of my life bouncing from low-carb diet to low-carb diet, even though I was 30 pounds thinner when I was a 26-year-old vegetarian who lived off of whole wheat pasta and bean tacos. (I’m aware youth was also on my side at that point in my life.)
It was also good news that I have a mid-range level sensitivity to fats. Keeping this in mind, I would be eating 1,700 calories per day to lose 1 to 1.5 pounds a week. My meals would be made up of 35 per cent protein, 40 per cent carbs, and 25 per cent fats. Thankfully, Peter would be doing all the math on that for me.
My head pretty much exploded when I was told I could eat a full cup of rice — brown or white — per meal. Even though we just went over how my body likes carbs, I couldn’t help but double check and ask: ‘Like, a full cup?’
The first thing Peter looked at when going over my fitness report was whether my body responds better to endurance (low-intensity over a longer period of time) or power (high-intensity with shorts bursts) exercises.
It turns out my body is better suited for endurance activities, such as long-distance running, swimming, or boxing. I don’t have a particularly high risk of injury as a result of exercise, though I should still stretch and warm up as a general precaution.
After years of feeling guilty for not working out five or six days a week, I almost cried tears of joy when I learned my recovery rate requires me to rest a full 48 hours between strenuous exercises, which I took to mean I only had to work out three days a week.
The keyword that I chose to gloss over was ‘strenuous.’ I could still jog, swim, or do other activities on off days. It wasn’t an invitation to curl up on the couch and reach a book like I initially assumed.
With most clients, Peter would customize workouts for clients based on their gym access and workout equipment, but I was a bit of a different case.
Thanks to Busy Philipps’ Instagram Stories, I’ve become devoted to streaming Lauren E. Kleban’s LEKFit workouts inside the comfort of my own home. I have a $400 mini-trampoline sitting in my living room, and I wasn’t looking to stop doing the one workout I’ve been able to stick with.
Comfort foods! Other dinners included taco bowls (left) and a low-fat Shepard’s pie (right)
Easy fix: I was given a recipe for a low-fat beef bake that reminded me of meatloaf, which I also don’t like, so I turned them into meatballs
Keeping my endurance bias in mind, Peter decided I would do LEKFit’s Boost classes (a combination of cardio and muscle-sculpting) twice a week with one Define class (a full-body mat workout) in between. Both workouts run between 50 to 60 minutes, and if you follow Busy, you know these classes have you dripping sweat by the end.
Whatever I wanted to do between workouts was up to my discretion. (Spoiler alert: I spent my off days curled up on my couch.)
I was a little apprehensive when Peter sent me my first meal plan. For lunch, I’d be having mustard-marinated chicken and a full cup of white rice with a side salad — but there was no mention of salad dressing.
I also don’t really like mustard, so I immediately realized I have a lot more dislikes that I failed to mention to Peter.
For dinner, I had to make a pork loin, which sent me into a mild panic, but it was easier (and tastier) than I had expected. For sides, I got to have another cup of rice and carrots with a balsamic glaze.
I ended up using two tablespoons of balsamic dressing for my lunch salad because I am not someone who can eat dry lettuce, but I later realized Peter had allowed for some wiggle room with my calories for things like condiments.
At this point, I was still in shock that I would be able to consume that much rice when everyone else has told me to avoid carbs like the plague.
I don’t think I’ve eaten such a balanced meal since I was in high school and my mom prepared all of my dinners, but the recipes still felt like a lot for me to prepare.
Happy: I couldn’t believe I was being told to eat a turkey taco pasta bake with melted cheese
Cheating: I was pretty lax with my diet on the weekends and didn’t count my macros like I was supposed to. I randomly had whole wheat waffles and eggs for breakfast one Saturday
During my weekly check-in, I gave Peter a more detailed list of things I don’t like to eat (ham, mushroom, cottage, cheese, etc.) and really stressed that I prefer easy meals like meatballs and taco bowls.
On week two, I was given a recipe for a low-fat beef bake that reminded me of meatloaf, which I also don’t like. I remedied the situation by turning them into meatballs, which I happily took to lunch.
For dinner, I made taco bowls with lean ground turkey, brown rice, corn (another food I was taught was the devil reincarnate) and homemade salsa, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
I was supposed to be keeping track of my calories on the weekends with a few splurges here and there, which I’ll admit I didn’t really do. A girl’s gotta live and all.
Although tried to keep my meals somewhat balanced, there were definitely dinners out, pizza, and frozen waffles for breakfast. However, I was happy to see I was still losing about a pound a week — without feeling hungry or deprived.
Peter kept sending me meals, including chicken chili and an amazing turkey taco pasta bake with melted cheese that I couldn’t believe I was being told to eat.
Inspiration: Thanks to Busy Philipps (pictured), I’ve become devoted to streaming Lauren E. Kleban’s LEKFit rebounder workouts inside the comfort of my own home
All smiles: At the end of the six weeks, I dropped about five pounds, and I feel like I did it in a healthy way
Things were going great…until I remembered my friends were visiting from New York. Week four was a complete wash. I drank wine, ate out the entire time they were in Los Angeles, and didn’t work out. I certainly didn’t lose any weight either.
When I confessed to Peter, he was more than understanding. I was once again reminded this wasn’t a crash diet. It was a lifestyle plan.
I finished weeks five and six with low-fat burgers and a low-fat Shepard’s pie that was made with oatmeal instead of potatoes. Would I have preferred the potatoes? Of course, but it still tasted like comfort food, which I appreciated.
At the end of the six weeks, I dropped about five pounds, and I feel like I did it in a healthy way. Losing weight was always the goal, but what I liked best about the program is the fact there were no ‘bad foods’ that should be banned.
As for my fitness routine, I am now more dedicated to my workouts because I no longer feel guilty for only doing them three or four days a week.
LifeDNA made me realize that my body needs rest in between strenuous workouts, and I am happy to report that I am feeling stronger and even a bit leaner.
Overall, I appreciated the healthy mindset that comes with the program, but old habits die hard.
The wellness industry has beaten it into my brain that carbs are bad, and I’ll admit that I have found myself skimping on them once again now that I am no longer following the LifeDNA nutrition plan.
However, I like knowing that my body is meant to process carbs. It makes me feel a lot better about eating pizza and pasta, which maybe isn’t the point, but still good to know.