Why and how to self-experiment

If you are thinking about self-experimenting with your diet, you are probably faced with a million questions. The main questions you want to ask are: why and how to self-experiment.

For the purposes of this article, self-experimenting refers to trying out a specific diet or dietary pattern on yourself.

Why self-experiment?

  • You heard your favourite celebrity/influencer is doing diet X
  • You are a naturally curious individual
  • You have unresolved health issues that have not responded to other interventions
  • You wonder how much more performance/edge you can get if you switch things around
  • You want to support your significant other or a close friend who wants to try diet X

Why not self-experiment?

  • You have health conditions that could be made worse by experimenting with your diet and/or lifestyle
  • You have mental health issues or conditions that could be exacerbated by self experimentation, such as anxiety and eating disorders
  • You have bigger, more important things going on in your life such as a demanding family, a demanding job or financial constraints

How to self-experiment

  • Get all the information before diving in. Don’t assume you get “the gist” of the intervention by skimming through some articles. Get the full scoop of what the intervention entails before starting it.
  • Prepare. Get all the supplies you need before starting the diet/intervention.
  • Measure. In order to know if intervention X worked or not, you need to take measurements at least at 2 time points: baseline (before implementing the intervention) and post-intervention. You can also measure at regular intervals during the intervention and after the intervention has ended. The post-intervention measurements allow you to determine whether the effect carries on after ceasing the intervention. What to measure depends on the objectives of the intervention, for example: weight loss, fat loss, waist to hip ratio, improved lipid markers, improved fasting glucose, athletic personal bests, etc.
  • Keep a log. Many outcomes of any intervention are subjective. This includes how you feel in terms of gastrointestinal distress, energy levels, mental clarity, mood stability, etc. It is very valuable to keep a log of all these subjective measures as they can be a significant determinant of whether an intervention suits you or not.
  • Get help. If you are not 100% sure of what you’re doing, talk to a dietitian to walk you through the process.
  • Be honest. We are all different and some things don’t work for us. Don’t force yourself to adopt an intervention if it doesn’t work for you just because you want to belong.

To see a couple of examples of self-experiments I have embarked on, check out: Self-experiment: 7 day carb test and My experiment with the Bulletproof® protein fasting.

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