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What Is the Genotype Diet?

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I never count calories.

I'm at my dining room table, writing this. I just ate a pound of roast beef with rice curry on the side. For dessert I'm having a large piece of extra dark (82 percent) chocolate. Yup, chocolate's on my diet. I eat it every day.

How many calories is all this? Don't know, don't care.

Now you may be saying, "Michael, roast beef? I already tried the Atkins diet! My colon shut down, my cholesterol went through the roof, my skin turned greasy-gray, and in two months I gained back twice as much weight as I lost!"

Or you may be saying, "Whoa! I did low-carb! I had no energy, I yelled at my kids, my hair was falling out, and my grandmother begged our parish priest to perform an exorcism. I'm Italian -- I need my pasta!"

My diet is not Atkins. And it's not low-carb. Please notice the rice curry and the chocolate.

So what's wrong with these diets? After all, the anecdotal evidence says that they're great for some people. But that's the problem. Different bodies have different needs.

Then what are we supposed to do? Shop around until something clicks? Use ourselves as guinea pigs?

Been there, done that. I lived on raw vegetables and stayed in bed all day. I went low-fat and my hair turned gray. I went low-carb and I became the meanest person I knew. I went Atkins and I smelled like a boys' locker room in a Georgia heat wave.

Then I tried the Blood Type diet. But wait: This article is titled "What is the Genotype Diet?"

Let me explain. Peter D'Adamo, N.D., (ND stands for "Naturopathic Doctor") has written a series of books outlining his theory that our blood types (A, B, AB, or O) largely determine what foods are good for us. The basic book is "Eat Right for Your Type." There's also a great video titled "Understanding the Blood Type Diet." And if you don't know your blood type, there's an easy $9.95 test that you can take at home.

I tried the blood type diet -- I followed the "O" version, and it improved my energy and immune system. But I still caught a lot of colds. (It's an occupational hazard of working with sick people.) And after the weight initial loss, I stayed the same weight.

But I was in for a surprise.

The following year, I found out that Dr. D'Adamo had made his categories more specific: According to his new book, "Change Your Genetic Destiny," there are six genotypes, each with its own needs, its own evolutionary story, its own strengths and weaknesses. There are also five brief videos about this that you can play online.

Are you a hunter or a gatherer? A teacher or a warrior? A nomad or an explorer? Well, it's more complicated than knowing your blood type. You'll have to take a good look at yourself. You'll need a tape measure, fingerprinting equipment, and about an hour.

I had it easy. I took half an hour, but I'm easy to figure out. Everything about me, from my long shinbones to my sharp teeth, yells "Look out, world, this is a hunter! Hide the cat!"

But once I had that figured out, I could look up specific lists of foods at the end of the book. Example: I found out that chocolate acts as a "thermogenic" for me. This means that it's a fat burner. Of course, it has to be mostly chocolate, not sugar, milk or soy. But still -- chocolate as medicine? Who knew?

But whoever your are, you'll find similar pleasant surprises, plus some admittedly disappointing news. Whoever you are, the list of good foods is long and yummy. And there are outline recipes for each Genotype that will tickle your taste buds. You can even specify a recipe for, say, duck. One such recipe is for Warm Duck Salad with Enoki Mushrooms and Pine Nuts. Good for a hungry hunter!

So this diet is not for ascetics. The Genotype approach emphasizes what you CAN eat, not what you can't. The focus is not on self-denial, but self-knowledge.

I believe the work of figuring out your Genotype is worth it. And this goes back to my first rule of good health: "Knowledge is power. Read up. Ask questions. Ask your doctor if they think a particular style of eating is right for you."

Today I stand 5'6" and weigh 103 lbs. I actually asked a clinician friend, "Be honest: Am I anorexic?. She snorted. "With your coloring? Your muscle tone? Your energy? And after I saw what you can do to a roast turkey? Please!"

And I haven't gotten sick once since I went on this diet. But, again, what works for me may not work for you.

So you want to count calories? Be my guest. But know that there's an alternative. Meanwhile, I'm figuring out what to have for dessert tonight. What do you think? Chocolate covered almonds? Or banana slices with chocolate sauce? Or sticky rice with pear butter?

Decisions, decisions.