The wonder of boys, girls, and bio-individuality

One of the principles of integrative nutrition is the theory of bio-individuality: each of us is unique, and therefore our needs for primary foods (career, spirituality, physical activity, relationships) and secondary foods (what we put in our mouths) also vary.

One person’s food is another one’s poison – in terms of bio-individuality, that means that one person might thrive on a vegetarian diet, while another does much better with a bit of animal protein in the mix; one person might like to do yoga, while another prefers high-intensity interval training; one person might gravitate toward a formal, liturgy-based faith community, another might find meditating in nature plenty spiritual.

As a health coach, I spend a lot of time thinking about bio-individuality as I try to help people discover the right diet and lifestyle choices for them.

Maybe we talk about it too much at home? My kids (one girl, one boy) have taken to wielding Bio-individuality as a weapon: when I serve something new for dinner, without fail they feel obliged to disagree about it. If the first one says, “I love it!” the other is bound to say, “Yuck!” If the first one hates it, the second one loves it. It’s bio-individuality, Mom.

First day of school

After K was born, I came across a deeply insightful book – Michael Gurian’s The Wonder of Girls – so after N came along, I immediately read Gurian’s The Wonder of Boys. Unless you’re into neurochemistry, there’s a lot to slog through in sections, but you’ll come away with amazing insights into the male and female brain.

Very early on, I could list the ways in which my two differ (besides the obvious – I think you got that part): one was 2 weeks late, one was 2 months early; one is an introvert, one is an extrovert; one is a rule follower, one is not; one will work ahead, one will procrastinate; one will go above and beyond what’s asked, one will do the bare minimum; one room is tidy (understatement), one’s a mess (understatement, again); one gets sore throats, one gets stomachaches; one will always choose the healthier food, one will always opt for junk; one will save the best for last, one will immediately go for pleasure first.


But then there are all the similarities: neither was a good sleeper in infancy, both got teeth super early, both spoke in full sentences very young,starting preschool was equally tough, both love to read, both find verbal skills easier than math, both love to run, both tend to have a few close friends rather than run with a crowd.

Do their differences stem from their gender, their birth order, or just the fact that they are two unique individuals who just happen to share the same gene pool (and is that why they do share so many traits?) How many of the differences are inborn, and how many are cultivated as a means to self-differentiate? (I’m guessing the dinner table story falls under the latter.)

I recently saw a Huffington Post piece on “11 Things Only Parents of Boys Understand.” The author nailed it with some of the lighter observations (Star Wars = religion; DC or Marvel – pick one; there will be pee everywhere) – and all in all, I do think that this piece is meant to be humorous.

But it did start me thinking: on some of the more important points, she totally missed the mark. My daughter, at the age of 15, does roll her eyes, but – and I know I’m jinxing it –  she has yet to be sullen or stamp her feet or slam doors. (Oh, right, she did that at age 3 – a bit precocious.) My son may be much more physically affectionate, but I don’t think his love is any more unconditional than hers.

And there you have it – nothing teaches us the importance of bio-individuality more than raising kids – boys or girls, boys and girls.

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