The perfect diet!
These days we are bombarded with information about what is the best way to get in shape, improve our health and longevity, and what is the best way to fuel our bodies. Everyone claims to be an expert, and then even the true experts have conflicting advice. There are endless studies and research papers, however many of these contradict each other, change over time, or then there is the question of - which ones are actually credible? The internet and free access to so much information can be such an incredible asset, but at the same time a big pool of confusion about what is accurate or ‘right’.
Every nutritional approach has its pros and cons, it all comes down to perspective and the individual. That is why it's important to always pay attention to how something is working for you. It is also necessary to be patient with yourself. Often it takes time and you will move through different phases throughout the process.
Let's look at 3 different examples that are common in the fitness world.
Clean eating is a popular method that has both its advocates and critics. For many people clean eating simply distinguishes for them the difference between 'everyday' foods and 'sometimes' foods. They experience no guilt with eating their 'treat' or 'cheat' meals, and they have found a nice balance with this form of eating that doesn't impact their daily lives and allows them to manage their body weight. On the other hand there are people who become extreme with this type of eating by strongly labelling and categorising foods in a way that is detrimental to their life. They become fearful and guilty eating particular foods and this can lead to restriction and severe limiting of food choices. As you can see 'clean eating' and terms associated with this type of eating for one person can invoke a completely different response, so we can't put everyone in 'one box' when it comes to this type of approach.
Another popular method is IIFYM or 'flexible dieting'. Again for people who love this approach it helps them create structure, understanding portions and how to meet their nutritional needs through whichever foods they choose. They find the can manage their food better and not feel they 'can't have' something at any given time. On the other side you have people who become extremely obsessive with this method. Food becomes a constant stress and worry because they have to meet a particular number goal. It starts to impact their life because they have to weigh every single morsel of food they eat and simple activities like eating out can become stressful because they need to know the menu so they can pre-plan and calculate what they can eat, and how it can fit. So again while for many it creates a nice balance of managing their nutritional needs and food intake, for others it is just another form of strictly controlled dieting.
Another approach that is becoming more popular recently is mindful eating, or sometimes referred to as intuitive eating. This is where you pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues and start to reconnect to your body and mind in regards to your food management. Essentially some form of this is the ultimate goal for everyone. To find a place where you understand portion control, how to balance your 'everyday' foods with your 'sometimes' foods, and you eat in way that you are not consumed with what, when, where, and how much you eat; you just intuitively know what your body needs, and it no longer requires any thought. While this sounds great in theory, for many people who have had disordered eating patterns and been dieting and binging for many years, they may not yet be able to recognise their hunger and fullness cues. In this case they usually require a meal plan in order to ensure they are eating in a way to meet their nutritional needs until they come to a point where they can manage their food choices for themselves.
No matter what nutritional practices you implement, you need to ensure they work for YOU in finding balance with meeting your nutritional needs, achieving your goals, and that it will work for your lifestyle long term. Like anything in life there is always pros and cons to everything. People have different belief systems and throughout their lives are exposed to many different influences. So what may seem 'extreme' to one person, may not be at all to another. It all comes down to our own individual perspective.
You must focus on yourself and what will work for you long term. By all means start with the help of someone so you have a foundation and somewhere to start, but you must along the way take responsibility to pay attention and make adjustments to suit you, your lifestyle and your preferences.
There are so many ways to create a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
- Aim to find an approach that looks like it would be something you would be able to maintain and most importantly enjoy. From there step by step each week make small adjustments as needed. Get some help and guidance with this if you need help. Select someone who is flexible in their approach and coaching, and works WITH you to create a plan that suits you, not only what 'they' do and works for them.
- There is no real perfect plan out there that works for everyone, but there is the right plan for you. Some of us eat meat, some don't, some eat dairy, some don't, some want to track food intake and calculate daily calories and macros, some don't, some want to eat 3 meals a day, some 6, some like intermittent fasting, some don't. Make modifications that you feel comfortable with and if you are getting help from someone be sure to 'communicate' with them what you do and don't like or want. Of course there are more sensible and optimal ways, but ultimately it's finding what you enjoy and can maintain as a lifestyle.
- It's important to start somewhere! Don't be in a fixed mindset in regards to whatever choice you make. Remember it is ok to try new things along the way. How do we know what we don't know right? Nothing has be locked in. and your approach and habits may change slightly over time. However don't throw away your plan of attack as soon as you hit a road bump. Simply adjust and solve each problem as they arise and continue.
- The key is to build a basic foundation as a starting point, and then adjust as you go. Not big massive changes and jumping from plan to plan, but just assessing daily and weekly what worked well, and from there adapting the areas that aren't. Don't sabotage what is likely working because you 'saw', 'read' or 'heard' something. There is no issue in keeping an open mind and continuing to learn, but constantly taking ever single thing you read as gospel is going to leave you in a world of confusion and overwhelm. It's all about patience, consistency and what you know you can stick with for the long haul.
I know from personal experience the more I thought about doing it the 'right' way and over complicating things to find the 'best way', the more mistakes I made, and the more stress it created. I have with commitment learnt to listen to my body and go by how I feel and what makes me feel good. I found what is right for me, not what anyone else tells me, not what every article from science tells me, not what a book tells me, nor the Internet, Instagram, Facebook etc. I found how to balance my food sensibly without control or restrictions, and I train in ways so I enjoy it and can maintain it, so that I can love my lifestyle. I found the perfect balance to be healthy, to eat what I enjoy daily, and to stay the leanness I know that is comfortable for me and where I can maintain, again for ME! It is true what they say, keep it simple.
Always run your own race and keep an open mind. You never want to waste your life judging others on how they chose to live their life. We all have the right to a happy and healthy life and have the right to decide what is best for us.