With the new year in full swing, many people are looking to find a diet plan they can stick with to slim down and lose some body fat. Every year there’s some new nutrition protocol that takes off and promises better health and a ton of weight loss. As it gains more popularity, celebrity endorsers jump on board, dedicated websites and bloggers come out of nowhere, recipes show up all over social media, and soon there’s a documentary on Netflix detailing all the people who reversed their health from following the said diet plan. Every new fad sounds life changing and magical. They all come with evidence and statistics to support all the weight loss and health claims persuading weight loss seekers to go all in. Including myself.
In my journey to get to optimal health, I’ve tried just about every nutrition plan that’s come along in the last 15 years. I once starved myself on the Lemonade Diet for 5 days to end up Binging out on a bowl of mini Hersey’s candy bars in the office break room. I tried the Ian Smith Fat Smash Diet but could never seem to get out of Phase 1. I was even crazy enough to do the HGC Diet for a week. That one diet where you lower your caloric intake to 700 calories per day and take some drops that are supposed to help your body metabolize fat. Of course I lost a few pounds, but duhh, I was only eating 700 calories per day. I gained the weight back and then some.
It can be so easy to jump on some nutrition bandwagon and not see lasting results. And whether you’re following a Paleo, Ketogenic, Vegan, Intermittent Fasting diet or something else, they all try to place a diverse population of people into a strict set of guidelines without considering lifestyle, body type and activity level. It’s no surprise that most people give up on these nutrition plans the minute life throws them a curve ball.
It wasn’t until I decided to ditch the strict guidelines of each diet and settle into my own nutrition strategy that I began to reap the rewards of a healthy lifestyle and see some lasting results. It started by understanding my body and what works for me. Below are my top 5 tips you can implement to figure out the best way to eat for your individual needs and lifestyle.
- Avoid diets and quick fix solutions for rapid weight loss, i.e. The Grapefruit Diet, the latest juice cleanses, or anything that eliminates food and extremely lowers your caloric intake over a long period of time. Diets are unsustainable and will eventually lead to more weight gain. In short, if you put your body into a long term caloric deficit, your metabolism will naturally slow down to adjust to the lack of food it receives. Then when you decide to eat normal again, your body thinks food is scarce and stores the extra calories, causing you to gain all the weight back, and most often more weight than what you started with.
- Educate yourself. Many popular diets today, whether low-carb, high-fat, plant based, grain free, paleo and so on, share some worthwhile common traits that anyone looking for a sustainable nutrition plan can stick to. They support whole, nutrient dense foods that keep you satiated, and they make you aware of the quality of food you’re putting into your body leading to better overall long-term health. All calories are not created equal so avoid any nutrition plan that focus only on calories in vs calories out with no consideration to the quality of food you are eating.
- Figure out what works for you. If you have discovered success with a couple of different nutrition plans, merge the parts that worked for you to develop a program that is unique to your needs. I’ve discovered that I feel my absolute best when I follow a low-carb, paleo-ish, intermittent fasting plan.
- Be aware of what your body is telling you. The human body is constantly providing feedback. Unfortunately, many people have unknowingly accepted this feedback as normal. Do you feel gassy and bloated after eating dairy? That could be a sign you are lactose intolerant. Do you get indigestion or a mild headache after eating bread? You might have a mild gluten sensitivity? Energy level, mood, sleep patterns, bowel movements, body composition and weight loss are all important markers to determine how well a diet is working for you. Pay attention to how food makes you feel after a meal, that way you can always be in tune with your body’s functions and how they fluctuate with your nutrition and make dietary adjustments accordingly.
- Allow room for Balance. Your nutrition plan should make you feel good so you can enjoy all other aspects of your life. If you feel restricted or isolated with your diet, then you may need to change some things to allow more balance. You should be able to enjoy a night out with your best friends, experience a weekend wedding celebration or take that bucket list trip you’ve dreamed about your entire life without feeling guilty for indulging in foods that don’t fit into your plan. When life happens, it’s ok to reassess your nutrition strategy to make sure it still fits into your life.
There is no one-size-fits-all nutrition plan. Most of these diet trends tend to be black and white and don’t consider that there’s usually a grey area. My advice is to learn about each plan and use the information to help you establish your individual dietary guidelines. True success comes when you understand your body’s needs according to your lifestyle and determine what works for you.
Comment below on what nutrition strategy you follow.