So you’ve decided you want to lose weight or to change your lifestyle and do what’s best for your health. Hurrah! Good for you. You feel ready, motivated and focused. All you need now is a plan. So what do you do? You do what any sane person with a computer and an internet connection does. You research, like a champ.
Initially you’re thinking about following a low fat diet, because you’ve heard that fat is pretty bad for you. But wait. You find some pages saying it’s NOT the fat thats the problem, its the sugar. According to some articles, sugar is ‘toxic’ and toxic sounds, well…pretty horrendous. So, you think, OK, no sugar. That’s fine, you’ll just do low carb instead…(or maybe you should do low carb AND low fat just to be on the safe side hmmm). But then (side thought) there’s your friend June, who’s a vegan. She says that being vegan is a great way to be healthy and lose weight, and she looks great. But a vegan diet has lot’s of carbs. And carb’s are supposed to be bad. Right?
And so it goes on.
You read things about the health benefits of paleo, vegetarianism, ‘eating clean’, low carb, low fat and veganism. Articles about supplements, hormones and pills for weight loss. You look at all these things, and you read, and you read, in an attempt to get to the bottom of it all. And your head starts to spin. And you just feel, well, unsurprisingly confused.
So you give up. Or maybe you pick one and follow it for a bit, but you can’t make it stick. Annnd THEN you give up.
But actually, the fact is, that no matter how many people tell you their diet is best and that it works for them (and therefore should work for you), there is no one ‘right’ way to eat. There is no single fool proof diet that works for everyone.
We are all very individual. We have different body shapes, sizes, food preferences and intolerance’s, not to mention susceptibility to weight gain! All thrown in with a mix of energy expenditure, priorities, beliefs, budgets and goals (to name but a few). Can you imagine just ONE dietary approach fitting with all these differences to keep everybody ‘healthy’? I can’t.
So instead of immersing yourself in the troubling culture of of ‘nutritional one-upmanship’ (i.e. the ‘my diet is ‘healthier than your diet’ drama you see online) and worrying about whether one particular macronutrient is ‘good ‘ for you or ‘bad’ for you, Stop for a moment and consider yourself and your health as a whole. It’s not just about the diet, it’s about your whole lifestyle. Your mental as well as your physical well being.
You can be a healthy, vegan, vegetarian, low carber or paleo (for example). Just like you can be ‘unhealthy’ and eat these diets too.
Fine. You say. But how do you know what’s right for you?
In my opinion, the best diet FOR YOU is one which:
Is nutritionally complete
That is, it contains all the energy, vitamins, minerals & fibre you need for good health.
Doesn’t ban foods you love & includes food you enjoy eating
Food is there to be enjoyed! If you don’t like the foods you’re eating, how are you going to keep it up? If you outright ban foods that you love, your diet is destined for failure. Are you really never ever going to eat something you really enjoy ever again? No cake? EVER?! A dietary change shouldn’t be associated with guilt when you eat a specific food or have the occasional indulgence. Instead, it should promote balance, wellbeing and a healthy relationship with food.
Isn’t unrealistic or just for weight loss
If you’re aiming to improve your health or lose weight you need to be in it for the long haul. Strict and extreme diets for rapid weight loss are unsustainable. You might lose some weight in the short term, but keeping it off is unlikely.
Contributes towards your goals
If your looking to maintain your weight, your diet should be energy neutral. If you’re aiming for weight loss, it needs to create a calorie deficit and if you’re aiming for weight gain or increased muscle mass, you need to have a calorie surplus. You get the picture. (If your interested in why calories matter you can read a great article from Evidence Magazine about it here).
Takes into consideration any health problems you have
e.g Diabetes or coeliac disease
Fits with your budget
Can you think of any others for this list?