March 10, 2019
When the goal is to build a healthier and fitter body, we need to not only move our bodies consistently, but also eat in a way that supports our efforts.
But the big questions are: How to eat right? What is the best way to eat? Does a Perfect Diet exist? If so, what it is?
Here are our thoughts.
The most important thing to know is this: There is no universal diet that is perfect for everyone. Our physiology, preferences, personal food history, cultural background and much more are unique to only us. A diet that works for someone else, may not work for us at all, and we shouldn’t force ourselves to do it or to like it.
Dr Jade Teta, a personal trainer and integrative physician has a great way of thinking about nutrition. He’s using Bruce Lee’s words when talking about diets:
Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.
Sure, the martial artist and a cultural icon wasn’t talking about dieting when saying this, but it’s applicable here as well. The most important thing is how a diet, or the changes you make to our diet, work for us. It doesn’t matter what someone else says is best; only we can tell that by paying attention to how our bodies react.
What do we mean by that? We’re getting there next.
There are a couple of things to pay attention to, when evaluating if a diet works for you or not.
Energy. How is your energy? For example, some people feel really great on a high fat diet where carbohydrates are limited. Others realize that as soon as they decrease their carbohydrate intake, their energy drops and getting through their workouts gets really hard (which happens to a lot of active people).
Do you have steady energy throughout the day? Of course, sleep and rest in general matter, but our food choices affect our energy levels too.
Hunger. If we feel hungry an hour after eating breakfast, what we ate probably wasn’t enough for us. Maybe we’re not getting enough protein? Maybe the portion size was too small? Adding some protein and/or eating more may help. See if you stay full longer.
If our breakfast makes us full and feel good for hours, then there’s no need to change anything just because someone else eats differently. It’s all about noticing our bodies feedback.
Cravings. If we’re constantly struggling with cravings, there’s probably something that needs to be changed. Often times, eating more protein can solve this issue. Other things that cause cravings can be lack of sleep and, like we discuss next, deprivation: the harder we say no to something, the more we want it. One more cause of cravings, especially at nights, might be simply not eating enough during the day. Try to change these variables and see what changes.
Have you ever tried eating really “clean” by leaving out all the “bad” foods from your diet?
If so, then you know well what happens next. Sooner or later, you find yourself eating loads of the “bad foods” because you said a strict “no” to them. You thought that you can only be successful when you avoid them completely, but the reality was different…
Willpower is a limited resource.
By constantly harnessing our willpower to turn down things we really want, it eventually runs low and we end up eating too much of the “forbidden” thing.
Avoiding something that we really like, is not sustainable. What is sustainable is learning to eat the things we like, in moderation. At the end of the day, what is worse: to eat a few pieces of chocolate (or our other favorite food) every day, or avoiding it 7 days a week and finally, when all the willpower is gone, eat all of it?
When we’re told to not do something, this is exactly what we want to do. The classic example is telling someone to not think of a pink elephant. The minute we hear that, all we do is think of a pink elephant…
The same is true for food as well, and it goes back to restriction that we talked about earlier. The more strict the rules, the more likely we are to break them, because we run out of willpower.
Here’s a better approach: Ditch the rules and use nutritional guidelines instead. Guidelines are something that we should try and follow most of the time, without letting them rule our lives.
Here are the most important nutritional guidelines for most people, but especially physically active people:
Remember, these are guidelines but not rules. Follow them as much as you can, but don’t let the “perfect” be the enemy of good.
There’s no diet that’s perfect for everyone. Only we can figure out what works best for our bodies; no one else can do that. We can experiment and learn, as long as we absorb what’s useful, discard what isn’t, and add what’s uniquely our own, and that way, find the best diet for us.