Nutrition can be tricky. It seems like you should be able to follow a bunch of food rules to reach all your body composition goals. There are a lot of diets out there that promise health, happiness and six pack abs: There's Paleo (high protein, low carb), Ketogenic (high fat, extremely low carb), low fat diets, low carb diets, high fat diets and high protein diets. What's the best one? The answer is...it depends.
Every body is different. The diet that your co-worker's best friend's little sister swears by, may not be the miracle diet for you. In fact, following a diet at all can be determinantal to long-term success. People that follow diets tend to go on and off of them, which leads to weight loss, then weight gain. The yo-yo dieting can be worse for your health and waistline than if you never dieted at all.
The problem with rules is that rules are made to be broken. As soon as you tell yourself you can't have carbs, it seems everyone is passing the rolls, ordering pizza and having birthday celebrations with cake.
We are human and we tend to want what we can't have. Sure, you could buckle down with hard-core discipline. That may even work for awhile, but when we are looking for long-term success, we have to think long term. Is it sane and sustainable? Anyone can white-knuckle their way to weight loss over four to twelve weeks. People do it all the time. But if you place strict restrictions on what you can eat, most people will eventually break and the weight comes back plus more.
I am also not suggesting that you eat whatever you want all the time, with no regard for health. The secret is finding the balance between what is healthy and nourishing for your body, what you enjoy and what tastes good. We want to enjoy our life but we also want to meet our body composition goals.
We also want to spend quality time at meals with friends and family (and we all know that rarely happens over steamed broccoli and kale). Health is not just what you eat. Spending quality time with family, cultivating loving relationships and spending time with other humans is also a part of a healthy lifestyle. If you restrict your food choices so much that it becomes difficult to eat meals with other people, you may have taken it too far.
MAKE CHOICES ON A CONTINUUM
I am naturally an all-or-nothing thinker. It took me a lot years and a lot of pounds lost and regained to overcome this mindset. I work hard to not look at food as good or bad. Some foods are more nutrient-dense and nourishing, but some foods are good in other ways, like they are delicious or are a part of cultural traditions or celebrations.
I want to make healthy choices that support my goals but I also want to enjoy my life. How do I find that balance? I try to make food choices on a continuum. There is not a black-and-white good-or-bad choice. Whenever faced with a food choice that is less than optimal, I think, how can I make this choice a little better?
I'm with friends and they ordered a pizza. I happen to love pizza and I am starving. How can I make this choice a little better? Maybe I can order a side salad to eat alongside my pizza. Maybe I can pick off the pepperoni. Maybe I can limit myself to two slices instead of the usual four. Maybe I'll remember how my tummy feels the next day and forgo it altogether. Maybe not.
It's about being mindful of your choices and making the best of the situation. Enjoy the pizza. It's part of life. Be mindful that it is an indulgence to enjoy but not overindulge. You see the difference?
THE CLEAN SLATE APPROACH
But we're human and sometimes we start eating the pizza and it's just so good and it's just sitting there, like, staring at you to eat another piece. So you do. And another. And another. It happens. It happens to me (I never claimed to be perfect). And you know what? It's not the end of the world. You didn't blow your diet. All your goals are not circling the drain. You're human. You made a mistake. Move on. It's the clean slate approach. You don't have to workout extra long the next day or skip your next meal. You don't have to give up all together and decide you already blew it, you might as well eat poorly for the rest of the day, weekend or week and start over Monday. One poor choice does not change anything. Just pick back up from where you left off and start over. Every meal is a new fresh start. One overindulgence doesn't ruin everything. It happens. Move on.
If you feel like you may have a binge eating disorder when you lose control and can't stop yourself from overeating on a regular basis, I suggest you work with a Registered Dietitian.These things can be challenging to overcome on your own, it shows great strength to ask for help. I can recommend a RD in Fort Worth who is experienced helping people in these situations.
IS IT SANE AND SUSTAINABLE?
I try to pass my food choices through the sane and sustainable test. Is it sane? is it sustainable? I mean, you could do the seven day cabbage soup diet, but it is neither practical, sane or sustainable over the long term. Any weight lost on short-term crash diets is usually gained back plus more for good measure. It may be tempting to try the latest fad diet, but before starting anything new consider if it is a long-term solution for fat loss.
Is it better to lose twenty pounds in twelve weeks on a strict diet that you gain back twelve weeks after that? Or is is better to lose twenty pounds in twenty or even thirty weeks that stays off for life. The common-sense, slow, long-term approach is the way to permanent fat loss.
BACK TO BASICS: HEALTHY HABITS
We are often looking for the next solution to try. What's the latest diet? What's the latest supplement or new workout? Will this fat loss shake help me lose weight? (#protip There's no such thing as a fat loss shake.) People are often looking for the next quick fix, the new food rules or miracle weight loss solution while overlooking the core principles of fat loss. Even experienced health and fitness enthusiasts fall into this trap.
Make sure you are covering the basics. Are you moving on a regular basis in a way that feels good for your body? Are you consistently eating mostly whole foods from nature while allowing some room for indulgences? Are you sleeping seven to eight hours a night? Are you listening to the hunger and satiety signals that your body sends? Are you eating slow and mindfully?
The beauty of cultivating healthy habits is once something becomes a habit, it is just something that you do, like brushing your teeth. You don't usually need to find motivation to brush your teeth, it is just something that is on auto-pilot in your life. Your lifestyle and healthy food choices can be on auto-pilot too. You just have to be willing to take the time to cultivate the habits.
Developing healthy habits is not a quick fix. It's not a lose twenty pounds in eight weeks plan. When you return to the basics, take things slow, re-learn how to listen to your body, teach your brain to perform healthy habits on autopilot, everything changes. You learn to the fuel your body in the way that it needs. You learn to enjoy healthy foods without giving up all your favorite foods. Your body responds by returning to its optimal state. All it takes is time, patience and persistence.
Does this sound right for you? Do you like this sane and sustainable approach to health and fitness? Are you ready to make changes to your core habits? Are you willing to take it slow with a common-sense approach that really works when you stick with it over the long term? Are you willing to try and make mistakes and then try again? Are you willing to start over at your next meal with a clean slate? If so, my online nutrition program may be the perfect match for you.
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Have questions? I'd love to help!
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