Answer: the pattern of eating that aligns most with your physical and mental health while supporting your goals, medical needs and beliefs.
There is “no one size fits all” approach when it comes to diet. Everyone’s body works in different ways thanks to their genetics, biomechanics, environment, beliefs and more. So when we discuss what is the best way for you to eat, there is no one set answer.
Even the advice I give you is based on the general consensus. I want to give you the best research, advice and tips to help you live a healthier lifestyle… but you still have to decide for yourself whether that advice suits you and your needs.
“YOU ARE THE SCIENTIST OF YOUR OWN BODY”
WHAT IS A “GOOD“ DIET VS “BAD” DIET?
As you might know from my posts, I am not a fan of diets. Mainly because the majority of people I see who are on a diet or have tried many, end up with poor self image, reduced health and no trust in their bodies or the food they eat. But some people thrive on certain diets. Why? Because that’s the style of eating that suits THEM the most, it doesn’t mean it will suit you.
I’ve seen women who have feared fat since the 80s try a Keto diet and have learned to eat and enjoy healthy fats and a balanced way of eating for the first time in their lives.
I’ve also seen many women who were chronically fatigued, lost their period and felt depressed on a Keto diet.
I’ve seen people gain extra energy, better digestion and lost weight through intermittent fasting.
I’ve also seen people have constant hunger, 3pm slumps and weight gain by fasting.
I myself have experienced this. I did the I Quit Sugar program in 2013 and absolutely loved it! I stopped craving and binging on sugar, I wasn’t hungry all the time, I still allowed some sweets into my diet and I felt incredible. Then in 2015, I struggled with chronic fatigue, I was constantly hungry and low in energy. I was discussing my health with one of my uni lecturers and she mentioned that with the amount I exercise I need sugar to function. So then I had to learn how to introduce sugar back into my diet in a healthy and balanced way.
If you’ve been on a diet that works for you initially but then your physical and / or mental health start to deteriorate, RE-ASSESS. Check in with yourself and see what your body needs. Then adjust your eating pattern to suit that.
“WHY DON’T DIETS WORK FOR ME?”
If you are someone who has been on a diet or are still on the diet hamster wheel and believe that no diet works for you, please don’t beat yourself up and think your body is broken.
Firstly, you may need to change your mindset and goal. Instead of focusing on just losing weight, focus on optimizing your health so you can function at your best. Because if you are functioning at your best you will either a) lose a bit of weight in the process or b) not care about your weight because you feel amazing.
Second, just because one friend of a friend “lost X amount of kg’s in X amount of days” doesn’t mean that diet is suitable for you. If the way you are eating is making you constantly stress you will never maintain that diet and you will damage your metabolism and waistline in the process (thanks to the cortisol from the stress). If the way you are eating is sending you all these different signals (aka symptoms) such as low energy, menstrual issues, digestive problems, mental changes, etc. that diet is not suitable for your body and its biomechanisms.
“How do I work out the best diet for me?”
If you have been on diets before, have a look back at the diets you have tried and find the habits that you enjoyed, that made your body feel great with no stress and no damage to the body.
Eating a diet mainly filled with natural, whole foods have proven to be very beneficial for our health.
Balancing the foods that nourish your body (see above) and foods that nourish your soul (those more indulgent foods that make you feel good). The best balance is 80% foods that nourish the body. 20% of foods that nourish your soul.
Limit foods that have been proven to be detrimental to our health such as highly processed foods.
Focus on a “BALANCED” approach not an “ALL OR NOTHING” approach. Many diets have rigid guidelines but in the real world everyday is different. What your body needs, how you feel on the day, hormones, stress, exercise… all impact on what we need to eat day by day. So take the rules of diets with a grain of salt and be flexible that some days you might just need to eat bigger meals, more carbs, binge on sugar, etc.
Be more gentle with yourself. Food is not a punishment for how you look. Food nourishes our body and keeps up alive, it can change our mood, it is used for celebration and bringing families together. It should not be seen as ONLY as a weight loss tool.
If that was a lot of information and you still aren’t sure what diet is best for you, remember this:
eat mainly whole, real foods (fresh produce)
enjoy foods that make you feel good, in a balanced way
food should not be seen as solely as a weight loss tool
if you start to feel crap (physically or mentally) on a diet, you need a new way of eating.
ONE MORE NOTE
Some diets are prescribed by a GP or health practitioner for certain medical conditions. In this instance, you may have to eat in a way you don’t enjoy but it is crucial for your health you eat in this way. Eg Coeliacs have to eat gluten free, high blood pressure have to eat reduced salt, etc. If you have been prescribed a specific diet by a health professional but it doesn’t feel right for you, please seek a second opinion by a qualified nutritionist or specialist in that field. Do not change your diet without professional health advice.