All “diets” work…and yet none of them work at the same time.
How can it be both? Easy.
But first, let’s assume for the rest of this conversation you aren’t suffering from an eating disorder. You’re just wanting to lose some fat around your organs in a healthy manageable way. Also, we are only discussing the “healthy” diets. We’re not discussing watermelon diets, only eating potatoes, or anything that sounds insane or dangerous. We’re not even going to get into how much I hate the word DIET either. Changing your eating habits is what you should be focused on because diets are synonymous with quick fixes.
So leaving us with the diet options left, no one diet is going to work for everyone, but one of them might work perfectly for someone. All the versions utilize the “calorie deficit” model, but all in various ways. Keto? You whittle down your carbohydrate calories down while focusing on proteins and fats. Intermittent fasting? Decreasing the time, you can eat should ideally shrink the amount of total calories you eat. Mediterranean? Eating less processed foods should make you ingest less calories. So on and on each of these options can work, but also won’t work.
Why won’t they work? If they aren’t sustainable for you as a lifestyle change, no matter how well that diet worked for someone else, it won’t work for you. Does that mean “can’t win, don’t try”? Absolutely not. Personally, I believe people need to stop looking at the diet failing them or (worse) they failed at the diet. Instead shifting your mindset to experimenting with what will and won’t work. Not to get existential here, but life is filled with moments of refining. Hopefully towards the better, but we all evolve for better or for worse.
Try to remember all fad diets are corporations within themselves. Types of foods packaged and sold, books written, influencers, etc…no matter which one you incorporate they all have people making money off your decision and they will not care about your success or lack thereof.
What is one to do with the myriad of choices out there, each almost promising failure?
Well, let’s look at simple things you should consider when wanting to change your way of eating for weight loss.
1. Can you eat this way for a while? Not a month, not even a few months. Is this method of eating sustainable during your weight loss journey. If you only have a couple pounds to lose, you might not have to take this into heavy consideration, but if you’re looking at revamping your lifestyle, you need to think long term. Many people take up the keto diet because if offers a quick fix with rapid weight loss, but is living without birthday cake and donuts any real way to live?? I say this tongue and cheek…sort of. Personally, unless recommended by a medical professional & not some dude on the internet, I wouldn’t recommend the keto diet. Could it still work for you? Absolutely, but be mindful of any diet that demonizes food. Food isn’t “good” or “bad” …it’s food. It tastes delicious or it tastes like ass. Some people don’t care about donuts (weirdos), so going keto is not huge lifestyle change for them, but to be brainwashed into believing veggies and fruits are harmful…just…no. Reminder, not all carbs are in bread and pasta form. Fruits and vegetables are carbohydrates as well. Do strawberries make you fat? I can’t imagine the amount you’d have to eat to make that possible but overeating anything causes weight gain in the fat form. Do you have a lifestyle that intermittent fasting would work with? Great! Do you look forward to your coffee and cinnamon roll every morning as your enjoyable way to start your day? Then it miiiiiiiiight be rough and not something you’d be happy giving up. Changing your eating will be drastic enough…don’t set yourself up for failure choosing a method that won’t be a little easy to slide into your life.
2. Eat your veggies! It’s so simple. As adults we hammer that phrase over and over to children. So whyyyyyy do we lose that when we get older? Simple. We can buy ice cream anytime we want now. So then why do we care if kids are getting the proper nutrients as they grow up if they no longer matter when we’re older? Trick question. They still matter. They’re delicious and yeah, they’re still good for you. Most people hear the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables and once again think “can’t win, don’t try”. Eating 5 servings of each every day? Actually, I’d have to look that up…even your well-informed personal trainer/nutrition coach can’t remember the exact serving recommendations. But I digress…just add some to your lunch or dinner. You don’t have to start out doing both meals, but lord have mercy…give your body some nutrients if you’re gonna shovel crap in it for the rest of the day! Veggies are wonderful, they’re delicious. And never forget that certain brands of hot sauce are zero calories so coat them in it like I do. Make sure whatever change in diet plan you decide on, make sure you don’t run screaming from a carrot. Or sweet potatoes. Or broccoli. Eat your effing colors. Make your plate pretty. (side note, one time on vacation, I took a moment to look at my plate, everything was fried and not an ounce of color other than brown. It really ended up making me feel sad because it looked like dog food if you stared long enough)
3. To track or not to track, that is THE question. It kills me to see “intuitive eating” now a thing in the fitness world. What does this mean? “Tune into your body’s cues and be mindful”. Well, great…I tuned into my body and ate 4 donuts. I know I’m being dismissive towards a movement that really does help people, but I also think it’s overly simplistic and kind of insulting. True, if you aren’t tuned into your body’s satiating signals, you WILL have eating issues. But this is a skill that can take a long time to develop and in the meantime you might a method that works for present you. There are many people that debate how healthy is it to track your eating habits or calories consumed. There are pros and cons to each side; however, I’m a firm believer in “you can’t fix what you aren’t aware of”, so much like managing your checking account, I think tracking can be extremely helpful. If you’re trying to lose weight and aren’t aware of what you’re consuming, it can be tough to figure out how much you should/shouldn’t be eating. This is why diets like Keto & IF work well, they remove the tracking (somewhat) using other methods to cut calories within your day. But here is the dealio…if that method of eating doesn’t work for you, you haven’t learned how to track or monitor portion sizes. It’s a valuable lesson. It’s not to make you crazy with numbers, it’s to make you conscious of what you are putting in your mouth. Mindlessly eating, to me, is equitable to spending money with no idea how much money you have in your banking account. Sure, overdrafts and poor credit ratings will eventually let you know but being aware of your budgetary limits in the here and now can only help to serve you. Looking at the nutrition panel on food packages aren’t there to shame you (and if they do, you need to talk to someone about healing your relationship with food), they’re there the same way price tags are on anything you buy. It might suck to see that a serving of Oreos is only 2 cookies, but you don’t walk into a store and point at a refrigerator and say that one without looking at the price of it. You’re not a child anymore. Floating through life is dangerous…especially if you are overweight. Track. Keep a food journal. Don’t become obsessive about it, don’t equate food with shame. See what you’re spending and where you can cut back. Get a food scale. Learn what 4-6 ounces of chicken looks like. Learn that 2 cups of broccoli is about 60 calories but makes you feel full as hell. Yeah, you might be teaching yourself to eat all over again, but so what? Better to know than not to and continue down a path that only ends with heart disease or diabetes. Eventually you will absorb this information, be able to do calculations on the fly and not have to track every bite. Again…track/learn. Little nibbles are akin to spending $5-$10 every few hours. It adds up. But soon you’ll learn how to consciously decide if spending 250 out of your budge for a donut is worth it. And let me tell you…some days, it absolutely is.
4. Eat your protein. This one is pretty important if you’ve begun to incorporate strength training into your daily life. I’ll cover the importance of lifting weights, especially for us old people in a future blog. But even if you’re not currently participating in an exercise program, eat your protein. It’s the wonderful building block of your muscles. Another perk of our, 4 calorie per gram macronutrient? It keeps you fuller for longer. It can help keep the between meal snacking down because it takes longer for your body to process, and it helps keep those blood sugar levels down. Another protein tip: sprinkle it throughout your day. Aim for approximately 20-40 grams 3-4 times a day. This helps from feeling the need to bro-chug a protein shake immediately after your workout so you don’t “lose the gainz, bruh”.
These are just a few tips to help you slow down and think about your eating habits. These won’t “cure” you or solve all your problems but consider them building blocks. Tiny tips/habits on which to build the next level. Tinkering with your eating shouldn’t be easily categorized into “success” and “failure”, they should just be learning curves. What worked? What didn’t? Remember if a diet plan worked, you wouldn’t have to go back to it to lose weight. You’d still be eating that way. Stop dieting. Start putting a plan together that will help you feel better about what you’re eating. If you feel like you’re giving up too much or having to rearrange your entire life to change your eating habits, chances are the changes won’t stick. You’ll end up feeling like a failure once again and that’s not fair to you. So which diet works for you? None of them and yet all of them.