Have you ever found yourself wondering how to tackle your nutrition? Ever feel paralyzed by the sheer amount of options you have available? One person suggests following a diet, another claims you need meal prepping, and a third person is all about meal plans.
But what is the best path for you? Should you spend your time looking for the best diet? Or is the truth somewhere else? Today, we will clear all of this up and help you start on a productive path.
Diets: The inherent fault with all of them
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term diet? For many, it is a proven way of eating that leads to a specific outcome. For instance, the diet could promise a particular amount of weight loss in a given period.
The issue with diets is they are temporary: two weeks, twenty days, three months, it does not matter. Every diet has an expiration date. And sure, you might achieve some results while following a diet. You might even achieve a fantastic transformation - there is no arguing there. But allow me to ask you this:
What happens once the diet is over? In other words, what is the diet after the diet? Dieting is a stressful and frustrating experience for many people because it is always two steps forward and two steps back. In some cases, three steps back.
For instance, you follow a diet diligently and achieve some modest improvements. You feel better about yourself, but you also feel hungry and deprived. You count the days until your diet is over so you can enjoy all of your favorite foods again. Sure enough, that day comes, you stop the diet and eat all of your favorite foods again.
Thanks to your now-lower metabolic rate, you would need fewer calories to maintain your weight. Depending on the type and amount of food, you regain lots of weight and go back to square one — two steps forward, two steps back.
In some cases, you might even regain more weight than you initially lost and end up worse than when you began. Three steps back.
So, a better lifestyle then?
Well, yes. But "lifestyle" is a bit of a vague term, would you not agree? So instead, we should focus on concrete actions repeated over the long run - habits.
As you have probably realized, you can not expect long-term results from short-term efforts, which is what diets are. Instead, it would need you to put effort consistently. Once you stop, things begin to move backward. As cheesy as it may sound, “Fitness is not owned; it is rented. And rent is due every day.”
For instance, say that you want to lose weight and keep it off. In that case, you should not focus on the latest and greatest diet. Instead, you should look to build habits that will eventually get you there. For example:
- Portion control
- Eating more slowly
- Drinking water before and during meals
- Making better nutritional choices (more whole foods, fewer processed ones)
- Exercising often
- Learning to tell hunger from boredom
Each of these is a small piece of the whole puzzle. On their own, none of them is powerful enough to cause a huge difference. But when put together and repeated over and over, staggering results follow.
And yes, working on improving your habits might not deliver as quick results as a diet would. But they work much better in the long run because you can sustain them.
How to start building better Habits with two simple Techniques
1. Start small
An inherent issue with diets is that you are forced to change too much right away. This is problematic because we are creatures of habit and need time to adjust to new things. If we change too much too quickly, we risk overwhelming ourselves.
Instead of looking for a diet, try making minor improvements to your life. For instance, make it a point to have one healthy meal each day. Eat a healthy meal once a day and go about your other meals as you usually would.
Once you gain momentum with that habit, add a second healthy meal. But do it gradually and only if you are confident that you have laid down a foundation. Significant long-term improvements come from gradual changes to your habits and beliefs.
2. Be flexible
Another issue with diets is their rigidity. The diet tells you what to eat, what not to, when to eat, and when not to. And sure, this can work for a while. So long as you feel motivated by the novelty, you can restrict yourself. But, at some point, your motivation will go away, and you will be left wondering, “Why do I even bother?” This is typically where most people hit a turning point.
Instead, you need to adopt a flexible view of your nutrition. You need to stop looking at foods as inherently good or bad, fattening or healthy. A better way to look at them would be as more and less nutritious. Certain foods are simply more beneficial for us.
Weight loss comes down to the number of calories you consume and also how many calories you burn. Therefore, making better nutritional choices helps you achieve that goal more efficiently. Still, this is not to say you cannot enjoy a treat here and there. By all means, learn to enjoy your nutrition while working toward goals. This is the only way to keep it sustainable in the long run.