Maaaan are we ever inundated with conflicting info about the human diet these days.
For me, it started as soon as I could actively notice what my own mother was eating. I guess I was about 8 or 9. At that time, there was a lot of “diet” food hanging around in our fridge and cupboards. And if we weren’t avoiding or limiting an entire food group altogether (“carbs” or “fat”, obvs), we were having low-fat or fat free products, counting points, tracking calories and even buying branded products that were “safe”. (According to… who? Well I’ll just say it, weight watchers. No disrespect weight watchers, you’ve built a business helping people lose weight. Which is great. I just don’t agree with it all.)
(Side note: when I say “we” – I don’t mean to suggest that my mom was making her 9 year old daughter count points and calories, eat branded food and consume only “fat free” yogourt. On the contrary. She fed us well-balanced meals, that probably included whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta, and she taught me a lot about portion control, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. I guess I shouldn’t have said we. Oops.)
Our worlds are constantly being bombarded with the hot new diet we should try in order to, of course, lose weight. Keto, Alkaline, Paleo, Whole30, Anti-Inflammatory… all with a specific set of rules and foods/products you CAN and CANNOT eat. I’m tired of being limited by, and eating under, the rules of some new concept. Food is not a concept. It’s real, and it’s meant to feed your body so you can live your life. Not to deprive so you can fit into a size 2.
So, then, after all I’ve seen and experienced in my wisdom-filled years since I was 9, clearly I’ve come up with the very best ideas of what type of diet is the best diet, right? Right. Naturally.
Do you want to know what the best diet to follow is?
I’ll tell you.
Are you ready?
Okay. Here it is.
The best diet to follow is…
Instead, you should just eat food. *Gasp!*
Do it. Eat food. Whole food. Fats and carbs included.
Eat it. Slowly. Enjoyyyy it. Season it. Eat food that’s in season, and get a variety of different food.
Well, plants mostly. In my opinion. (Actually it isn’t just my opinion but is supported by lots of science-y crap in fact. If you want to learn more, you should watch THIS documentary, and THIS ONE.) Keep in mind that I have a mindset that isn’t necessarily structured around the goal of losing weight and looking a certain way on the outside, but that of eating good quality food to fuel your active body and give you nutrition that supports the healthiest possible body ON THE INSIDE. I’m not saying I never have crap that shouldn’t even be called food… I’m not saying I never have alcohol… I’m saying I try to limit it. I’m saying I’m aware of it, and the difference between fake food and real food.
But even if you want to lose weight, I don’t think you need to be on low carb, or high fat, or fat-free, or cabbage soup, or supplementing 2 of your 3 meals a day with nutritional shakes.
You know what else diets are? A means to an end. If for some reason you have to lose weight quickly, that’s cool. But an eating plan that isn’t sustainable for your regular life is not a way you can realistically eat forever. So when you think about how you want to eat in order to be healthy, it should be a way that you can sustain for LIFE.
When you have to “limit” something, you have a feeling of “lack” – which means there are things that are “off limits”, that you’re “not allowed” to have, which in turn makes you reeeeeeeeally want them, simply because you cannot have them. I’m certain there is some psychological relation here, but even if there isn’t… it makes a load of sense.
Also, when you spend your life worrying about exactly what and how much you’re eating, it isn’t good for your brain. You’re spending too much time worrying about food, something that’s meant to simply sustain life and give you energy to enjoy all the things you do in a day, including activity. It shouldn’t be rocket science, but unfortunately it’s been marketed that way. Companies benefit from having you be confused about what you should or should’t eat. Companies benefit from the constant push for us to think we need to “lose weight” or “detox” or “slim” or “burn fat”. Companies also benefit from using fancy buzz words like “low fat” and “gluten free” and “high in fibre” and “no aspartame”. You know what doesn’t have aspartame? An apple. It also has lots of fibre. And, it’s both low fat and gluten free. BOOM. No marketing needed.
Instead, try looking at alllllllll the possible food sources we have, and decide that you want to eat the most real, true, whole food you possibly can. What comes to mind? Plants. Vegetables mostly, and fruit as well. Nuts and seeds are also great choices. When you decide you want to eat food in its most natural state, for YOU, for your INTERNAL HEALTH, for the benefit of YOUR ENTIRE BODY, you can shift your perspective to “I can have that hot dog, but I don’t want it.” Instead of “I really want that damn hot dog, but I can’t have it on my diet.”
See how it starts being your choice in the latter example? You don’t have to explain your choice, you just decide and then do. (“Oh, I’m not eating hot dogs RN because I’m on this new diet and I’m not allowed to have hot dogs.” vs. “I don’t want a hot dog, thanks though.”)
I think you need to eat real food. And if you’re going to avoid something, it could be sugar, or processed “fake” convenience food. But you need to eat. Enough whole food to keep you full and energized.
Listen, am I telling you I have never had a hot dog in my life? Don’t be silly. Have there been times I’ve been at a party, or a barbecue, or a get-together, and the food being served isn’t “whole” and “natural”? Obviously. Does that mean I’m going to pass on the pizza at the party, and bring my own food? Probs not. (But hey, if that’s your jam – you are incredibly prepared. That’s dedication. Good for you!)
I have a few simple rules that I follow for myself and incorporate these perspectives into how I shop for and feed my family. In fact, I actually think you could benefit from taking a tip or two from the way we begin feeding babies. I wrote a post about it. Check it out HERE.)
So, here are my basic guidelines for how I try to nourish myself on a daily basis. I also generally follow the 80/20 rule; be disciplined and try my best to eat based on the below rules 80% of the time, and have the “other” stuff only 20% of the time.
My Personal (Bend-y) Rules for Eating:
-Eat mostly plants (vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains)
-Eat real food, in it’s most natural state (natural peanut butter, for example, with an ingredient list that reads: peanuts, vs. “regular” peanut butter that has added hydrogenated XYZ, sugar, added chemical-y ingredients, etc.)
-Eat often and control portions
-Eat food that has all macronutrients (protein, fats, carbohydrates) and micronutrients (minerals and vitamins) **PSST – good news, if you eat mostly plants, you’ll naturally get all of those things without thinking. Vegetables don’t have easy-to-read nutrition labels, but they’re chock full of nutrients.**
-Drink lots of water (Lots. Like, drink a lot and then drink more than that.)
-Limit meat intake
-Limit dairy, eggs and cheese
-Limit processed, pre-packaged chemicals masquerading as “food”
-Limit foods that are advertised and marketed (have you ever seen a commercial for broccoli?)
I am not too structured.
I do not cry if I miss a day of “perfect eating”.
I do not beat myself up if I eat, oh I don’t know,
one of four of my kid’s halloween/Christmas/Easter candies.
Do I have a perfect body?
Could I lose a couple of pounds?
All I know is that I am trying my best to feed my body good, whole, natural, nutrient-dense foods, MOST of the time, and get exercise every week. That’s all I can do. I have a lot of priorities, I want to accomplish a lot of things, I want to be a strong woman/wife/mom/colleague… and in order to spread my energy in the right percentages, I cannot fixate on a specific diet and a timely workout plan. (Or maybe it isn’t that I “cannot”, but rather that I “do not want” to spend hours at the gym and eat boring bland food. I want to live, enjoy my workouts and enjoy my healthy food.)
Eat good food, mostly from plant sources.
Drink water, move your body, and let it GO.
For the record, nobody’s body is perfect. Mine has been a lot closer to society’s “ideal” than it is right now, and I wasn’t any happier or more successful.
But today I am healthier.
That’s the “diet” I want to follow.
Love you, friends.
*Title image courtesy of pexels.com