I get messages literally every single day from people asking me to tell them what diet is the best to follow. With so many options out there (i.e., paleo, Weight Watchers, 8 Hour Diet, Dukan, etc), it is not surprising to me that people get overwhelmed when it comes to proper nutrition. Each of these diets uses a different method that promises fast weight loss but how on Earth do you know which diet to follow when there’s so many to choose from?
I’ll let you in on an industry secret. The best diet out there is finding one that is sustainable, not restrictive and satisfying. You cannot fully and honestly expect to go through life eating only raw foods or only eating carbohydrates at certain times of the day or only eating salads for every meal (when you hate salads). When you make a decision to eat healthfully, you need to toss out the diet mentality that so many of us are used to prescribing to. You need to switch out those negative thoughts to empowering, positive thoughts. For example, instead of saying, “I can’t have pizza” you could say, “I could have pizza but I choose not to.” BUT, that said, if it is a treat day, by all means, eat that pizza but just remember to be smart about it. Don’t eat an entire large size pizza to yourself.
A well-balanced diet is absolutely ESSENTIAL to the healthy lifestyle equation. You can go to the gym and work your butt off for an hour every day but if your nutrition doesn’t reflect your goals, you just won’t progress. Believe me on this one. I spent 3.5 years working out hard, but it wasn’t until I really dialled in my nutrition and starting eating the right foods and the “bad” foods in moderation, my body didn’t really make a lot of huge changes. Or, I shouldn’t say that. My body did make changes but my mind didn’t. I have been a chronic yo-yo dieter for almost my whole life. When I started my weight loss journey in 2008, I thought that if I exercised often, I’d be okay to eat the Pilsbury cookie dough in our fridge for snacks every day. This, obviously, isn’t the answer. I would workout hard and eat well probably 60% of the time but the other 40% of the time, I would eat unhealthier foods in excess and then be angry that I wasn’t losing weight. Or I would commit to eating clean but then never let myself have treats which only lead me to binge eventually. It wasn’t until last year when I finally realized that I can still see progress with my fitness journey if I balance eating healthfully with eating the less nutritionally dense foods (i.e., pizza, French fries).
A well-balanced diet:
- Has no restrictions, especially whole food groups or macronutrients
- Allows everything (YES, even pizza & chocolate), in moderation
- Is varied as well as flexible (Planned on chicken breasts for supper but feeling more like having eggs? Do it!)
- Contains foods that you LIKE to eat, not foods you FEEL you HAVE to eat (don’t make yourself eat spinach if you hate spinach!)
- Includes a lot of water
- Is imperfect
- Creates feelings of positivity towards foods
- Is fulfilling
So, I’m sorry I cannot give you an exact diet plan to follow but I will tell you this: eat healthfully (whole grains, lean protein, vegetables, fruits, healthy fats) 80% of the time and use that 20% to eat those less-nutrient dense foods (see how I didn’t call them ‘junk’ foods or ‘unhealthy’ foods? That creates a negative relationship and we want to AVOID that). I don’t expect you to eat like a fitness model and you don’t have to. You just need to become more aware of what are more nutritionally sound food choices. Do not ever follow a diet that makes you feel like you're missing out on the foods you love. Doing so sets you up for a negative experience and implementing a healthy lifestyle change should be one of the most positive and empowering decisions you make.