Thinking a starting a new diet plan?
Picture this: you’ve decided to make some changes. Maybe you want to lose some weight, tone up, not feel like a zombie, etc… And of course, you figure you could eat better. So, you head over to your local bookstore and check out the diet section.
Surrounding you are gorgeous covers of beautiful, stylized, women and men proudly featuring their latest culinary creations (which upon closer inspection don’t actually look that appetizing). Cookbooks that show you exactly how to live a gluten-free lifestyle. Cookbooks that show you exactly how to lose weight, while eating pasta all the time. Vegan living. Paleo life. ETCETERA.
Ack! Which one?!! Should I just pick the girl that looks more like me, or the me I hope to be? Maybe I should listen to a guy instead, for a different perspective? Sigh.
If you haven’t already noticed, for every dietary theory out there, there is another one that opposes it. You can find countless research and anecdotal evidence to both support AND debunk any diet. No exceptions.
The truth that you must come to accept is that YOUR ideal diet is an extremely personal decision, that must take into account many factors, including your SPECIFIC goals, your lifestyle, your environment, your constitution, and your current phase in life.
For example, a sophomore college girl with limited funds whose goal is to lose her freshman 15 is going to have to eat very differently from a post-baby #3 mommy who wants to enter a Figure competition.
Also, you must accept the fact that no single book will account for everything you’ve got; that is, while you may find a diet plan that fits MOST of your needs, you’ll still have to allow yourself to make modifications so that the diet really fits your lifestyle and can be sustained.
If you’re shopping around for a new diet or eating philosophy, here are some questions to ask yourself:
#1: Is there an emphasis on cooking?
Any healthy, balanced diet will emphasize home cooked meals. There’s no way around it – you’re going to have to learn how to be comfortable in the kitchen, because cooking is part of a healthy, independent lifestyle.
You don’t need to enrol in a fancy culinary arts course, but the healthiest meals are the ones you prepare for yourself. Even if you’re making comfort food, what you make at home will likely be more healthy than anything you could get at a restaurant. You’ll also be able to control all of the ingredients, and modify or “health-ify” the recipe if needed.
If you can learn to tolerate cooking, you will be in the driver’s seat of yours – and your entire household’s – health!
#2: Is there an emphasis on eliminating certain food groups?
Now, hold on. Before you start throwing organic tomatoes (ahem, Vegans and Paleos), hear me out.
If you’re going do a diet that involves eliminating certain ingredients that you are not actually allergic to, such as: gluten, dairy, eggs, meat, nightshades, etc., make sure you are 100% clear on exactly why you are doing it, and what the implications are for you.
I’m not saying don’t do it, what I am saying is, you better know what you’re doing.
From personal experience, I can tell you that eliminating an entire food group can only last so long. I find that even lifelong vegans eventually soften into vegetarianism through the passage of time. For different reasons, of course, but it’s worth noting.
If your success on any particular diet plan hinges on your ability to NOT eat a certain ingredient, regardless of your personal health history and your lifestyle choices, then proceed with caution. Obsessing over keeping a particular ingredient out of your food places an extremely negative spin on what should be a joyful journey.
You should be focusing on why and how you’re eating, not what you’re NOT eating.
That being said, any food that falls under the groups “junk” and “fast”, can totally be eliminated without question 😉
#3: Is there an emphasis on consuming a particular brand of products?
It’s one thing to be vitamin conscious, but if the diet you’re looking at specifically recommends a particular brand of supplement (whether it’s a shake, bar, pill, or even brand of dumbbells or athletic attire) to the point that you consider whether or not the diet would be successful without it, then it’s safe to assume that the diet itself is part of a marketing ploy to get you to buy something…
…Something else, that is.
I’m not saying to avoid a nutritionist who also happens to have their own product line – after all, all nutrition professionals eventually find a way to formulate their own supplements based on their beliefs about what makes a solid product, and rightly so.
However, if you’re looking at a diet plan that revolves around the consumption of something that’s not actually food, and in particular, is a certain brand and cannot be created/grown yourself, or bought under another brand name, then HELLO, see it for what it is!
Yes, many brands that employ meal plans as marketing tools are careful to construct diets that fall within healthy guidelines, but you want to spend your focus (and your money) on a diet that focuses on YOU, 100%. The potential to make residual income is fab and all, but was that your intention when you started the diet expedition…?
So, What Now?
I think diets and spirituality have a lot in common, actually. For one thing, you need to consistently apply your efforts for a considerable period of time before you begin to notice any results. Secondly, your choices with either have the potential to make you a laughingstock at your next family gathering.
Joking aside, I think that the best course of action to take when it comes to choosing your ideal diet plan is the same one I recommend for choosing your spiritual path: pick and choose what works for you! Take what suits and resonates with you, and leave the rest aside. Incorporate different ideologies together, if you must.
Use your common sense, of course; just like you would think twice before joining a church that was sympathetic towards thieves and regularly drank each others’ blood, you would want to question any diet plan that gives you the green light to eat as much junk as you like, as long as your total caloric consumption remains below 1500. Get it, amiga?
Remember: diets are personal. This is YOUR life. Eyes on your own plate. And stay away from the herd 😉
Share your thoughts!