Try not to think of your nutrition as a diet. I know this sounds like splitting hairs, but words have meaning. Diet does not connote positive thoughts.
Ideally, you eat with some basic tenets in place, which are loosely managed. In that ideal world, you are NOT always fighting to keep your mass where you want it.
We have to find a way to eat that allows us to live the lives we want to lead. With nutrition, there are three popular approaches:
- I’m trying to lose weight
- I’m trying to gain weight
- I’ve given up trying to do anything.
None of these are healthy as long term plans.
Let’s assume you are generally at your desired mass, either through a diet or genetic blessings. Good for you. Now what?
How do you decide what is the right way to eat? Vegetarian, Caveman and Mediterranean plans all claim to be lifestyle diets, not weight loss diets. This gets confusing, because so does Atkins, South Beach and low-fat diets make the same claim.
Who’s telling the truth? How do you find your path?
Become a Good Researcher
The internet is the greatest and most confusing research tool at your fingertips. You can find research to support nearly any perspective, which is why nutrition advisors often disagree.
Here’s a fun game. Fill a room with nutritionists, then write this on the chalkboard: cow milk is harmless to humans. Watch the room break into hysteria.
The questions you should be asking about nutrition research center on the value of those studies?
Was it a meta-study? These are studies where the research was pulled from other studies, then essentially compiled, re-sorted then reviewed.
Some studies are in vitro, meaning in a lab without necessarily using real humans. In vivo may involve humans, but may be lab rats. In silica means, it was done on a computer. Regardless, consider this info as you weigh the value of any research.
You also want to consider things like, how many people were in the sample group, where was the research done, and how many other similar studies have been conducted?
For years we all believed saturated fat was the worst thing in the world for us until someone pointed out that the same old research was being recited over and over for decades, but the original research was deeply flawed.
Always question any research, then question your own biases. As it is human nature, something called confirmation bias, you will always seek research that supports your existing perceptions. Stay skeptically open.
Test Some Plans
This is the easy and fun part of nutrition research. After you’ve considered the arguments, you have to try out the plan. In the long run, the plan that sounds right but doesn’t suit your tastes or lifestyle is no good.
A good rule of thumb for how long should you test them is 30-90 days. After 30 days you will likely know if you can go for another sixty days, but after 90 days if you don’t like a diet, you are not going to stick to it.
If you start testing in January, marking your calendar, then by the end of the year you could test four programs. If you find one you like that fills your nutritional needs, then obviously you don’t continue testing. You’ve found your plan.
What will probably happen is you will take from each program what you like, adding and subtracting from plans as you go. Most people develop their own dietary religion as it were.
Keep the Right Plan
How will you know who you’ve found the right plan? The nutrition mix that’s right for you will allow you to live your life without too many cravings, but without losing your grip on health.
If you are constantly wanting something you cannot have, then my experience is you are not going to stick to that diet in the long run. It’s a nice idea, but that’s not how we work.
This doesn’t mean you can’t choose to make sacrifices for the right reasons. If there were no ill-consequences I would live off pastries. That’s just my thing, but I’ve tried it before and I just gained a bunch of body fat, which didn’t make me happy.
If you’re pounding bags of jelly beans like they were lima beans, you have to know that’s not going to be the wisest choice in the long run. The internet is full of great ways to control food cravings.
Just like finding the right plan, adapt the controls that work for your lifestyle.
Last thought: beware of noise.
People will tell you that sugar makes them crazy, but it doesn’t affect you that way. They will tell you cow milk has a bloating effect, but you don’t notice it in your life. Whatever the advice, consider if it’s true for you.
Trust me when I tell you, less than 1% of the public has a problem with gluten, but suddenly everybody can’t eat it. This is silly.
Eat for your life. Take the advice of others with a grain of salt, including my advice. Live your healthy life your way. Eat how you want.