I’ve had many people over time ask me what the best diet is. I am a “dietitian” after all so I should know, right? There is usually combination of shock, disbelief, and/or disappointment when I tell them that none of them are.
The expectation among beginners in health and fitness, though with good intention and an initial willingness, is normally that in order to lose weight, or to gain muscle, or to get off insulin completely is to find a diet, overhaul the kitchen, clear out the pantry, have a grocery list of items you have to buy, and a separate list of ones you can never, ever have for the rest of your life. Well, theoretically, at least. But what happens in theory is not what happens in real life.
Working smart is also working hard
This overhaul approach is tempting because the idea is that the harder you work, the better are the results. Well that much is true. But “working hard” in this context is often channeled through an approach that isn’t sustainable, with most heavily-marketed quick fixes, popular diet books, trends, diet fads, and many worthless products having the most public accessibility to the average consumer looking for answers. And it’s no surprise why research on weight loss efforts in the United States still isn’t looking very good.
Working smart is the other side of that coin. If you are 25+ years old you probably have well-integrated behaviors, emotions, daily habits, tastes, preferences, interests, beliefs, environments, friends, family, priorities, and values that all don’t switch at the same date you started a new diet. And its likely when you veer off your diet it’ll all be there still as well. Because of this, going all in on something that is not supported by these many factors may not be sustainable in the long term – where the results exist. Quick fixes are not fixes at all.
What to do instead
If you’ve never exercised before in your life and you hire a personal trainer at NBS Fitness, they are not going to recommend that the first thing you do is to sign up for a powerlifting meet, strongman contest, or a marathon. They will likely assess your movement patterns, ask you about your exercise history, learn about your short-term and long-term goals, etc.
Nutrition works the same way. You have to assess what you are doing now, diagnose your issues, develop an initial plan addressing those issues, evaluate barriers to achieving that plan, and execute the plan and address those barriers. This is not something that is accomplished all about once, and the plan will and should change many times depending on your current level of progress. It’s going to take practice. You can expect that practice creates better, not perfect, and you can expect some failures along the way. That is a normal part of the process.
In order to do this, it requires focused attention on learning new skills (such as paying attention to how you feel during a meal), deliberate repetition of new practices developed from those skills (such as not eating until you feel stuffed), and positioning yourself in the right environment (such as surrounding yourself with people who support your goals). You have to slowly develop whole systems. You heard that Rome wasn’t built in a day; the same is true for how to eat. A skilled nutrition coach can help you accomplish this by providing guidance and a lamp at your feet so you can walk the path in the direction of you goals.