Dieting is not productive. Nearly all who attempt to “diet” will eventually fall off their diet. And while most will loose weight during their dieting period, once they revert back to their old eating habits, they will unfortunately gain back the weight lost during the dieting period they worked so hard to loose. This failure is not due to a lack of effort, or an inability to show self-discipline, the simple fact is, is that diets don’t work. The human body wants to maintain homeostasis at all times, meaning change does not come easy. This is especially important if you are looking to loose weight, specifically excess body fat, and more importantly keep that body fat off. You don’t need a “diet” you need to transform your current dietary habits long term, meaning constantly working at forming and more importantly sustaining a healthy and suitable dietary lifestyle that’s tailored to YOU.
I do not believe in having clients follow specific “diets” (i.e. the Keto diet, the Atkins diet, the Paleo diet, Juicing diets, or bizarre cabbage soup diets) because dieting is a short-term solution to a life long problem. The way you eat, and how you choose to eat is something that you will have to confront until the day you die. What your specific dietary habits look like depend on so many factors including: dietary preferences, fitness goals, health, culture, schedule, and finances. Because of these numerous factors effecting the way one eats, the expectation that people can adhere to diets that are not compatible with the rest of their lifestyle is ridiculous. Therefore, I advise that instead of going on a diet, people work to develop dietary lifestyles that best help them achieve their goals and work best with their lives.
Determining the Appropriate Dietary Lifestyle for You
The following are the questions necessary to figure out how and what you should be eating on a daily basis. The answers to these questions are dependent on you and your individual needs, goals, and preferences. I urge you to actually answer these questions as seriously and thoughtfully as possible to get you started on the right track.
What is the appropriate amount of calories for you and your lifestyle/goals?
This is the most basic information you should be aware of. You can find many calorie calculators out there that can clarify this question. Or you can higher a fitness professional or dietician to help you. Many apps like MyfitnessPal can determine your approximate caloric needs. The amount of calories you should consume will vary depending on your individual biology, your goals, and your activity level.
What are your fitness goals if any? How does this change your dietary needs?
Depending on your fitness goals, your diet must change to help you optimally reach your goals. What does this mean? Refer to the following common examples for general dietary guidelines depending on fitness goal:
- Fat Loss – To achieve this goal you need to be in a caloric deficit for a prolonged period of time (eat less calories than you burn). You need to keep your protein intake high (around 1.5-2.0 grams/kilogram of bodyweight), keep your carbohydrate intake moderate to low (1.5-2 grams/kilogram of bodyweight) , and your fat intake moderate to high (1.25-1.5 grams/kilogram of bodyweight). You should be aiming to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and should be hitting your daily fiber recommendations. Protein should be included at most if not all meals. Protein and healthy fats should be the main components of this diet.
- Hypertrophy (Muscle Gain)- To achieve this goal you need to be in a caloric surplus for a prolonged period of time (eat more calories than you burn). You need to keep your protein intake moderate (around 1.2-1.7 grams/kilogram of bodyweight), keep your carbohydrate intake high (3-4 grams/kilogram of bodyweight) and your fat intake moderate (.8-1. gram/kilogram of bodyweight) You should be aiming to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and be hitting your daily fiber recommendations. Carbohydrates and protien are the main component of this diet.
Most peoples’ fitness goals will fit into the above two categories. Figuring out which category you fit in will help you determine what your general diet should look like in terms of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats). ***Remember these are just guidelines (however quite solid guidelines), but you will need to experiment and find the perfect combination of macronutrients for you. Regardless of your dietary habits fruits and vegetables should be included at all times in hefty amounts. This is one commonality that I personally believe should exist between all dietary lifestyles.
What do you like to eat?
Now that you know your caloric and macronutrient needs, you can start the fun process: choosing the foods you enjoy to fit your caloric and macronutrient “budget”! This is where you get to explore your own food preferences. Dieting or eating to reach a fitness goal should not be torture or something that is unsustainable. The only way to achieve success with long-term goals is to find a sustainable dietary lifestyle that you can maintain for life; therefore it has to be somewhat enjoyable.
How much money do you have to spend on food?
This is probably the biggest factor in determining your dietary lifestyle. Regardless of your budget there is a way to work with it to achieve your goals. My biggest piece of advice: buy what is on sale as opposed to just what you want. This means getting your grocery store’s sale paper each week and thinking ahead of time of what you can buy given your budget. This also means learning to cook. I recommend learning to cook 6 dishes you enjoy really well that way you can constantly change up your meals up. This is what I do every Sunday. I take about an hour to look over the sale paper and determine what I will cook for the week based on what is on sale. Granted , I am quite proficient in the kitchen and have been cooking since I was a child, everyone reading this post has access to the internet and can easily look up recipes for ingredients that are on sale. The more creative you are, the more fun this will be. Another tip for saving money on food is buying in bulk or wholesale. Getting a membership to Costco or BJ’s can be very effective especially for someone who needs to eat a lot of food to achieve their goals.
How much time do you have to cook?
Your own personal schedule will determine how much time each day and week you can put aside to cook. This means that meal prep is an attractive method to ensure you have healthy and delicious meals through out the week without spending much time per day cooking. If you don’t want to do meal prep you should at least have some sort of meal plan so you have consistent meals you eat on most days. The amounts of meals you prep or plan will depend on your personal goals. If you can afford it, ordering food from a meal prep company is also an attractive option.
Think of foods that cause allergic or adverse reactions?
Once you have a general idea of what you want to eat on a regular basis, you must take into account whatever allergies you have. This is common sense but must be said. For example, if you need a vast amount of protein in your diet, but are allergic to lactose, whey protein and dairy products are not good choices.
With the answers to these questions you can now begin to start forming a dietary lifestyle that fits your own personal needs and preferences. Hopefully this will become a dietary lifestyle that you can sustain for at least long enough to achieve your goals, but hopefully for the rest of your life. It’s not easy at first but you can do it! Understand that this is just a transition period to a new lifestyle that will be sustainable, healthy, and most important enjoyable, not only for your body, but for your mind and your whole being as well!
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