- Don’t Assume What Works For One Person Will Work For You. – Today you can find inspiring videos, documentaries, podcasts, or influencers that promote their dietary philosophy and hold it up on a pedestal. They highlight all their amazing results, recipes, and benefits. There’s just one problem, long lasting results come through consistency and adherence, day in and day out. Sure, anyone can try a specific diet for a couple weeks, in fact it can be fun to do so, but you must be intentional and honest about asking yourself, “Can I adhere to this 365 days a year?” Another important part of this point is realizing that everyone has unique reactions to food known as food sensitivities or food intolerances. Some people cannot tolerate dairy at all. They break out with acne, have stomach aches, and feel bloated whenever they consume any reasonable amount. Others can’t tolerate large amounts of fiber found in vegetables. They too get stomach aches, deal with bloating, and still feel hungry despite feeling stuffed. As Stan Efferding once said, “The best diet is the diet you’re going to follow.” It is important to realize though that our body still needs essential macro & micronutrients. Sure it can be easy to follow diet X, but if it’s lacking essential nutrients like bioavailable protein, vitamin B12, D3, & K2, it may become problematic in the long term future.
- Don’t Merely Rely On Your Willpower – Regardless of the change you are trying to create in your life, it is incredibly important to create and immerse yourself in an environment that supports your goals. When you surround yourself with junk food, it is likely that you are going to indulge more often than if you did not have them around the house. As for nutrition and health changes, your food environment couldn’t be more important. Food scientists make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to create hyper-palatble foods that target our brain’s dopamine and serotonin receptors in the same way many drugs and alcohol do, it is nearly impossible to resist. We all know the difficulty of saying no to that extra cookie, donut, chip, or sweet dessert, that’s not your fault. Our willpower only works to a certain degree. Augustine once said, “Abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.” As for any addictive substance in life, this couldn’t be more true. Let your environment for you, not against you. If your goal is to change your health in some way that you know having delicious junk food will prevent you from achieving, get it out, surround yourself with options (whole foods/high protein foods) that work for you, not against you (hyper-palatable junk food)
- No Single Diet Is Magic – For many, it is easy to buy into a diet group that promotes a specific diet as the pinnacle of health. Unfortunately many nutritional studies today are promoted through tactics such as cherry picked data, showing correlation not causation, as well as using healthy user bias.This creates confirmation bias and reinforces people’s extreme or dogmatic views on nutrition. The more and more I research and study nutrition from many experts with different viewpoints, I’ve concluded that the majority of health improvement is through reducing inflammation, primarily through the reduction of excess body fat. People get healthier on a low carb diet, not because carbohydrates are inherently bad, but because it creates a caloric deficit. People get healthier on a vegan diet, not because animal foods are evil, but through the reduction of calories from fat found in animal foods. People get healthier doing intermittent fasting, not because ketosis is magic, but because it creates a caloric deficit. People get healthier on a high protein diet, not because protein is magic, but because higher protein diets reduce appetite and in turn cause people to eat less carbohydrates and fats (excess calories)
- Prioritize Protein – There is another critical key to sustaining a long term dietary protocol, controlling hunger. Satiation is simply another word for controlling hunger. If you are hungry all the time doing a specific diet, you’ve got a problem on your hands. Consistent hunger can leave people unfocused, on edge, & irritable. Research has shown that diets higher in protein keep ghrelin, our hunger signaling hormone lower, those without as much protein. Also, research has shown that higher protein diets reduce inflammation. While I could care less about how many times people eat a day, It is not healthy to be chronically attached to food because of how hungry you are all day. Through the highs and lows of my own nutrition journey, I look back and see the most struggle and poor health when I was eating a very low protein diet (most often I feared meat & animal foods) and felt in best health when I focused first on including high quality bioavailable protein in my diet. As someone who has struggled with eating disorders in the past, I can confidently say that more often than not, overeating and body dissatisfaction can both be traced back to not including enough protein in your diet. While I understand there are social, emotional, and other physical variables that play into eating disorders, I know a lack of protein is just more fuel on the fire. People are not overeating & feeling guilty and sick from eating chicken breast, eggs, or too much steak. People are feeling guilty and sick because they overate a bunch of highly processed addictive junk food that is extremely low in protein. This not only affects their emotional health but also damages their physique and can easily spiral out of control. Personally, I could care less the methods or protocols in which people improve their health, but I am often critical of those which don’t include enough of the essential macronutrient, protein.
- Don’t blame sugar. – So many people today feel as though they must take a stance on whether it is sugar or fat that is fueling our health crisis in the United states. Sadly, we have two extreme dietary philosophies (low carb vs low fat) fighting in their ivory towers over why their stance is so much better leaving millions of people dazed and confused only to go back to eating a standard American diet which is the worst of all. Just take a moment and consider this, people are not becoming overweight and sick eating too many bananas or apples (pure sugar). On the contrary, people are not becoming overweight and sick by eating too many avocados or macadamia nuts (pure fat). I’ll even go as far as saying you cannot blame refined sugar or fat alone. I haven’t seen anyone spooning down table sugar or drinking soybean oil on it’s own. It’s an addiction found in the combination of those two things. Nearly all processed food includes at least two of the three ingredients (refined sugar, refined flour, or processed fats). Donuts, chips, cookies, cereals, baked goods, ice cream, pizza, etc. On the contrary, whole unprocessed foods are never high in the combination of carbohydrates and fats. Animal foods are high in protein & fat, they are awfully difficult to overeat. Fruits and vegetables are high in carbohydrates and low in fat, they too are extremely difficult to eat. Don’t blame one macronutrient or the other, blame the combination of them in processed foods.
- Don’t Rely On Nutrition Labels – The FDA allows for upwards of a 20% skew between correct calories and macronutrients on food labels. This means that 200 calorie snack mix or bar may be 160 or 240 calories, I’d always bet on the higher side. This should simply be an encouragement to focus on a primarily whole foods diet. Nobody wants to pull out a food scale every time they eat packaged food just to make sure they aren’t totally screwing up their caloric intake each day. It’s much easier to focus on a diet primarily made up of whole unprocessed foods. Just be mindful of this fact.
- What you eat is more important than when you eat – This is coming from somebody that has been doing intermittent fasting for 4 years now, I can count on my fingers the amount of times I’ve eaten breakfast/before noon in the past 4 years. While I once thought it was magic, today I simply follow it because it is the form of restriction that I find most easy to follow. Many people, especially early on, fall into the trap that fasting allows them to eat to their hearts content. This is unfortunately why so many never see lasting change or progress when they attempt a fasting protocol. They think that fasting provides them a license to eat however much they want of anything. No, at the end of the day, the quality (macronutrient split) & quantity (caloric intake) still matter, way more than when you eat. For some, fasting can actually be problematic because of this, overeating junk and fasting is an eating disorder. A calorie is a calorie whether it is 6 am or 10 pm, stop believing that it’s more fattening to eat at night or in the morning. Find what times work for you best, control your hunger the greatest amount, and that you enjoy adhering to year round.
8. Building muscle & strength are more important than a number on the scale – We don’t have a weight loss problem in this country, we have a “keep the weight off” problem in this country. Over 80% of people that lose weight regain it, and some more. This is problematic not only because it dysregulates many hormones in the body but also because people are losing their muscle mass alongside the weight they lose, have no energy to workout to preserve the muscle, then regain the weight right back without the muscle this time. This is one of the reasons why it is harder to lose weight the second time than the first, because your metabolism is slower without as much muscle. Being skinny and undermuscled can be just as unhealthy as being overweight and under muscled. You are more prone to injuries, high cortisol levels, and low bone density. Research has shown that variables like grip strength, blood pressure, and waist circumference is just as or even more important than one’s weight in determining life expectancy. Building a strong body is a form of self care, trying to lose weight when you hardly have any body fat in the first place is unhealthy and can damage your long term health.