With all of the popular diets out there, it can be tough to determine which ones actually work. We don't mean those crash diets that help you lose 10 pounds in two weeks and then send you into a cookie-crazed deprivation binge. We are talking about diets that can help you lose weight and keep it off. Diets that teach you how to eat for life . . . not for a few white-knuckle weeks. We talked with some experienced nutritionists to get the lowdown on how to eat if you really want to be healthy.
Like many nutritionists, Ashlee Rowland finds that her clients often struggle because they've already tried the quick-fix diets and didn't find the results they were hoping for. "When clients come to me, they have tried about every diet there is on the market. They have tried them all because they wanted something that would work for them and give them lasting results. "Unfortunately," Ashlee warns, "this is something that fad diets will not provide."
Nutritional therapy practitioner Beth Manos Brickey agrees. "Everyone is so busy to begin with, and we find ourselves overwhelmed by all the conflicting information. People are confused and just want the answers handed to them. They want an easy button — in the form of a pill or diet with a set of rules to follow."
The problem with this approach is that there is no one set of rules that will work for everybody. It doesn't matter if your friend lost 20 pounds by giving up dairy if you would rather die than give up cheese. Whether it's Paleo, keto, Whole30, intermittent fasting, the Mediterranean Diet, or any of the other diets out there that do actually seem to have some impressive results, they all have one thing in common — they force you to cut out the junk and focus on real, whole foods. Instead of calories and fat grams, they put the spotlight on ingredients and food quality.
So, if it isn't about choosing the right set of rules, what does it take to find a healthy way of eating that will actually help you see progress and reach your health goals? "It's about honoring your unique personality and creating new habits in a manner that works with your tendencies and motivations. If you are an all-in, cold-turkey type of person, start with a 30-day challenge (like the Whole30)," recommends Brickey. "If it's too overwhelming to make a bunch of big changes all at once, it might be better to make small, actionable changes a little at a time." This is a key step in making changes that you can stick with and will eventually feel like second nature.
It's also important to know that true health change is about much more than just the food. According to Rowland, "A change of the inward view of a person is crucial to their overall wellness . . . they have to value themselves." Brickey's experience with her own clients mirrors this sentiment: "I suggest first to always determine your 'why' before you begin any habit change. This could be something like wanting to walk up a flight of stairs without feeling out of breath or something more serious like managing or reversing a disease diagnosis. "When we keep our eyes on our reason for wanting to change, we have this beautiful ability to check all of our choices against this purpose. Think of it as a compass that can guide you along your health journey." It's important to take the time to understand yourself and your reason for wanting to improve your health.
"A change of the inward view of a person is crucial to their overall wellness . . . they have to value themselves."
Now you know you need to choose a method of behavior change that works for you and figure out your reason for making that change, but you are probably looking for a few actionable steps you can take today to get started on the right foot. Don't worry, we've got you covered.
The main tips Brickey would tell anyone, regardless of their health goals, is to "build your meals with quality whole food proteins, fats, nutrient-rich and fiber-filled veggies" instead of processed, packaged convenience foods. Ready to take it a step further? Brickey also suggests that "people remove refined oils like canola, safflower, vegetable, and grapeseed oil from their diets and focus on healthy oils like olive, avocado, and coconut (along with ghee and healthy animal fats)." She also mentions, "Everyone can benefit from the reduction or removal of added sugars and refined carbohydrates. This can help to regulate blood sugar, which keeps your appetite and energy more even-keeled throughout the day." Rowland's advice is supersimple to follow: "Purchase foods without an ingredient list. The food you buy should be the ingredients (like avocado or Brussels sprouts).
We'll leave you with some wise words from Brickey: "When we take time to recognize that no matter where we are in our journey, we are still worthy of feeling our best. With this knowledge, we can prioritize the self-work needed to cultivate the self-love that is necessary for internal motivation, so we can enter into new habits feeling present, positive, and in control."