Just how do you put together the right diet for YOU?
Let’s start off by saying that there’s no single diet that’s ideal for everyone. The perfect diet for each person is as individual as our genetic physical characteristics like eye colour, nose shape and height. Not everybody thrives on low-carb diets and not everyone needs to consume dairy for ideal health. It’s all very individual.
So how do you figure out what diet is right for you?
Here’s a few steps to help you sort it out:
1) What’s your current diet like?
You need a good idea of what your diet looks like currently before you start making changes. Trying to make drastic changes right away is tough to do, so take it one step at a time to get to where you need to be. If you have specific weight-loss or weight gain goals, you’ll want to have an idea of how much you’re eating. Most people underestimate the amount of calories they consume in a day.
Most people, that is, apart from the “hard-gainers” who struggle to put on muscle because they eat too little to build their bodies. Find out where you’re at now so that you can make.
Next, find out what percentage of your diet is from each of the 3 macronutrients; carbs, protein, and fats. Unless you’re very blessed and interested in math and you want to make this a fun daily project, get a phone app that does all the work for you – like myfitnesspal or dailyburn.
You might be surprised where your numbers fall. After being on a low-carb diet for a few months I made a concerted effort to increase carbs, and I actually found it difficult to get my carb percentage up to 50%. Knowing where you stand makes it easier to make changes and track progress. Most of my coaching clients start off by reducing carbs, but others need to prioritize adding protein and reducing fat. Until you know where you stand, you can’t manipulate your diet effectively to see the changes that you want.
2) What foods do you enjoy?
Please don’t get me wrong….just because you enjoy pizza, ice cream, and hamburgers doesn’t mean you should have them all the time. You should, however, take into consideration your personal preferences. Although I’m a strong believer that grass fed steak is a healthy protein source, I’ve personally never enjoyed red meat so I don’t eat it. I’ve tried many times to sample friends and family members’ “delicious steak” and I don’t enjoy it. So it’s not part of my diet. There’s no need to eat certain vegetables if you don’t like them (goodbye brussel sprouts!), but you do need to eat some veggies, so find as many tasty ones as you can.
Better yet, spice up your diet and add nutrients by trying a new vegetable. Collard greens or eggplant, anyone?
3) What foods disagree with you
? Obviously, if you have any food allergies or intolerances then you’ll need to eliminate those foods from your diet for optimal health. If you have an allergy, you’ll already know it for clear reactions like rashes or throat swelling, but intolerances can be a bit trickier. Vague symptoms like headaches, digestive upset, and fatigue can occur shortly after eating an offending food or a couple of days afterwards. It makes it difficult to pinpoint your symptoms as being related to a particular food.
Common intolerances are wheat/gluten, dairy products, eggs, soy, and nuts. If you already know that dairy makes you bloated you should probably exclude it from your diet most of the time. If you’re unsure, it may be worth trying an elimination diet supervised by a health care practitioner.
4) Does it fit into your lifestyle?
Could you really go vegan when all your friends and family are carnivores and your favourite food is steak and eggs? Probably not. Trust your instincts and don’t waste your time with something that doesn’t feel right for you. If a diet requires you to spend 4 or 5 hours a day cooking complicated dishes and you’re currently grabbing two meals a day on the run – skip it!
Change is good.
Creating complete chaos in your life is not.
5) Can you stay on this diet permanently?
Sure, you can probably maintain nearly any kind of diet for a week or two, but if you can’t sustain it long-term (or it’s not a diet that incorporates different phases with different requirements for each) then it won’t be perfect for you. Eating only orange-coloured foods may be effective at helping you lose weight in the short term, since it reduces your food choices, but do you want to eat only orange food for the rest of your life?
So how do you know when you’ve found the perfect diet for you?
You’ll know when you’re at a healthy body weight and fat percentage, full of energy every day, sleep well at night, and don’t rely on caffeine to get you through your work day. If it’s working for you, stick to it.
Even if someone tries to convince you that their diet changed their life and is the best thing since not eating sliced bread.
Trust your instincts and you’ll make the right food choices.