Many of my friends who are interested in improving their health reach out to me for advice regarding their nutritional intake. What foods should I eat to lose weight and get ripped? When should I eat them? Of all these fad diets, which one is right for me? Nutrition is a personal topic. Individuals respond to nutrient and caloric intake in different ways, but one thing rings true no matter who you are: diets don’t work. The mentality of using willpower to deprive yourself of things you enjoy is unsustainable and harmful in the long term. Simply said, the best “diet” is a nutritional lifestyle that you can stick to and makes you healthy and happy.
Despite millions of dollars spent annually on eating healthier, achieving nutritional goals is surprisingly difficult in today’s world. Americans are surrounded by processed foods, bombarded with advertisements from big food conglomerates, and led down misguided paths from government agencies lobbied by special interest groups. A well-known fact among the health and wellness community is that if you want to learn about nutrition, you’re going to have to do a lot of research and experimentation yourself.
After numerous stints tracking calories on SparkPeople and MyFitnessPal, eating a highly regimented 6 meal a day plan, experimenting with various macronutrient profiles, and doing a ton of scientific research, I have finally settled on a lifestyle that works for me: "Eat plants and natural foods. Not too much.”
What does that mean? My nutritional intake consists primarily of produce, protein, and healthy fats. That’s it. No special gimmicks. No strict portion control regimen. No pre-workout protein bars. No 100 calorie snack packs. When I go to the grocery store, I don’t buy anything that comes in a box. By sticking to the outside of the store, it’s easy to avoid unhealthy preservatives and fill up my cart with vegetables, fruit, nuts, and grass-fed protein.
It’s easy to poke holes in this strategy. I’m sure I’m not optimizing for muscle growth by eating 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up, carb/protein cycling, or tracking my macronutrient intake to the gram. But the difference with this choice is that it’s easy to adhere to, it provides me with sustained energy throughout the day, and it creates a healthy relationship with my food. And isn’t that what really matters?