In Part 1, I looked at how slavishly following the rules of one diet after another without finding long term success is potentially damaging to both body and mind. In Part 2, I want to look at ways of moving beyond the rules of diets to a healthy lifestyle of good habits.
Change begins with your perspective.
If you tried a nutritional approach that didn’t work, ask yourself what you learned and what you can carry forward into the future, rather than seeing it purely as a failure. Continuously shifting your mindset in a positive way allows you to cultivate a habit of success by pulling forward the positive or helpful things you’ve learned, even when things don’t work out in the way you wanted. So, instead of beating yourself up, choose to celebrate what did work.
Build a solid foundation.
Many diets focus on nuanced intricacies of nutrition without knowing whether the person following the diet has solid nutrition habits at the start. Focusing on building solid “Building blocks” can pay dividends and will allow you to notice which nutritional nuances are helpful for you, and which are not.
These building blocks should make up the foundation of your nutrition plan and include things like:
- Eating a palm-sized serving of protein at each main meal
- Filling one-third to half of your plate with vegetables at each meal
- Eating a thumb-sized portion of dietary fat at each meal
- Eating the type and amount of carbohydrates that leave you feeling energized and satisfied
- Drinking enough water throughout the day
Focusing on these building blocks consistently over time will help you understand your true nutritional needs and can give you a baseline understanding of what works for you. If you’re constantly changing everything about your nutrition, how will you ever know what you truly need? Take an opportunity to slowly improve your nutritional building blocks before trying another diet. Focus on making one change which allows you to successfully strengthen one habit at a time, and builds your confidence in your ability to make healthy choices.
Once you have the building blocks in place, you can then start to play with the number of meals, meal timing, serving sizes, and types of each food to see what works best for you.
The secret is that there is no secret!
It’s easy to think that if we search long enough we’ll eventually find the nutritional “holy grail” that will make us strong, lean, and confident. But the truth is that there isn’t a way to do this that doesn’t require acting deliberately, with intention, purpose, consistency, and patience. Even when you find an approach that works for you in your current lifestyle, it may not work forever. Your body will change over time, as will your nutritional needs, physical demands, responsibilities and priorities. What helped you in the past may not deliver the same results again under different circumstances. So, having the building blocks for a solid nutrition foundation, and objectively evaluating what’s working and what’s not will help you to continue to get results over time.
Know What “Results” Look Like to You.
Many people find it difficult to identify what they really want to achieve. Instead of repeating, “my goal is to tone up and look good,” clearly define your goal and why you want to achieve it to help you narrow down your nutritional priorities. What does “tone up” and “look good” mean to you? Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and physique with minimal mental stress may be your long-term priority. Likewise, you may choose to temporarily focus on your performance for a forthcoming fitness event, or you may want to achieve a short-term fat loss goal. Each of these goals may require some changes to your nutrition, physical training, and focus.
The next time you’re tempted to try a new diet trend, ask yourself:
- What are my building blocks, and are they in place?
- Am I consistent enough with the building blocks to do some experimentation?
- Have I clearly defined my goal and do I understand what nutritional changes may be necessary to achieve it?
- Am I emotionally and psychologically ready for stricter guidelines to follow?
If the answer is no to any of these questions, in the long run you’ll benefit from spending some time working on those areas first. If the answer is yes to all four, be very mindful and thoughtful with your evaluation of the diet approach in question. When you’re ready to move forward, make powerful choices and decisions that ultimately help you improve your overall nutrition strategy. Be open to change, thoughtful in your investigation of what works for you and what doesn’t, and stay engaged in objectively evaluating that nutritional approach.