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Vegan, Paleo, Whole 30, Raw, Keto, Intermittent fasting … We are constantly searching for the next way to eat for success and healthYet with so many different methods and doctrines out there it is easy to become overwhelmed, frustrated, and confused. There must be one diet to rule them all, right?  Unfortunately there is no simple answer, we have yet to find that “Perfect Diet”.  For years fat was the enemy, now its sugar, or is it carbs? Coincidentally most diets more or less do the same thing. Unfortunately, most diets aren’t sustainable either.

So before you start chasing results with a fancy new diet plan, ask yourself a few important questions:

Why do I want to change?

Is it for health, or aesthetics? Or, maybe you are changing for an ethical, social, or political reason. Without a reason or desire for change, many of us revert back to bad nutritional habits the second something becomes difficult to do.

How much am I willing to change?

Are you willing to overhaul your eating habits and battle the cravings that follow? What about your social life, how much do you need to change to reach your goals? Knowing the sacrifices before they happen, can help you prepare for and meet the challenges needed for change.

What can I realistically change?

What’s your budget? Can you actually afford to eat differently? Do you have the cooking skills to prep and make completely different food than you have before? What about you’re dietary preference or even your body type? Just like any other goal you might set for yourself, if it isn’t realistic you may have a hard time achieving it.

By answering the questions above, you can see how almost everyone will have different answers. With so much diversity, does it really make sense that there could be an all-encompassing perfect diet out there? Of course not! Chances are, you probably don’t even need to change that much to become healthier. For most of us, we just need a little more direction and information so we can transform healthy choices into healthy habits.

There are countless examples from all over the world of people eating in ways that most of us would consider to be “unhealthy”. Yet traditional diet eaters are relatively healthy people with minimal incidences of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, inflammatory obesity, etc.

The traditional diet of the Canadian Inuit includes foods that are very high in fat and animal products with very few vegetables. Conversely, the Kitavans in the South Pacific enjoy diets that are low in fat but very high in vegetables and starchy carbs.

It is entirely possible to be healthy and fit regardless of whether you eat mostly vegetables, mostly meat, or almost any other combination out there.

Not prescribing to one singular nutritional camp is OK; in fact, it’s probably good for you. Being open to different or new ideas lets you evaluate the pros and cons of a diet, letting you decide whether it’s a good fit or not. A closer look at most diet plans reveal a number of common trends:

You typically eat less overall, eat more high quality foods, eliminate nutrient deficiencies, control your appetite (to some degree), increase your exercise level, and raise your nutritional awareness. It’s no wonder that dieting has a strong effect on your body and health … at least in the short term.

Now the tricky part; because the majority of diet plans are restrictive in some way, is that most of us have a hard time sustaining sudden changes or restrictions to our eating habits. Old habits die hard and if you can’t stick with a plan long enough for new habits to turn into lifestyle changes, you are more likely to fall back into old habits. Classic yo-yo or crash diets can have devastating long term effects on both physical (i.e. higher risk of diabetes or heart disease) and mental health (i.e. negative body image).

If you find yourself cycling through diets and having no success, it’s time to re-evaluate why, how, and what you’re trying to change. Maybe Veganism or drinking smoothies all day doesn’t fit with your lifestyle. Perhaps you can’t afford all natural, organic health foods and supplements and aren’t willing to give up other things to do it. Eating high fat foods everyday may have seemed like a good idea, but if your body can’t adjust to it maybe Ketogenics wasn’t such a great idea.

A healthy nutrition plan doesn’t have to be hard or complex it just needs to work for you! Try following these strategies more to make the best of any nutritional change:

  1. Raise your nutritional awareness. The more that you know and care about your food or the more you pay attention to what you’re putting into your body; the higher the chances will be that you will choose healthier options. Becoming more aware of our nutrition is a small but powerful change. When we willingly choose to eat better it is empowering and increases our success rate even more.
  1. Increase your food quality and eliminate nutrient deficiencies. Almost everyone is nutrient deficient, some more than others. Nutrient deficiencies are responsible for a host of health issues, so fixing these can really help increase your health. Processed and/or chemical laden foods are stripped of many of the nutrients found in whole foods. It’s time to take those nutrients back! Eating high quality, whole foods when possible can help to eliminate many nutrient deficiencies.
  1. Control your appetite. This one sometimes takes care of itself. When we increase food quality or search out healthier food, we often end up eating foods that are more satisfying and more filling. Eat until your satisfied not stuffed. If stress triggers your eating, try to find a new way to manage that stress or at least eat high quality foods. You can wave goodbye to calorie counting (which we already know doesn’t work).
  1. Step up your exercise or activity level. We all know that regular exercise is good for us, as it improves things like cardiovascular health and can help decrease your risk of chronic disease. Our body also generates more functional tissue (like muscle) versus fat tissue in response to regular exercise. Less fat and more muscle sounds good doesn’t it?

Long-term nutrition habits always beat diet plans and rules. Building up healthy habits let’s you follow your nutrition plan even on your WORST day… not just your BEST day.

Paul Bradshaw l Kinesiologist