Since the moment I walked through the door, I could the feel eyes on me. One quick glance upward confirmed my suspicions. There they were. Across the room. Leaning against the railing. Arms across their chests. Cupping a glass of merlot. Staring at me rather intently. Now they started to make their way towards me. "Here we go," I thought. I can't say I was surprised; this happens to me all the time at social events.
Finally, as I was just pouring a beverage, I felt a light tap on my shoulder. "Hey, you're the nutritionist, right?" One quick smile separates her question with: "Okay, so what's better? Paleo or South Beach? Will switching to Gluten-free help me see results faster? I'm trying to concentrate on my midsection and thighs. And I read that almond butter is better than peanut butter ... But I really really like peanut butter. Do I have to switch? If I do switch, can I keep dairy in my diet? I heard that it's not good for you? But I really really like cheese." Pause. "So yea, I don't think I could give up cheese."
One thing that I love about the internet, modern-day technology, and media is that information is readily available to anyone and everyone. With that being said, this often causes what I call an information over-load when it comes to fitness and health goals. People are constantly being told how, what, when, and why to eat. This, in turn, has influenced an increase in people's interest and understanding of their nutrition. As a nutritionist? This is awesome to hear! Individuals are investigating into further detail what they're choosing to put into their bodies, all in the pursuit to the Holy Grail of nutrition questions:
What is truly the best way we should eat?
The answer may be disappointing ...
There is no best way to eat. At least not universally. This is a question whose answer will constantly change, both from person to person, and from one period of time to the next. So rather than ask what this archetypical "best way to eat for all of mankind" is, let’s explore the answer to how each of us, individually, should be eating right now.
We accomplish this with a few quick steps:
Step 1) DEFINE YOUR GOALS
Why are you interested in how you eat in the first place? Do you want to feel healthier? Recover from an injury faster? Or get leaner to look great and feel comfortable in your own skin? Prioritize the outcomes you want to occur, and make sure any method you choose has been expressly shown to improve that goal set. Just because you’re eating “better” doesn’t guarantee it will change the things you want changed.
EXAMPLE: I don’t just want to be healthier, but would like to lose some body fat so I can be slimmer and show more definition. I will make nutritional changes that have been expressly noted to accomplish this.
Step 2) KNOW THYSELF!
There is no nutrition plan known to man that will work if you do not follow it. Don’t worry about what plan sounds the best, or has the coolest concepts. Worry about if can you see yourself consistently doing what this plan asks of you. While you likely do not have to be perfect with your plan, if you can’t follow it 90% of the time, you may not see much in the way of great results from it. Select a plan that you feel confident that nine out of ten times, you can follow it. You can always add more things later.
EXAMPLE: French fries are a gift from the heavens. There is no way I’ll stick to this plan that forbids potato consumption. I think I’ll try a plan that allows for some carb intake regularly.
Step 3) GET SPECIFIC. TIME SPECIFIC
Even if you intend to make your nutritional changes ultimately permanent, start off by giving yourself a two week deadline. The idea of making a change to how we eat FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES can be intimidating. Tell yourself that you’ll try this plan for 14 days, give it your best shot, and see what happens. If you like it, you can always keep going. This can also help you to take a moment before you select your plan to reflect on what’s coming up in the next 14 days, and make sure that your plan fits that time frame. If the next two weeks coming up are a little out of the ordinary, don’t not do your plan, but adjust it so that you feel confident that your chosen protocols will fit what’s coming up in your life.
EXAMPLE: I’m having a night out with friends this weekend and I want to have a some fun food and beverages, so I’ll select a plan that is okay with a few meals that can be whatever I want ... OR ... I’m going to be stuck at work late this week, so I’ll select a plan that has options I can pick up as carryout since I’ll be too tired to cook when I get home.
Now, clearly the above concepts don't cover all aspects of a nutrition program, such as how exactly you will be eating, but it gives you a primer to start narrowing down your options. Once you've gone through these three criteria, how do you find out which plan to select? Just test and measure. Ask yourself after your first two weeks do you feel better, worse, or the same? While your first 14 days likely won't be enough time to reach your end goals, it will be enough time for you to figure out how you're feeling, if changes have begun to occur, and the if the program feels comfortable for your lifestyle. If it's working, if it feeeeels good, keep going! If you've noticed no change or a change for the worse, try something else. Consider seeking the help of a nutrition professional! The process of searching for a plan that will work best for you as an individual can be daunting, but will prove well worth it once you're seeing results.