There are so many diet and food plans out there, from juicing (don’t even get me started on this trend), to paleo, to the more extreme Whole 30, to Weight Watchers and everything in between, there is something for everyone to try. The hope is that you will find something that works for you, but what the experts don’t always tell you is that sometimes that takes a little — ok a lot — of hard work on your part. I would never recommend that everyone eat paleo, or that everyone follow in intermittent fasting type of diet, because I honestly don’t think that there is one style or plan that will work for every single person. Never mind food preferences, taking into account religion, culture, schedule, family, time and financial restrictions, it’s pretty ludicrous to group everyone into one diet category.
One thing we can do though, through some sleuthing and (sometimes frustrating) trial and error, is figure out what works for you and your body. And when I say what “works” for you, I don’t just mean what makes you lose weight or lose body fat, what I mean is the diet and meal plan that fits within your lifestyle, making your every day better instead of creating more stress in the process.
If you feel like you have to eat paleo because all of your best friends are doing it and because so-and-so blogger claims that it’s the best, but it’s causing you more stress and financial strain to keep up with, is it really the best plan for you?
Don’t you think it would be more beneficial to find something that fits within your unique lifestyle, while still allowing you to be the healthiest version of you? I sure do. And that’s why I strongly believe that you must make your diet work for you. You should not feel like you are a slave to a certain dietary style, depriving yourself at every turn and feeling miserable all the while. Want to be mostly paleo but still eat bread or dairy once in a while? That’s totally fine in my world, as long as you’re doing so in a healthful way. The problem is that when people do something part-way like this, they tend to feel guilty, like they’re doing something wrong. There’s nothing wrong about making healthy choices for yourself, and more importantly, you should never feel guilty even if those choices don’t fit your prescribed “plan”. Because the plan has to fit you.
From a personal standpoint, I’ve tried a handful of dietary styles over the past couple of years, a couple purely out of curiosity or health reasons and a few really just to report back on the blog. I’ve tried gluten free, intermittent fasting, carb backloading, and a modified Whole 30. I’ve gone sugar free, grain free and dairy free at multiple points along the way. My biggest take away from all of these? There was not one complete plan that fit my life 100%.
When I tried Intermittent Fasting (IF), I found that I leaned out quite easily, but became stressed about such a strict eating schedule every single day, often having to bring all three meals to work with me. I liked it, but it was kind of a pain due to my work schedule. Carb Back Loading (CBL) was a total fail for me, leaving me one carb-free meal away from becoming homicidal. Gluten free is easy for me, but I’ve realized over time that gluten really has no ill effect on me, so there’s honestly no point in avoiding it all together. I’ve realized that I feel great when I’m sugar free, but it’s really tough (and no fun!) to live a life of 100% sugar free-ness all the time, and I’ve also found that I feel better when I do include some grains in my diet, believe it or not! As you can see, there have been good and bad (with the exception of CBL, which for me was just bad, bad, bad) with each dietary style that I’ve tried, so what in the world tells me that I have to stick with just one?
I think the more important thing is finding something that you can live with, that you want to live with, rather than eating in a way that you think you are “supposed to” but that makes you unhappy. To be honest, ever since I started paying attention to healthy eating and nutrition years ago, a lot of the things I used to find delicious just don’t appeal to me anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I still love treats and certainly eat my fair share of cupcakes, but I’m no longer drawn to the loads of processed junk that I used to eat on a regular basis. Maybe that’s a product of becoming older with a better paycheck, but I think it’s also a product of teaching my body over time how much better it feels when the foods going into it are actually nourishing, and not just chemical-laden flavor bombs that are found in every aisle of major grocery stores.
But eating to nourish yourself and to keep yourself healthy does not mean that there is one set of rules that you must follow. We all have unique tolerances to certain foods, we all have unique preferences. So why take that away with one standard set of food “rules” that we’re all supposed to abide by? Just because your friends are paleo doesn’t mean that you have to be paleo as well. Just because your friends are gluten free, doesn’t mean that eating gluten is making you fat. There’s a lot of confusion out there about what we all should and shouldn’t be eating, and besides some very basic guidelines (eat your veggies!), there is a lot of room for variation while still being healthy. It just might take a little bit of work to find your specific balance between nutritionally healthy and happy, but it’s worth it, I promise.
On Monday I’ll be back with a breakdown of my own dietary plan that I’ve come up with over time and how I got there. This is the plan that works for me and makes me feel my best, without making me feel like I’m living by a set of someone else’s guidelines that don’t even work for me.
Readers: Do you follow a specific diet plan? Have you ever strictly followed a plan such as Whole 30 or Weight Watchers? Do you find it easier to have strict rules regarding your eating or does that stress you out?