Make Your Diet Work For You

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.

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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?

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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? 

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16 thoughts on “Make Your Diet Work For You

  1. Amen to this whole post! I’ve never tried a specific diet because I’m not really interested in following any of them. Sometimes I’m curious about how hard I would find it to follow them though and whether I would notice a difference. But overall I’m happy with the way I eat and I’m not struggling with any digestive issues or my weight, so why change?

  2. I would have to agree that the best ‘diet’ is one that works for you and helps you stay nourished, happy and healthy while maintaining a balance. As a nurse, I would probably say when people tell me they are on Weight Watchers, I feel relieved because I find it is great in terms of balancing and helping people decide what works for them and then continue on from there even after the ‘diet’ is done. I’ve luckily never gotten sucked into any fad diets and try just to use the 80% 20% rule-which sometimes becomes more of a 70% 30% rule buuuut you gotta find balance!

    Great post!

    • Thanks Fiona! I actually don’t know a ton of people who have done WW but I do have one friend who lost a significant amount of weight on the plan over the course of about a year. It was great for her, because as you said it really just taught her portion control but wasn’t necessarily “eat this, not that”.

  3. I’ve never followed a diet plan, per se, but then again I’ve never really tried to lose weight. It’s always been about maintaining my weight & overall health in general, so I’ve never had to really restrict my diet. I actually don’t like most diet plans because it seems like they’re always cutting out something important to health. Like you said, I think most of them are effective in the short term, but they’re not sustainable. In general, I try to eat a balanced diet but allow for a bit of wiggle room. I think totally depriving yourself of food you like just sabotages you. So I limit my junk food or at least try to find healthier versions (like having frozen green yogurt instead of ice cream).

  4. Yep! Totally agree, the best diet plan is the one you can stick with. I actually just finished a 30 day plan but I came up with it myself so I don’t think it counts as sticking to a strict plan haha. I made sure that it was something I could follow with a little will power. Good post!

    • I think 30-day or 2-week or whatever plans to “clean up” what you’ve been eating can be a great idea! Especially when you come up with it yourself — that’s what I did last year when I did a modified Whole 30, I kept dairy and I know if I had eliminated EVERYTHING I was supposed to, I would have been miserable! When I kind of made up my own “rules”, it was still a challenge but I actually enjoyed it.

  5. ahhh – hits home. My big problem since having a baby is the amount of prep/clean up time that is involved with clean eating. I have no idea how to avoid it. The closest I have come is prepping a lot of our meals at one time, but even that sucks. 🙂

    • Prep is tough, and I don’t always prep on Sundays because honestly I sometimes can’t muster up the motivation to do so! I know some people spend hours on prep each Sunday, but I really hate it, haha. I think the best thing to do is try to do your best, a baby changes everything and you just might not have the time to do the kind of prep/clean up you did before. I think “clean eating” can come in lots of different forms, so as long as you and baby are healthy, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to reach unrealistic expectations!

      • We have definitely gotten a little slack since our wee one arrived. Not in a bad way I don’t think. Frozen veggies instead of Fresh. A lot more ground beef instead of chicken….that type of thing. Little tweaks that cut prep time in half. Still though, I sometimes wonder how it would feel to just eat out for an entire week…hahahaha

  6. I follow Weight Watchers and what I like best about it is the fact that I can eat what I want and fit that in plan, instead of having to work my life into a food plan.

    • Awesome! I have a friend who lost a lot of weight on WW, and I loved that she could go on living life as normal, she was just more conscious of portion sizes, etc. It made it easier for her to transition back to “real” life once she wasn’t officially on the plan anymore!

  7. Pingback: Figuring Out What Works: My Nutrition Plan | I Train Therefore I Eat.

  8. my boyfriend has been going through these same thoughts as of late- I love how you get everything into an organize post that’s not bashing one diet or the next. Just like not every type or workout is for everyone, neither is a diet! There’s just no “one size fits all” in life, I think!

    • It’s so true, but it can be hard to see that sometimes with all of the attention and pressure you get from some dieting communities. I know some people that feel true shame if they eat something that’s not strict paleo, even if it’s healthy and they love it! I find that ridiculous, and any strict food rules that make you feel shameful are a little too much for me!

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