When you think about dieting, does your mind travel to thoughts of restriction, control, and other aspects of purposeful weight loss?
Many of my clients have shared that weight loss is the first thing they associate with ‘diet.’ If it’s what comes to mind for you as well, you’re in good company! Popular culture has taken the term ‘diet’ and made it heavy, pun intended. The word “diet” feels loaded with restrictions and the expectation of thinness.
But a diet should not be solely weight-related. It can be, and rather, should be, health-focused.
Regardless of other possible motives, when you’re able to focus on eating healthfully, other positive outcomes tend to follow. Like more physical energy, more appreciation for your body at any size, more zest for the things you care about, and sometimes, yes, even weight loss.
When I get asked, “which diet is best?”, I often share a few simple guidelines to consider when making a change to the way you eat.
First and Foremost, It Is Important to Change the Way We Think About Diet Culture
Part of the allure of the most popular diets is the black & white “eat this, not that” approach. Keto diets reduce carb intake, fasting, low fat, and low calorie diets restrict certain macronutrients or food in general. The South Beach Diet, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, and other name-brand diets offer ready-made meals and very specific items to build your diet around. These types of restrictive diets do often lead to short term weight loss, then leave individuals to gain the weight back (often plus some) after the diet is over. This is often called “yo-yo dieting”, as it becomes a cycle of on-again, off-again restrictive eating habits that can be harmful to the metabolism and one’s mental and emotional well being.
A diet focused on health is more dynamic and sustainable over a lifetime once you understand the basics.
A Focus on Health- “The Basics”
Eating a variety of foods that are minimally processed, or as close to their natural form as possible, is a good place to start. That means choosing a wide range of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, and simple proteins as the building blocks of your meals. Eating enough is also important. Restricting your intake of food or certain food groups for the purpose of weight loss is, essentially, starving yourself and may lead to unsustainable weight loss and emotional distress. I promote nourishing ourselves with real food over denying our bodies of the fuel and nutrients we need to be healthy and happy.
Ultra-processed foods, even if labeled as “plant-based” or “natural”, are further from nature and typically foods I would encourage enjoying in moderation. That’s not to say you can never have Oreos (for example), you just don’t want ultra-processed foods and drinks to be a significant part of your lifestyle. In a health-focused diet, the goal is to maximize the benefit our bodies receive from the nutrients and minerals found in foods, most of which should be whole foods. Yet also in a health-focused diet, thes goal is to also maximise the emotional and mental health benefit eating can provide. So I emphasize, enjoy the foods that bring you joy, and if they are processed, practice moderation.
Getting started is simple if you remember two key things. #1 What you eat – stick close to nature. #2 How you prepare your food. There are some excellent recipes under resources to help you get started and offer meal ideas. Healthline also has an informative and skimmable article about how different methods of cooking affect nutrition.
The Silver Linings of Better Nutrition
In addition to gaining a general feeling of wellness as you address any health or dietary restrictions you may have, eating a health-focused diet has some added benefits. You may find that along with having more energy, you can also think more clearly, and even enjoy a better relationship with food and your body image. Your skin may become more clear as well. You may feel less bloated and uncomfortable after meals. If you struggle with issues like pancreatitis, diabetes, high blood pressure, IBS, etc. you will likely experience fewer flareups.
If you desire a flexible diet that addresses your specific health and wellness concerns, consider reaching out directly. I offer complimentary consultations and can help you determine possible options for the best path toward optimal health and nutrition.