How to find your perfect diet (& addressing your most FAQ)
“Eat food as your medicines. Otherwise you have to eat medicines as your food.”
Another take on one of Hippocrates’ famous quotes of letting food be thy medicine & medicine be thy food. In other words, food can either help or harm us, yet there are so many variables- no wonder why following a diet or some sort of plan (even if just for a bit) is really enticing. We may ask ourselves questions like, ‘what foods exactly?’, ‘is it really thaat bad?’, ‘I eat this and I feel fine- all good right?’, ‘which foods to I eat/not eat?’, do I seriously need to give up ___?’, ‘how much is too much?’, etc. I believe you get the picture. We’ve seen dozes of diets over the decades, yet at some point we hit a plateau (especially in weight), realize that we want to be allowed to eat certain foods (we reluctantly gave up), and not worry about whether or not our body will deceive us in how we look physically, or how we feel inside.
Our brain likes to compartmentalize information, one of the reasons a structured diet where you can find all the rules and set-up you need- works! Though deep down we know we’re super individual in our genetics, health concerns, and how we function, yet our body isn’t going to guarantee us results in 2 weeks or 90 days, so how do we really gauge what’s going on? Improved bloodwork & testing, energy levels, mental clarity, weight loss, no more monthly Ibuprofen for ladies, more present, better sleep, increased libido, more energy/endurance during workouts, and you love taking time for yourself (after all, food is one of our most basic needs!). More on how to prioritize these strategies below.
Physiologically, even if you have an ‘off day’, or unsure if you ate something ‘wrong’, your body has incredible detox and metabolism processes that can get rid of it! Symptoms occur when the body is like ‘Nope, I’ve been doing all that I can to keep you free of symptoms, and now things are tougher. I’m going to let you know, but how I tell you- well, I’m sure you’ll figure it out.’ It could be as obvious as an immediate drop in energy, or more subtle like pants becoming a little tighter than usual. However, the fact that there has been some success on these diets emphasizes that we know how important food is to our goals and feeling good (whatever that means to us), but our individuality also means that even what can be a healthful food for some people, may be detrimental for others.
Here are the most common starting points that are most effective in beginning to uncover what your body truly needs. Whatever step you choose, do for about 2-3 weeks, and grade yourself on a 1-10 scale in the beginning and at the end. If you like, go back to what you were eating before and see how you feel:
High fat? High carb? Low fat? Low carb? High protein?- Yes, these are all different, and I’ve found in looking at many diet diaries that people generally feel better when there’s more fats & protein in their diet than starchy carbohydrates. Think about your meals over the past few days, and where you may be able to reduce a starchy carbohydrate. Replace it instead with a handful of nuts, half an avocado, apple & almond butter, turkey stick, hummus & veggies, half a sweet potato (and it’s a vegetable!), etc. Carbohydrates, protein, and fats are all called macronutrients. It’s common that when one varies (either increases or decreases), the others will naturally follow suit & vary in the opposite direction- so you actually don’t have to think much.
Regular snacking versus letting your body rest- This is another common pattern where constantly snacking is making our body do more than it is required, taking away processes that could be improving metabolism, balancing out hormones, reducing inflammation (i.e. think more efficiency at the gym), and giving us energy. We are not meant to be eating regularly, and even have processes in place in our body where at any point in time stored carbohydrates, proteins, and fats can be mobilized for energy. And tapping into those stores helps improve our body’s function! We can do this by minimum 12 hours between dinner and breakfast, and 3-4 hours between meals.
Chow down on 3-9 cups of veggies, especially dark leafy greens & cruciferous vegetables per day- Dark leafy’s= spinach, kale, collards; Cruciferous= brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli. Add in some mixed greens, mushrooms, asparagus, onion, arugula, carrots, celery, zucchini, radishes, etc. They pack a huge bang for their buck nutritionally, super high in many vitamins and minerals needed for biochemical reactions needed for detox, metabolism, thyroid (what controls our metabolism), hormone balance (also controls weight, energy, sleep), blood sugar regulation, and getting a good night’s sleep. Fun fact- it’s pretty much only America that pushes dessert (or a bowl of carbs) for breakfast. Vary it up a bit with an omelette, dinner for breakfast, or some mixed together + your favorite protein powder.
The clearer we become on the inside, furthers our clarity in not only our thought processes for the day, but a natural high on really enjoying how we feel! And do this enough- we’ll know how to bounce right back even after we have certain foods that don’t quite give us this same light feeling. Which is totally ok! It happens! Yet the time we take to understand what fuels our body can save us years and decades of frustration of constantly searching and hoping for the next diet that will solve all of our issues (well maybe not all…). Yes it takes work, yet is it is worth it. In fact, to keep things simple, here are some recipes that are just as delicious as they are straightforward!