When it comes to eating healthy, the first and most important thing to say is that there is no perfect or correct diet. There is no one size fits all, and despite what you hear from all the “experts” on social media, the news, your favorite magazine, a google search or wherever else you may find recommendations, everyone needs an individualized plan. They don’t know you or your relevant medical, genetic, social or cultural history. What worked for them may or may not work for you. This doesn’t mean you can’t use an eating plan as a template (Paleo, Mediterranean, DASH, plant based, etc). Just know that you will need to make some tweaks and changes to make it work for you.
The next question you might be asking is, “what will actually work for me?” First, we talk about what is universally accepted and then share several different strategies that work for most people, most of the time. From there, we determine what works for you and fine tune it to continue working in the long-term. Take weight loss as an example. Americans often struggle with weight loss, but even if those who successfully lose weight often regain it later (plus a few pounds). There are several reasons for this, but it’s largely tied to the survival mechanism programed into our biology.
If what you did to lose weight isn’t sustainable for the rest of your life, then you will eventually revert back to the same patterns that allowed or facilitated the weight gain in the first place. Your metabolism will have slowed down due to the weight loss (biology), you gain back the weight plus some for the next “famine.” Here are some things to consider when it comes improving your health through thoughtful diet choices.
- Any changes you make to improve your eating to assist in weight loss must be behavior/lifestyle changes and made permanent. Small permanent changes are better than drastic but temporary ones. This applies to nutrition changes for ANY reason, not just weight loss. Cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, or any other condition impacted by nutrition will get worse within days or weeks of reverting back to poor eating.
- The current food environment in the U.S. can work against you. Most of the food that’s in our normal diet is engineered to drive consumption. Food scientists and research laboratories are working to find the perfect combination of taste, texture and mouth feel to make food irresistible, leading to overconsumption.
- All the experts agree – you must significantly decrease your reliance on processed, refined and convenience food. Make eating real food a priority! Almost any of the popular diet plans will work to help you lose weight and improve health if it means lowering your intake of processed foods and sustaining that particular way of eating for the rest of your life.
Small Changes Add Up
When it comes to creating a healthy diet, small, manageable changes are the best place to begin. If you don’t cook much, try cooking one day a week. Make sure the meal includes lots of colorful plant foods and make a double recipe you can have for leftovers for lunch. Keep your favorite recipes – those that everyone likes or are easy to make – and increase the number of days you cook over time.
Another simple but effective idea is to “eat the colors of the rainbow.” This goes a long way towards eating a more plant-based diet and helps you be mindful about what you’re putting in your mouth. The six basic color families (red, blue/purple, orange, yellow, green, and white/tan) each contain their own powerful antioxidants and are great sources of the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function at its best.
Lastly, create an environment that will help you succeed – make your home a nutritional fortress! If your home isn’t free from foods that tempt you when you’re hungry or cause you to overeat when you consume them, clean out your refrigerator and pantry today. If it’s a food that you can eat one serving and stop, it’s probably fine in small amounts. But if you eat one serving and find yourself going back for more or finishing the package, it needs to go. Stock up on the foods that will help you meet your goals. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your favorite treats in moderation – just don’t keep them in the house!
Are you interested in learning more effective changes you can make and developing a healthy eating plan? Call CHI Memorial Integrative Medicine Associates at (423) 643-2246 today to schedule an appointment.