We’re going to take a break from the ever-growing array of Gym Etiquette faux pas that we encounter any given day at the gym and talk about diet faux pas instead. If you’ve spent ANY time Googling diets or how to lose weight you’ve encountered literally THOUSANDS of hits. Anything from low carb and paleo, to high fat, prepackaged foods and shakes, to fasting. There’s no shortage of know-it-all’s in the diet marketplace. Interestingly enough, if you already have an idea of which one you want to do, you’ll most likely be able to find multitudes of very scientific sounding articles supporting whatever you’ve chosen. I Googled Cabbage Soup Diet, (did you even know that one is still out there?) and found all kinds of things supporting it. Thank goodness there are also a multitude of sites debunking it.
My point is, the Internet is full of complete and utter nonsense and rubbish and it takes someone with knowledge and discernment to see through the often times erroneous information they’re feeding you. And as everyone who has been in the fitness industry long enough knows, what’s good for you today may end up being detrimental to your goals tomorrow, so think twice, maybe three times, before you jump on ANY bandwagon.
There are some hard and fast truths when it comes to your nutritional choices, and after that, it depends upon you; your metabolism, how your body functions, your activity level and what you’re needing to fuel (think desk jockey vs. Olympic sprinter), food allergies or intolerances, disease processes (diabetes, for example), lifestyle and, quite frankly, determination, focus and DESIRE. All of those things taken into consideration are necessary in figuring out YOUR best course of action. Do you think, in reading all of those articles on the amazing and jaw dropping benefits of DIET X, that they are talking directly to you? How could they? They don’t even know YOU! They have statistics supporting their plans and it all sounds very legit to the average person. But how many of you have actually gone in search of those studies and read through them to determine the factors and parameters used in order to judge the efficacy for yourself? VERY FEW to none would be my guess. And yet, someone throws some case studies at you and BAM, it’s a nutritional truth! And even if the stats are from a credible source, is it the right choice for you based on the parameters I’ve listed above?
And testimonials? There are millions of testimonials.! You’ve read them…”Miracle diet!” “Nothing else worked until I took this pill and now I have the body of a supermodel!” “I lost 57 pounds in 3 weeks and have kept it off and I don’t even have to exercise or change my lifestyle at all!” Complete and utter HOOEY.
So, I mentioned some hard and fast truths when it comes to diet. Here they are, and forgive me if I’ve missed a few, this is a blog and not a thesis, but you get the idea…
1) You must eat to survive; food is NOT optional.
2) Your body requires a multitude of nutrients in order to function, and the right balance of nutrients in order to function optimally.
3) The more processed foods you eat, the unhealthier you will become. It may not show on the outside, but it WILL wreak havoc on the inside. And quite frankly, if it’s full of chemicals and hormones or is made in a lab, it’s not good for you.
4) Exercise is not optional in the quest for a healthy body. Like it or not, our bodies are DESIGNED for movement and in the absence of movement, dysfunction begins. And like a domino effect, one dysfunctional process leads to another and another….It may begin with a few aches and pains, but it will lead to a complete breakdown of functional movement which in turn leads to disease.
5) If you eat far more calories than you burn, you will gain body fat.
6) If you don’t eat enough calories every day, your metabolism will slow to a crawl and you will hold onto body fat.
7) Water intake is absolutely necessary for proper metabolic function.
Now, let’s take this short list and match your diet du jour against it and if it fails in any of these rather obvious dietary necessities, RUN AWAY. The Cabbage soup diet? FAIL. Eating 500 calories a day? And I don’t care what magical formulation they give you for weight loss to ingest along with this extreme calorie depletion, its terribly UNHEALTHY and a definite FAIL. Anything that says that exercise is unnecessary? FAIL.
ALL of the extreme diets out there fail this first test miserably!
Once you’ve weeded out the obvious culprits to an unhealthy weight loss plan, it’s time to put the others to the next test and see they fit your lifestyle and goals. And here’s a very important question to ask of your self. Can I do this diet FOREVER? Is it maintainable and will it provide me with a lifetime of dietary health? Can I manage this on my own on a daily basis? Now we’ve eliminated a few more, haven’t we? You see, people have gotten away from a diet of long-term health and wellness and we’ve become a society of REACTIVE diets. Instead of a nice steady current of food management, we’ve taken it to extremes. For example…”I’m so tired of dieting so I’m going to eat everything in sight, then when the fat gets out of control I’ll starve myself and run everyday for weeks until the weight is gone. Then I’ll go back to eating whatever I want until the fat takes over again!” We’re not living a continuous life of good nutrient intake anymore, now we’re just attempting to counteract our consistently poor nutritional choices. Our bodies get tossed around violently going from one unhealthy situation to another, and yet we expect it to continue to keep functioning properly for us! In my humble opinion, the diet that will take you through life giving you the absolute best chance at long term health is quite simply this; consistently eating healthy and nutrient dense foods that you tolerate well while allowing for special indulgences along the way so as not to develop an unhealthy need to binge on things you believe to be “bad”, all the while keeping your heart, lungs, and muscles in top shape. There it is. BOOM. I don’t even need to link to any statistics or scientific studies! And it wouldn’t even fill up the first page of a book! It’s time to get off the diet rollercoaster, stop being REACTIVE and start treating your body like the beautiful and incredible gift it is.
If you’ve gotten yourself into a situation where food is controlling your life and your self-esteem and consuming your thoughts, then you have a problem and you may need to seek outside help. And the help you need is out there! But you need to look hard to find someone that isn’t endorsing a particular product to give you the direction you need to live the life you deserve. Find someone that spends the time asking about YOU! Someone that listens to what you’ve been through and not someone that is thinking the whole time how to make their product your savior. And once you’ve found that person that you know truly cares about your future, has the knowledge to help you overcome the obstacles and not just in the next few months, but in the long term, then listen to them. That person should be willing to admit they don’t know everything. They should leave their ego behind and admit if something is beyond their scope of knowledge and point you in the right direction. And if you find that person, then let them be that ONE VOICE. Stop listening to your friends and colleagues raving about their latest magical fat cure. It doesn’t matter if they lost 15 pounds in 2 weeks and they can fit in their skinny jeans, it’s not forever and I guarantee a few weeks or months from now they’ll be on the next magical diet bandwagon. Don’t be that person! Treat your body with respect EVERYDAY and I guarantee that it will thank you!
The old story of the tortoise and the hare rings very true in this case. And if you’re too young to have heard that story while growing up, or if it’s been awhile since you’ve read it, then I suggest you spend time Googling that instead!
Until next time, eat well, laugh often, exercise your body, and most importantly, be thankful for the gift that looks back at you in the mirror everyday!