As a nutrition professional, the question I am asked most frequently is, 'what is the best diet?' My professional answer to this, much to the disappointment of some and the excitement of others is this – whatever diet is compatible with your life that you can stick with long-term. That sounds a little like relationship advice, right? That's probably because there are a lot of similarities between choosing the right nutrition plan and finding a suitable mate.
Let's begin with dating. Initially, you're super excited and all you can think about. You put forth your best effort and work really hard to do everything just right, and sometimes you even pretend to like things that you don't (like football or picnics in Texas). You're filled with hope that they just might be "the one this time."
You are entirely consumed with this new relationship, and you'll even put aside other friendships and responsibilities to concentrate on this one person. You give up a lot of what you usually enjoy to try to make things work, but it still doesn't end well. You feel like you've once again been duped into believing that you'd found "the one," even though it wasn't meant to last from the beginning.
Sounds oddly familiar to dieting, right? You get excited at first with the promise that you've finally found the 'perfect' diet that will change your life forever. You put in the work, follow all the rules, measure portions, count calories, and eat only the things on your plan. You are totally consumed with the new diet, and you have to give up something you love, like pizza or birthday cake, or sometimes parties or eating out with friends.
You lose some weight, which gets you excited initially. Still, eventually, you get tired of always having to follow the rules and miss out on foods or outings you enjoy. You end the diet because it's simply too much work, and you know it will not last.
So how do you find the diet of your life, your soulmate nutrition plan? If you decide, or a medical professional tells you it's in your best interest to lose some weight, try this nutrition-relationship advice:
Try tracking your food for a couple of weeks using a food tracking app like MyFitnessPal. Track everything you eat and drink to know how many calories you consume and what foods those calories come from. It's usually pretty eye-opening to see that your morning Starbucks is higher in calories than 'just a coffee' should be. Think of it as looking for red flags at the beginning of a new relationship. Are they worth it?
Once you have that information, take a look at where you can realistically remove excess calories. Using the same example of Starbucks, maybe switch to a fat-free latte instead of that sugar-laden frappuccino with whipped cream on top. Try limiting that glass of wine to a serving size of 5 fl oz instead of the glass topped up to the brim. Pay attention to salad dressing and start reading food labels for serving sizes. Think of this as setting boundaries at the beginning of a new relationship.
Try to move more. I'm not speaking only of organized and planned exercise, which is certainly recommended, but general physical activity such as taking the stairs, parking farther away from the mall, and simply getting up from your desk more frequently. All of this NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis) adds up to more calories burned. This is like the infatuation stage of dating, planning dates, walks on the beach, etc. Being deliberate about your time together.
In order to make a relationship successful, there has to be sustainable consistency. Great marriages are full of commitment, compromising when needed and sustainable levels of attention to your partner's needs. Great relationships don't happen overnight; they take time.
In order to make a diet/nutrition plan successful, there also has to be sustainable consistency. A great nutrition plan is also full of commitment to your health, adjusting for holidays and life events, and consistency. Losing weight doesn't happen overnight, and neither does weight loss. It takes time, commitment, and patience. Lots and lots of patience.