Perhaps you tried some, or all of the above-mentioned diets? Or maybe they are all just too intimidating to even consider at this point in the year, especially in the throes of the holiday season.
While I am not one to prescribe one specific diet to a client, there are elements of all the major dieting trends of 2016 that I think can be adopted in one way or another. It is HUGELY important to know where our food comes from! But, some people live in "food deserts" where there are no local farmers markets. Should they not eat vegetables because they're forced to get them frozen or in a can? It is also really important that people become less relient on carbohydrates in the form of packaged goods to get through their day. These carbs are often devoid of nutrients and only curb the appetite for a short period of time. However, it's unreasonable to expect a working parent to only buy fresh produce and whole grains in bulk when she first has to just get through the store without Tommy taking a dive out of the shopping cart.
What I'd like to talk about today are safe ways to adapt a dietary change as part of a lifestyle shift, not just a diet-of-the-month. It may be tempting to only eat this or elliminate ALL of that , especially at the start of a momentous change, when motivation is still really high. But then reality sets in. Office parties. Taking a client out to dinner. Mom's sweet potato pie.
There are good reasons to go low-carb. I, for one, am in a month-long recovery cycle. I am laying off running mileage completely until my ankle heals (you can read all about my Pinhoti adventure here) and otherwise scaling back my cardiovascular activity and focusing on core and upper body strength. As such, I am burning fewer calories... conveniently, right before Christmas.
As it stands, carbohydrates are in a lot of things I love. So I am making a effort to cut down on my carb intake not by elliminating it, but simply eating other things first. By having a checklist of things I have to eat before I can have some chips or a beer - 2-3 fruits, 2-3 vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats - I am getting full on the things my body needs most to repair and rebuild muscle, maintain healthy body composition, and keep my immune system functioning strong.
What Am I NOT Going To Do?
I am not going to announce that I'm "gluten-free" when I'm out to eat. This trivializes the severity of diseases and conditions that actually require a person to be gluten-free.
I am not going to deprive myself. I am still eating lots of things! Just trying to eat healthier things first.
I am not going "all in" with a dietary change. I'm used to starting my day with something sweet. So I put a little maple syrup on my 3-Ingredient Pancakes (mine are actually 4 ingredients - I add peanut butter powder to mine). I still take creamer in my coffee. Lunch is easier: fruit, veg, yogurt, done. Dinner is a little more lenient: I will typically have some sort of grain with my main dish (I love me some pasta!) but I load of up veggies as much as I can, too.
I am not going to cave in to the Cookie Monster. In order to snack smarter, I try to always have some easily-transportable fruit on hand (orange, apple, banana). Lara bars also fill me up and satisfy my sweet-tooth if I hit that mid-afternoon slump.
What Can YOU Do To Make a Change Right Now?
Yes, right now. As in today. Why? Because waiting until after Christmas, or after New Year's Eve is an easy way to perpetually delay a change that could be hugely beneficial to your health.
1. Make ONE change during ONE meal, ONE week at a time. (There is a fantastic post about this which you can read here.) By committing to one change at a time versus an entire diet overhaul, you are more likely to stick to your plan. As you go through week by week, change by change, you start to fill up more on the good foods you ought to be eating and think less about the junk food you were used to relying on to get through the day.
2. Don't sweat the details. If your fruits and vegetables aren't seasonal, or local, or even organic, I'd still rather see you get them on your plate than avoiding them because they're not the "right" kind. Wash fresh produce, of course, and perhaps familiarize yourself with "dirty" foods that are better bought organic, but if you have to buy frozen green beans, buy frozen green beans. If your tomatoes come in a can, fine! What's most important is that you get used to introducing more fruits and vegetables. Again- meal by meal, week by week.
3. Budget. When establishing better eating habits, meals out can often sabotage our efforts. But if you only allow yourself to eat out, say, one lunch and one dinner a week, you not only save money (to buy the best produce!) but you can allow yourself to relax a little when you do eat out because you are eating well for 90% of the week. For me, this initally meant that I relied a lot on Lean Cuisines (back when I was single and broke). But as I got more used to shopping to stock my fridge and pantry, I started planning meals and actually cooking dinners instead of throwing them in the microwave.
What Should Stay From 2016?
As I mentioned, focusing on what is in our food and where it comes from is definitely a big plus in my book.
Paying attention to carbohydrates and refined sugars should definitely be a priority for those who need to lose a lot of weight for health reasons, as well as clients who wish to maintain their weight through the holidays but know they will not be working out as much.
Fat's reputation seems to change from year to year, but I definitely believe it is crutial to any diet as it optimizes nutrient absorption and helps us feel full. Opt for polyunsaturated fats that can be found in nuts, eggs, avocado and fish. And you know what? It's OK to cook with butter! Obviously we're not poaching everything in it like Julia Child (although I did make her butter-poached chicken once and it was.... amazing). But I think that when we have a conscious connection with our food - that is, we aren't trying to trick our bodies with fat or sugar substitutes - we are more mindful of just how much we consume.
Protein continues to be a major focus of just about any diet. I encourage clients who are vegetarian or vegan to take the time to look up plant-based proteins and make sure they get enough of them in their diet.
And What Needs To Go?
Going completely sugar-free. I know, this pre-dates 2016 but it's still prevallent in certain fitness circles. The problem with cutting out ALL grains and fruits is that the brain is left to starve, as it does require some carbohydrate to function. You also run the risk of taxing your kidneys, as these diets are also commonly associated the intense, high volume exercise that causes a lot of muscle breakdown. Also, because this diet relies on far richer foods, it is easier to eat a LOT more than one might burn during that workout!
Fat-loading. Beyond Mafetone, there is this idea that eating loads of fat will somehow train the body to ONLY burn fat. Unfortunately, this is not how energy systems work. Any diet that focuses exclusively on only one macronutrient can still lead to over-eating, and as I mentioned in a previous blog post, excess calories in ANY form turn into fat.
Any diet that claims to target or "melt" parts of your body. I will say it again because it bears worth repeating: That is not how energy systems work! Your body is a complex machine and you can't just turn a burner on in a certain part of your body like a stove. It seems cool to envision a food substance that can enter our bloodstream and just blast away at fat cells like an action movie sequence, but that is not how it happens! So many people are willing to take this herb or that plant in pill form without knowing how their body with react to it because it will supposedly perform this miracle within the body, yet they struggle to just eat an apple! It boggles my mind...
So there you have it, my Yes's and No's for 2016 diet trends. What have you tried this year? What do you want to change for 2017??