I would venture to bet that most of us have read about or researched at least one diet at some point in our lives, in an effort to lose weight or just be healthier. There is information everywhere, on every talk show, magazine, news channel and social media- information about how to be healthy, lose belly fat, look younger, blah blah blah blah blah. It's somewhat overwhelming. The crazy thing about diets is that there is no one-size-fits-all, which I like to think of as a lovely testament to how unique and special we all are. What diet works for one person may be seriously detrimental to another. After studying many diets in my Health Coaching program the only conclusion that could be drawn was that you cannot preach one diet, you must encourage people to learn about themselves, experiment and find out what works best for them. It takes more effort, yes, but it is also much less discouraging than going 110% into a diet and seeing zero, or even negative, results, It is for this reason that I am a huge proponent for creating your own body wisdom, not taking mine.
This is a slow process that can take years to perfect and can change often, just the way your body changes often. It promotes awareness and (literally) trusting your gut. Eat slowly and carefully- what tastes especially good, what feels especially good. The first clue I had to my nut intolerance was my strong dislike for the taste of them. The first step is to clean up your diet - remove as much "junk" as possible.
The less processed the better off you are. It's simple- meat, veggies, fruits, whole grains. Despite what we have grown to believe, you do not need dairy, or processed snacks, or pretty much anything out of the middle section of the grocery store. I do 90% of my shopping on the right side of the store that typically has the produce, meats and dried goods (rice and beans). Yes, treats are certainly in order, but the majority of your diet should be simple. If I have treats in the house- I eat them- ravenously. I'm no saint, So my key is just them- sometimes a matter of eating well starts with not buying crap that will tempt you. Why would you torture yourself??
The thing with simplicity it, the processed foods have sooooo much stuff in them that if you are having a negative reaction to any one of them it is almost impossible to find out- but if your diet consists of straight-forward one-to-five ingredient items it is much easier to draw conclusions on what is and is no working. Also, a note on dairy: I know most of you love it, I used to love it until I was living in a place where I couldn't access it. After months of only having minimal dairy in my diet, once I came home it became very clear that I couldn't have it anymore, it destroys my stomach. When you stuff your body with food it can't have it eventually just stops fighting back, which is why so many people who eat dairy believe that it isn't actually a problem. The wonderful thing is, now that my body has been cleaned up from dairy I very rarely crave it.
Another key with "simple" is to actually keep it simple! We are incredibly skilled at making things far more complicated than it needs to be. I love to cook, that is one arena that I joyfully complicate. But if you don't like to work that works too! "Simple" doesn't have to mean making your own bread from scratch. Start where you are comfortable, and happy. Nothing is more meditative to me than cooking, so I love to make broths, breads and sauces from scratch. If that doesn't work for you then that is fine! Grilled meats, simple salads or sautéed veggies gets the nutrition to you the same way that some fandangled dish does. Start there, then maybe as you learn to love your food you will also learn to love the hands that create the meals and the work that goes into it. But maybe you won't, and that is fine too. I'm a big believer in energy- if you hate the process of making your meal, you will literally be eating your anger. Be mindful of what you are putting out and what you are taking in.
Once you simplify your diet it is just a matter of awareness. Listen to your body, it's trying to tell you something. If you aren't a very picky eater, then be aware of the things that you are craving, or that you really, really like to eat. Think less, eat more. When I'm not thinking too hard about a "well-rounded" diet I go straight for meat and veggies- I love bread, but ultimately when I don't think about it, it's often left out of the diet. I've slowly come to realize that when I do eat a carb heavy meal that I feel very sluggish after. Did I come to this conclusion because I said "I am going to leave all bread out of my diet"? Heck no! I don't have that kind of will power and I truly do love bread. That came from allowing my food choices to be driven by what makes me feel good. This means that this conclusion came from a long period of time. Regardless of what scientists say is best for your body, you CANNOT force your body and mind into habits, even if they are healthy. So eat, then feel. Do you get tired, does your belly hurt, do you get gassy? Or do you feel light, energized, strong? Gas isn't just funny, it's a great indicator that things aren't being happily digested.
Another big key of diets is timing. I know that I can eat a bigger, heavier meal in the morning with bready-things. If I ate that same meal for dinner time I would feel terrible. I'm running around all day so breakfast is my free pass to eat whatever and however much of what I want because most of it will be out of my system by the end of the day. Dinner, on the other hand, is in your belly for a few lazy hours before you go to sleep. It is just sitting there, slowly digesting. Just imagine then if you had salad and chicken for dinner, or if you ate a pound of pasta- the difference is huge. One will help you feel better when you wake up, the other will help you to not wake up. Dinner is intended to get you to bedtime, which is likely just 2-3 hours away. You do not need much nutrition because you are unwinding and resting. Breakfast requires lots of nutrition to kick your day off. Lunch I typically regard as somewhere in between- a medium sized meal balanced with a bit of everything. I can tell you right now that if I eat salad for breakfast I am not a happy camper. Dinner though makes me feel fantastic.
Ultimately, the key is to feel good. Guilt doesn't make you feel good, nor does deprivation, nor does eating crappy food and feeling sluggish the rest of the afternoon. My weight is perfect right now and it's not because I diet (I eat like a champ), but because I finally nailed down the foods that I can eat in large quantities without getting a nice little spare tire around the midsection. Back on the subject of energy- you absolutely cannot hate your body into perfection. Love is finding perfection in everything, Hate is finding criticism in everything. Food should bring you pleasure both in cooking and in eating, you should then feel love for the body you are nourishing. So be kind, have fun, be patient and eat up!
To wrap this piece of the puzzle up with some conclusions, know this:
Chelsea M Latham
When I was a kid my mom would occasionally refer to me as a Reverend, because I had the need to speak so passionately about just about everything. Little did she know that some day I would build a business upon sharing the wisdom that I am so passionate about. So here you go, here are some bits and bobs of thoughts strung together for your enjoyment.