Scores of diet plans have been in the spotlight for several years now. While many have been studied and confers a number of potential health benefits, there’s no one-size-fits-all way of eating. People who were successful in their weight loss journey have tried or at least heard of several diet plans. Luckily, they were able to settle into their own nutrition protocol and now reap the benefits of healthy eating. It all starts with a deep understanding of your body and how it works.
So stop blindly following other’s strategy and start creating your own! Find which nutritional groove will work best for you by following the tips mentioned below.
1. Check Your Lifestyle
Lifestyle is your day to day behaviors and functions in work, activities, recreation, and diet. In the past few years, this has become an important factor for health. According to WHO, approximately 60% of related factors to individual health and quality of life are associated with lifestyle (1). So, before deciding on a diet strategy, think realistically about your present lifestyle.
Do you have enough time every week to cook for your meals, exercise, and track progress? Will your daily schedules allow you to eat dinner before a specific time every single day? How often do you travel? Will you be getting access to a kitchen during mealtimes or do you normally eat on the go?
Your diet must fit your schedule and lifestyle without requiring too many radical changes. This will help you stick with it long term and be successful. Think about the areas that you can compromise and be honest with yourself about what you cannot change in your habits.
2. Know Your Eating Style
Meal frequency, food preference, and dining out are all factors in a successful diet plan. If you go to restaurants more often than you cook or you prefer on-the-go snacks for breakfast, it will be impossible for you to try a strategy that involves complicated recipes and strict home-cooked meals. How often do you eat? Do you want 3 large meals daily or smaller, frequent eats?
3. List Your Nutritional Needs
Our nutritional needs change as we move through different life stages. It is extremely important to consider the extra demands placed on your body by these changes (2). Several diet plans promise fast and easy results, but at what cost? There are those that only focus on consuming a limited variety of foods and restricting calorie intake to an extreme level. These poor nutrition plans will not last. You have to choose one that will meet your personal caloric and nutritional needs with many healthy, natural foods. At times, supplements are recommended to fill in nutrient gaps to keep you healthy. Consult with your doctor and a dietitian to know your nutritional needs based on your age, family health history, lifestyle, and overall health.
4. Clear Out Your Expectations and Life Goals
Life goals may impact one’s ability to achieve and sustain dietary and health goals (3). Do you want to tone up or gain muscle? If yes, look for one that is high in lean protein. Do you want to lose weight for better health? Then a diet that meets your daily nutritional needs through smaller but frequent meals will be your best option. If you are unsure how and where to begin, ask a dietitian for help. When setting your goals, start small and make increments later on. Setting and achieving smaller goals will keep you motivated for meeting greater goals.
5. Work Within Your Budget
Food prices are among the main determinants of consumption or diet patterns. High food prices may have negative effects on nutritional status and health (4). Restocking your pantry to make way for a new, healthier eating plan can get costly if you do without proper assessment and planning. You have to decide on a plan and make healthy food choices that are within your budget. Review your weekly or monthly food expenses and check if that is sustainable. A manageable food budget is the key to long-term health success. If necessary, look for cheaper but healthy alternatives to minimize stress.
6. Match It With Your Exercise Plan
Are you owning your workout? Exercise is an important piece of your fitness and health puzzle and it must be customized based on your health needs. It is good in so many ways. It helps improve your circulation, excrete toxins, and maintain strength and flexibility. Some diet plan still requires exercise while others simply get you moving. Choose a diet that requires an exercise component that you can do regularly. Go for a plan that encourages enjoyable and doable exercises and aligns with your long-term health goals. If you can, follow WHO’s recommendation. Do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous workout weekly. Strength training for major muscle groups should be performed on 2 or more days a week (5).
7. Ditch the Popular Definition of Diet
Did you know before the media butchered the word diet to what we know now as restricting intake of food for the purpose of weight loss, it t was just all and any foods consumed by an individual? Before you create your own nutrition philosophy, you must first dissociate the word from a negative frame of mind.
The notion of depriving yourself of your favorite foods can stress you out. Stress can change your eating patterns and the intake of hyper-palatable foods. Over time, this can cause wear and tear on the body and trigger neurobiological adaptations that promote compulsive behaviors (6). Ditch this negative association and create a new, positive one. Link eating nourishing foods to increase strength and better performance at work on in the gym and sports field.
8. Know What’s Lacking
Cutting on sugar and calories may not be enough to get a good jumpstart into healthy eating. One study looked into some of the most popular diets, including DASH, Atkins, and South Beach. Experts found that followers of these plans were deficient in key nutrients like vitamins D and E, iodine, and chromium (7). This only shows that there’s always a chink in the armor of any most widely used nutrition plan. You may add more to a specific plan. Identify the deficiencies and work on them.
9. Eat For Your Body Type
As they always say, you are as unique as a snowflake. Your body type is not just the way you look. It’s more of the way your body responses to specific food groups. Generally, body types can be classified into three main categories – ectomorphs, endomorphs, and mesomorphs. Depending on your body type, expect your diet to be different from somebody else. There are general guidelines you can follow to have an idea of what your body expects.
- Ectomorphs have a high metabolism and can tolerate carbohydrates well. They will benefit more on high carb, moderate fay and protein diet. Ectomorphs are best represented by the build of runners.
- Endomorphs, on the other hand, have a slower metabolism. They hang on to both fat and muscle mass, which is seen in powerlifters. They are advised to take high-fat and low-carb diet.
- Mesomorphs are the most balanced as they can build muscles while keeping fats at low levels. They can tolerate a balance of carbs, protein, and fat.
If you do not fit exactly into one of these categories, you may consult a doctor and a dietician for a good plan.
10. Listen to Your Body
When you eat something that your body doesn’t like, it bites back with unsavory symptoms. Aside from weight loss, which is a reliable indicator, check for other markers like mood, energy level, appetite, bowel movements, and sleep. This will help you know whether a specific diet is working well for you.
If you feel bad after eating lactose, you would know that you need to avoid dairy products. If you feel miserable after taking a low-carb diet, logic says that you must reconsider it. While some are trained to accept discomfort as something normal, especially on the first few days or weeks, that is not always the case. Track how you feel in a diary for at least a week to know for sure.
When promoters of diet plans talk about food, they do it in a vacuum, disregarding what’s going on in your personal life. But if you want long-term nutrition success, you do you just think about the food itself, you must also think about the meta aspect of your life and how this plan would work with it.
You just don’t go with a neat little nutrition box. You must remember that each body ticks differently, including yours. General diet plans can help you build a structure, but you can be a scientist on your own and make modifications if necessary.