Do you know what baffles me about modern science? It’s the fact that we still can’t agree on what makes the perfect diet! The human race has achieved many great things, like the moon landings, the Internet and Breaking Bad, but we still argue about what to eat.
This confusion is made worse by the ‘Fitness industry’, social media and glossy magazines who are looking to sell you something. The list of fad diets is seemingly endless. However they all seem to share the end goal, having you buy your food/supplements from one place; Juice diets, meat diet, no meat diets, low/high carb, The Soup Diet, The Cambridge Diet, the milk diet, the dairy free diet, Paleo, 5/2…
Introducing a (not so) revolutionary idea
The truth is that your diet is YOUR diet. Forget the fads and the shortcuts. The choices must be made by you and they must suit your tastes, beliefs, body and lifestyle. There is no such thing as a perfect diet and not all foods can be eaten by everybody. A good diet is something you can stick to for life but it should also change as you learn about food and change your lifestyle.
Here are my 5 tips to help you create your own diet philosophy:
Tip 1: Be aware of the calories you eat
Regardless of your goals, the most important factor of any diet is calories. The amount of calories consumed in a day will be the deciding factor in how you feel, your energy levels and your body weight. Tracking your calories will allow you to make sensible choices about the amount you eat, unlike people who eat whenever they are hungry. Once you know how many calories you eat we can decide on if you need more or less. Prepare to be shocked by the calorie content of your ‘healthy foods’!
Tip 2: Drink more water. Drink less Calories!
You are not drinking enough water. Probably. If you weigh 10 stone, you should be drinking at least 4 pints of water every day. If it’s hot, you have worked up a sweat with exercise or if you have consumed caffeine or alcohol you will need more water.
Being well hydrated will improve your mood, reduce muscle stiffness (boo cramps) and increase muscle growth and fat loss. A good rule of thumb is if you feel thirsty, you have been dehydrated for at least an hour.
Try to limit yourself to 1-3 caffeinated drinks per day and a few alcoholic drinks per week, always avoid drinking either close to bed time. The most important thing is that your honest with yourself. Do you drink too much?
Tip 3: Eat as many whole foods as you can, avoiding cheap processed foods and sugar
But now onto one of the deadliest, most additive substances known to man…. sugar! If you’re overweight and looking to lose some body fat the first thing I will ask; do you drink sugary drinks? Reducing your sugar intake is an easy way to reduce your calories and improve your health. Think of It like this, 3 cups of a tea with 2 spoons of sugar a day adds up to nearly 700 calories a week!
Think produce, not product. Generally speaking the more stages a piece of food goes though the less healthy it becomes. This is when common sense works wonders and we all know that an apple is a superior choice to a Twix. Making meals from whole ingredients and reading food labels will help ensure you’re not consuming added sugar and other nasty’s.
Try to buy whole gain foods, buy products in bulk to cut costs and NEVER trust a product that tells you it’s healthy. Nature valley bars have advertising “experts” telling you about their wholesome goodness, but a pineapple or bag of almonds will not.
Also check out my article about hidden, evil sugar.
Tip 4: Learn your bodies patterns and signals. But never fully trust them!
You’re an animal. When you go 6 hours without a meal, it will feel like you’re dying. This might seem dramatic, but from an evolutionary point of view it makes perfect sense. We are mammals, we crave high calorie, low effort foods and we like storing fat to tide us over in times of hardship.
Have you ever justified eating a whole pack of muffins because you skipped breakfast? How about telling yourself that its ok to have ice cream because of your tough workout? Part of understanding your bodies signals is knowing that they are often guiding you towards bad decisions.
Your body and mind are closely linked. If you feel tired, blotted, grumpy or just generally bleh then there is a good chance your diet and lifestyle is to blame. Did you get a bad night’s sleep? Did you just eat lots of simple, rubbish carb rich foods? Are you under eating or dehydrated?
But most importantly, when you recognise that you are eating something you’ll later regret, STOP! If your half way into a family size bag of Mars bars, it’s not too late to stop. Sure it would be better to have never started, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat the rest.
Tip 5: Keep it realistic, enjoyable and fun
A good diet is something you can stick to for life. Certain aspects will change over time depending on your goals (i.e. as you get fitter you can eat more), but the fundamentals will remain the same. So how will you stick to your diet? Make it realistic.
You can drink alcohol every so often, you can have a slice of cake on your birthday, you can stuff your face until your fit to burst on Christmas day. As long as 90%+ of your life is spent following the sensible diet, you should be fine.