In our last post we discussed all the different forms of exercise and how to make sense of it all, if you haven’t read it, just scroll down or click here to read it first.
In this post we’re going to address the nutrition side of things, which can be even more confusing!
We’ve all seen the countless diets out there, and we’ve all seen and heard about others getting weight loss success following all types of diets, here are just a few:
– Weight watchers
– Jenny Craig
– Light ‘n’ Easy
– Atkins diet
– zone diet
– south beach diet
– Anabolic diet
– Intermittent Fasting
– CSIRO diet
– Low fat diet
– Low carb diet
– Paleo diet
– Liquid diet
– Vegetarian diet
– Carb cycling diet
So how come we hear about people getting results with all these different diets when they are often very conflicting in their guidelines?
Which is the best diet to follow?
Well, again, you can make sense of all this if you understand the concept of:
Principles Vs Methods
I mentioned in part 1 on exercise that this saying in an important one to rememeber
Methods are many
Principles are few
Methods always change
Principles never do
So just like with exercise, instead of looking at how all these diets are different, let’s look at ONE thing they ALL have in common…
They all control calorie/energy intake (either expressly, or inadvertently) through setting calorie limits or through restricting certain foods or food groups
That is effectively the PRINCIPLE for fat loss nutrition, ALL successful fat loss diets have to adhere to this principle
Consuming LESS calories / energy than your daily energy requirements, (so your body will use body fat as an energy source)
That’s why different diets can be effective. The METHOD is different, the PRINCIPLE for getting the results is the same.
So now that we know the PRINCIPLE we need to follow in order to help us lose body fat (consuming less energy/calories than our daily energy requirements), it now becomes a matter of deciding which is the best METHOD to use to achieve this principle.
It is at this point where other variables come into play to give us added benefits or drawbacks, things like
– Long term health benefits
– Long term health risks
– Long term weight loss potential (how far you can go with it before you plateau)
– Losing, maintaining or increasing muscle tissue
– Affect on energy levels
– Affect on hormones
– Vitamin, mineral, antioxidant, fiber intake
– Affect on performance, strength
– Level of complexity
– How easy the diet is to adhere to long term
– Will it reduce your risks for disease and help you live longer?
If we consider the above points, we can count out diets that aim to purely limit calories, without controlling food choices. To think that our health and body composition is controlled purely by energy intake (calories) without regard for the type and quality of food we eat (or don’t eat) is absurd.
But rather than give you my thoughts on every diet which would just take too long, it’s easier to give you my thoughts on what I believe is the best diet to follow, keeping in mind the above points.
The simplest concept to grasp in regards to your nutrition , is to think about eating like a caveman, or cave woman, as the case may be.
This is the premise behind the Paleo diet.
Now this isn’t to simply jump on the bandwagon of one type of ‘diet’ over another (I hate the word ‘diet’), it’s just that the principles behind ‘caveman’ eating or paleo eating are basically the same principles we want to follow for optimal health, and in turn optimal body composition.
If you think about what has caused humans to become an overweight society, it is our modern day diet.
The processed, man made, packaged foods that are the staple of most people’s diets are MUCH higher in calories than the natural foods we have eaten for thousands of years, and this is the reason why we as a society are putting on weight.
The weight gain principle is just the opposite of our weight loss principle
We are consuming MORE energy / calories than our daily energy requirements. (also keep in mind that due to a lack of activity in our modern lifestyle, our daily energy requirements are way less than what they used to be)
So this surplus of energy/calories gets stored as reserves, in the form of body fat.
And these aren’t just extra calories, they are ‘empty’ bad calories from foods full of sugar, wheat, chemicals, preservatives and toxins which put an enormous amount of stress on our body’s, and provide probably 1/5th of the necessary nutrients we need to be healthy.
Eating like this actually affects your digestive system, gut health, immune system, hormone levels, and basically has a chain effect right through your body which actually makes it harder for you to lose weight. This is why just addressing calories without addressing food choices is ineffective in the long term.
So It would stand to reason that to fix this problem we need to address the cause of the problem and STOP eating these modern day foods.
But for some reason the world is full of magic pills, powders, and diets which aim to fix the problem without actually addressing the cause.
Doesn’t it make sense to just address the cause of the problem?
So while paleo style eating will definately help you lose weight, due to the fact you’ll be consuming much less calories with the types of foods you’ll be eating, it’s also about providing our human bodies with the essential nutrients we need to thrive, and to avoid foods which lead to our bodies’ breaking down, getting sick, and gaining weight.
If we never stopped eating like cavemen and women, the word ‘diet’ wouldn’t even exist in the way that we now know it. The whole weight loss industry exists purely because of the massive change in diet (and activity levels) that humans have undergone in the last 50 years of our existence.
Now I could just give you a list of foods to avoid (and have done so before), and give you a list of other foods you are ‘allowed’ to eat, or I could give you ‘pre done’ recipes to follow (methods), or some ‘points’ to count, but this still can be confusing for many. It doesn’t empower you with the ability to make your own decisions about food, or help you to understand what constitutes good nutrition.
Having a basic understanding of nutrition, and really understanding the effects and ramifications it can have on your body is often a big catalyst for change. It changes the way you think about food and your relationship with food.
For you to be empowered to make your own decisions about food you need to understand enough to be confident in your ability
We are a society going through an obesity epidemic and a big reason for this is a fundamental lack of understanding of what we are supposed to eat.
If all you ever knew and all you ever grew up eating was processed, convenient, packaged foods you might be confused about why you’re struggling with your weight, because you don’t know how to eat any differently and that’s just the world you have lived in all your life.
We need to stop relying on TV commercials, magazines, the newspaper, and clever marketing campaigns for our nutrition education. These are just METHODS, most of which don’t work, and just create confusion.
Remember METHODS are many, PRINCIPLES are few….
To be able to make our own decisions about what constitutes healthy food, we need some PRINCIPLES to guide us.
It doesn’t get much more simple than ‘eat like a caveman’.
Whilst this may seem a bit simple, or even silly, if you seriously made a commitment that you were going to scrutinize every meal you made or every piece of food you ate with the question ‘would this food have been available to a caveman?’, you would be making better food choices than 99.9% of the population.
(why don’t you literally go through your fridge and pantry and do it now?….or tonight?)
It gives people with no nutrition education, who have no idea about what to eat, a simple and easy method of judging which foods are good and which are bad.
If you were honest with yourself, and asked yourself these questions every time you ate…
– Can I pick it off a tree?
– Can I pluck it from the ground?
– Can I kill it and eat it? (yes sounds horrible but its true)
Then you would dramatically improve your diet.
You would by default, get rid of all the processed crap that is so readily consumed by humans today, reduce your calorie intake, and eat much better quality food, which would have a huge effect on your health and body composition.
And if you went through and scored every diet mentioned at the start of this post using the criteria from the list of benefits or drawbacks above, Paleo diet wins.
I really do hate calling it a ‘diet’ though, that word brings up negative connotations to me, and risks people placing Paleo eating into the ‘fad’ category along with other diets.
its more a simple and straightforward concept for everyone to grasp.
Paleo eating is really based around principles and not strict methods, there’s still plenty of room for you to make your own food choices based on what you like (within reason).
Two people could follow paleo eating and have a completely different diet.
So, in wrapping this up, out of all the diet METHODS available to you, the basic premise behind the Paleo diet is what I would recommend due to:
a) Achieving fat loss along with all the other added extras from my list above (health benefits, living longer, more energy, better body composition etc)
b) The simplicity of it – it’s an easy concept for people to grasp.
Now if you are already familiar with Paleo eating which I know many of you are, I would also make a couple of modifications, like adding in some of the ‘better’ carbs like rice and potatoes every now and then if you are exercising frequently, to add in some supplements to help with nutritional deficiencies, and to supplement with a good quality protein powder for convenience and added body composition, recovery, and performance benefits.
I suggest you read the book ‘Paleo diet’ or ‘Paleo Solution’ or at least Google ‘Paleo diet’ to learn a little bit more than what I’ve written about here.
And just to be clear, from my initial list of diet examples, I also think there’s lots of benefits to intermittent fasting and carb cycling (in conjunction with Paleo eating) but that’s a little more advanced and is maybe a post for another day.
I hope this has given you some food for thought (pun intended). There are many diet METHODS our there to frazzle your brain, but now, hopefully, you have some guiding PRINCIPLES to work with.
Your only job now is to TAKE ACTION