Diet Demystified

Zone, Paleo, Whole 30, 21DSD, 5:2, low fat, low carb…  It’s enough to give you an aneurysm!  It seems, these days that every time I go on line or open a magazine, there is a new diet plan promising to help me lose a stone in 7 days or drop a dress size in two weeks. It is hopelessly confusing and utterly agonizing.  But, it doesn’t have to be.

Greg Glassman, the founder of Crossfit gives the following advice when it comes to nutrition.  He says “Eat meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, a little starch and no sugar.”  If it sounds simple, it’s because it is simple, but allow me to flesh it out a little.

  • Eat meat means just that.  All meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy if you tolerate it.  Meats are our primary source of protein and we should try to incorporate them into every meal.  Enjoy as many different varieties as your taste and budget allow.
  • Vegetables are easy.  Eat as many of them as you can.  Vegetables are a vital source of vitamins and without getting too hung up on it, the more different coloured  vegetables we eat, the more vitamins we will be including in our diet.
  • Nuts and seeds, brilliant for snacking on, again I would urge you to let your taste buds guide you.  Nuts and seeds are a great source of essential fats, however, as they are high in fat, I would tell you not to go overboard on them.
  • Some fruit.  This refers to the quantity not the type.  Just as with vegetables, fruits are an important source of vitamins.  Experiment with them and don’t just rely on the old reliable apples and bananas.  Fruit, however, does have a very high sugar content, so I would advise limiting it to 1-2 pieces a day, especially if weight loss is your goal.
  • A little starch.  Starches are your main source of carbohydrate, which we need for energy.  Starches include breads, rice, pasta, potatoes, sweet potatoes and oats.  In the Western diets we tend to over use them.  Try to consider them as a side dish rather than the main event.
  • No sugar, this means that with the exception of naturally occurring sugars, these guys are bad news and should be kept to an absolute minimum.

The secret is, there is no secret:  No magic pills or potions are required.  If we can put systems in place to help us eat good quality, whole food in as close to its naturally occurring state as possible, half the battle is won.  For some people this may represent a fundamental shift in how they eat, for others it may only require a few tweaks.  Either way, the battle begins in the grocery store.  If you fill your trolley with good food, you will eat good food.  I am a firm believer in shopping lists.  Have a rough idea of how you would like your week to go in terms of the meals you want to prepare and buy only what you need to accomplish this.

Good nutrition does not require will power:  Just like an alcoholic in recovery would not have a house full of alcohol, don’t bring the foods which may derail your progress into your home.  If they are not there, you won’t eat them.  Be selfish about this.  I don’t care if little Timmy loves ice-cream, if you know you’re likely to end up standing in front of the freezer at midnight devouring the whole pint, don’t put that temptation in your way.

All or nothing, often ends up meaning nothing:  I like to think about this in terms of my job.  If I turn up on Monday morning and give 100% maximum effort all day, but then limp through the rest of the week giving about 30%, I will not get a whole lot achieved, and I certainly am not going to be impressing anyone.  The same is true about nutrition.  Going all in until I can’t take it anymore and then going in reverse is not a good plan.  Better by far to give 80-90% effort consistently.  Not only is this far more sustainable, but by building a little slack into the plan, I avoid feeling like a complete failure when I am not 100% dialed in.

Car crash days happen:  Maybe you have been up all night with the baby, or maybe you have been working late all week with no time to shop for food.  Whatever the reason, these days happen.  No matter how organised and efficient you are, you will have times when you feel like it’s all coming down around you.  These days are just about survival.  Do the best you can to get through it and limit the damage as much as you can.  The most important advice I can give about days like these is that when you go to bed at night, do a mental ctrl+alt+delete.  Reset, forget about it and move on.  Remember you can’t make up for overeating by under eating!

Just as I told you there is no secret, there are also no quick fixes.  Eating well and optimizing your health requires a consistent effort.  Occasionally frustrating, but always worth it, you will need to employ trial and error to learn what works for your unique body. It is worth remembering that you have been eating a certain way for decades, and it may not be realistic to hope to be able to change it overnight.

In a  future post I will be delving into the world of Macros, so be sure to check back then.  In the mean time, send me your questions through my Facebook page and I will answer as best I can xxx

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