Which “Diet” Is Right For You

There are various types of diets individuals swear by in the health and fitness industry. Each one claims to help people lose weight, maintain weight, experience satisfaction, and promote health. With all the diets out there it can become overwhelming and confusing to decide which is best to live by.

I want to be clear about something here. I am not a nutrionist, nor am I a dietician. I am an expert in behavior and health, however. This post is not to claim that one diet is better than the other or to report an opinion about each diet. The purpose of this post is to identify a few types of popular diets today and explore the eating behavior associated with each. This post is to help you decide which diet supports how you want to live your life.

Why is eating behavior important to explore?

What you eat will impact your entire being. Eating, it goes without saying, will influence your body composition. What you eat will impact your waist line, your weight, and how your clothes feel. Thats why those in the fitness world often exclaim, “You cannot out train a bad diet”. Food not only impacts your physical body but food also will impact how you behave and interact with others.

Clearly research indicates food can impact mood. Researchers have found the stomach contains a hormone called ghrelin, and ghrelin travels directly to the brain and triggers the feeling of hunger. Researchers at University of Texas found ghrelin was associated with decreased stress and anxiety. THIS hormone reacts in the brain similarly to an antidepressant. What this research suggests is that eating can cure depression.

Think about how you feel after eating a nice healthy salad. The answer to this question could vary. On one hand eating a healthy salad can make someone feel satisfied and healthy. On the the other hand a person may feel bored and neglected after eating a salad. Now think about how you feel after eating a piece of chocolate cake. Again the answer could vary. A person may feel satisfied and relieved to have a craving satisfied, or a person may feel guilty and shame. The feelings associated with eating are related to eating behaviors. People that restrict may feel bored with eating foods, and people that binge may feel guilty for enjoying foods. In this regard diets that require restriction and eliminating foods could be difficult for some people. Not only is restriction difficult for emotional health but food restriction can harm your relational health.

Consider how many events, gatherings, and meetings involve food. Culturally we relate with others, express love, build relationships, and discuss ideas with others over food. Food is comforting. Food is enjoyable. Food is relaxing; so it makes sense why so many social interactions involve eating. Your eating behavior can improve your relationships with others. Eating behavior can also harm relationships when a person feels their diet prevents them from attending social engagements. It is possible a diet can cause increased isolation and withdrawal.

I love eating out and trying different restaurants. It is one of my most favorite things. My husband and I re-connect each weekend over dinner at a restaurant and we fellowship with friends with dinner and drinks. While on prep for my last bikini fitness competition I was not able to eat out for part of my plan. This made meals out with friends and family awkward. Although I was OK with my decision others I joined at restaurants felt uncomfortable as I ate in tupperware. My dad said he felt guilty for eating a big meal in front of me while I ate out of my Tupperware. Our eating behavior is impacted by the eating behaviors of others! Ultimately I started to decline invitations to eat out and the invitations to eat and fellowship with others stopped. Because of my “diet” I missed time with friends and family.

Are you now convinced that food is more than just fuel for your body? Food and our behaviors associated with food influences how we function on a daily basis. It is easy to see why millions struggle with food, either eating too much, eating too little, or uncertainty about what to eat.

So with all the diets that claim to be effective how do you decide which is best for you and your lifestyle?

The Gluten-Free Diet may be necessary for people with specific diseases and food allergies, however many others report restricting gluten in the diet will help shed pounds. Gluten is found in foods with wheat, barley and rye (such as pasta and traditional baked goods). The key for gluten free diet is to eat foods marked as gluten free on the package and to eat whole foods like meat, fruits, and vegetables.
This diet is helpful to keep people from eating processed foods which can contain dangerous chemicals and contain increased amounts of sodium, sugar, and fats. In that regard a Gluten free diet is healthy.
The problem with Gluten free is that packages marked “Gluten free” are still processed and contain increased sugar and fat. These are needed to maintain flavor. Lastly refraining from eating certain foods that may contain gluten does not allow the body to receive necessary and vital nutrients.

A clean eating diet is similar to gluten free. However individuals that claim to eat clean do not eat ANY processed foods. Clean eating involves eating whole foods that have minimal ingredients added. The key with clean eating is to eat the food in the most natural state as possible.
Clearly eating involves eating whole foods like meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes. These foods are beneficial for the body and for life. These foods will provide the body with the nutrients necessary to function well.
The problem with clean eating is that many treats, cheats, and indulgences are eliminated. Oreos are not consumed on a clean eating diet.

The Paleo diet is all the rage. Paleo is very similar to clean eating. People on a Paleo diet live like the cavemen do. In other words they eat foods that are either hunted or gathered. Cavemen did not eat processed foods or foods that were cooked. This diet is good for health and the physical body because individuals eat increased lean meat, fruits, and vegetables, and processed foods like sugar, sodium, dairy, and other chemicals are eliminated. Any diet high in lean meats, fruits, and vegetables will benefit health. However this diet can be restrictive as dairy (ice cream, milk, cheese, etc) are eliminated. There are some that say eating increased amount of some meat (red meat) can lead to increased health problems (heart disease, cancer). This diet does not allow people to enjoy some foods for fear of eating food that is “bad”.

Many claim the trick to eat for weight loss is to eat less calories. The idea is to create a calorie deficit by burning more calories a day than one will consume. Honestly this will work, however, it is not necessarily safe and it is not recommended to maintain on this diet. Eventually the body will stop burning fat as calories are restricted. Restricting calories will keep the body from receiving essential nutrients and vitamins and eventually this can cause increased hunger, irritability, agitation, tiredness, and headaches. This diet does encourage an active lifestyle, which is always a benefit. However this diet should not be maintained for long periods of time and it does not teach people how to make healthy lifestyle choices.

Juicing is new trendy diet that many use to shed pounds and detox. Clearly veggies and fruit are good for the body. The body needs the nutrients and minerals in fruits and vegetables. However the body also needs nutrients and minerals in meat, grain, and fats! These foods are not found in juice. Although juicing will promote increased consumption of fruits and vegetables it severely eliminates foods the body needs to function properly. A juicing diet should not be maintaned for any period of time for risk of develop nutritional deficiencies.

Ever heard some say, IIFYM? IIFYM stands for If it Fits Your Macros. You may be asking, “what the heck is a macro?” A macro is a nutrient in food. The three primary macros are protein, carbs, and fat. Food also contains sodium, fiber, sugar, cholesterol, potassium, Vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron. This micronutrients are also an important component of nutrition and are needed for optimal health. IIFYM is often referred to as “flexible” dieting. This diet promotes eating any food you want. It teaches people to let go of the guilt of eating foods because “bad” foods and “good” foods do not exist with flexible dieting. In other words if you want to eat donuts for breakfast, it is OK as long as it fits your macros. Everyone has different macro demands based on body composition and goals. With IIFYM you eat what you want as long as you consume the right number of protein, carbs, and fat each day. This makes eating more fun and relaxed. However it is also obsessive. Flexible dieting requires daily tracking food. Every meal needs to be weighed to the gram or ounce, measured, and calculated. It is a great way to learn about foods and the different composition of food however IIFYM requires being attached and restricted to a food scale and a calculator. Your life can be consumed by numbers and a need to manipulate portions and foods to fit macros. Flexible dieting is not eating oreos, cake, and donuts all day every day. In order for IIFYM to work a person must eat clean, whole foods most of the day.

One of these diets or none of the diets may appeal to you. You may be currently living by one of the diets and can attest to the benefits and show off your progress. Here is the thing about diet. All diets are “bad”. I do not think we should live a life of “diets”. Rather we need to live a life! We need to live a life where we love, experience, enjoy, challenge, learn, and grow. Food should never consume our time, energy, feelings, thoughts, and emotions. The key is to find balance. You will be most benefitted if you eat mostly whole foods, not overindulge or binge, refrain from restricting, and be sure to eat protein, fruits, and vegetables throughout the day. Bottom line, what diet you choose should fit your lifestyle and your goals. It should be one that you can live by every single day for the rest of your life. Finding balance with eating means you eat for health most of the time but know that is OK, acceptable, and appropriate to enjoy foods occasionally. Eating is a behavior and your diet should support your behavior and your lifestyle, not your life and lifestyle support your diet.

Let It Go For Improved Mental and Emotional Health

I am aware that what I am about to talk about is a challenge for most people. However what I am about to say is possible for ALL people.

Feelings of stress, depression, anxiety, worry, fear, anger, and frustration are normal human emotions. These emotions were adaptively necessary to help our early ancestors survive dangerous situations and these emotions help us adapt to our situations. What you feel is 100% OK. Although these feelings are normal and necessary it is not normal and necessary to hold onto these feelings for an extended period of time.

Holding onto grief, sadness, anger, frustration, worry, and fear can harm all areas of your life.

  • Relationships with others can be negatively impacted by holding onto upset feelings.  These feelings can cause isolation and withdrawal, and rather than spending time with loved ones you start to spend time alone.  Feelings like anger and frustration can cause one to yell or lash out at loved ones.  Excessive worry, fear, and anxiety can make others in our lives feel powerless to help.  These issues will limit others desire to spend time with you.
  • Your health will decline if negative feelings control your life.  Feelings not only create an emotional reaction in the body, but a physical one as well.  Upset feelings cause increased muscle tension, increased heart rate, decreased sleep, fatigue, and decrease the bodies ability to fight illness, disease, and infection.
  • Holding on to upset feelings can impact your mental ability.  Prolonged emotional upset causes negative thinking.  It can be difficult to think positive thoughts and challenging to see the “silver lining”.  Emotional upset leads to thinking that becomes distracted, distorted, and unfocused.
  • Decreased mental and cognitive ability can make completing tasks at work or school challenging.  Rather than focusing on what needs to be done in the present moment, upset feelings keeps you thinking about the things that caused the upset.  This causes increased forgetfulness, distraction, difficulty concentrating, and memory problems.
  • Spirituality beliefs can be challenged when upset emotions take over. This becomes a problem because rather then turn to a higher power, moral beliefs, and prayer and meditation to cope one may shy away from these practices.  Upset feelings can cause use to abandon helpful, positive, and effective coping skills.

I think most would agree it is unhealthy to hold onto upset emotions, particularly when these emotions get in the way of enjoying life. However it is not easy to let go of emotional upset. There are numerous reasons why emotions are hard to let go of.

  • Loss of a dear loved one
  • Betrayal
  • Lost trust
  • Emotional hurt from another
  • Physical hurt from another
  • Repeated disappointments in others
  • Limited resources or options available
  • Limited support
  • Conflict with others

This list is not exhaustive. There are other, numerous situations and life events that cause feelings to linger. However in my practice and therapy with others I have found it is most difficult to let go of upset when we feel as though we have been hurt (emotionally), betrayed, and left vulnerable by others.

In those situations we want the wrong done to us to be made right. We want justice. We want karma. We want retribution.  It seems that holding onto the upset is a way of maintaining control over self, others, and the situation. At the end of day the only one being hurt by harboring upset is you!  The other person continues to live their life and go through their day unaware of the upset you have toward them. However when you lie in bed at night you suffer with the thoughts and the upset.

Letting go is for you!  Letting go benefits you!  Letting go does NOT excuse the wrong done to you, nor does it make it OK. You were hurt and wronged and that’s ok. But allowing yourself to let go of some emotional upset helps you live life on your terms. Here are my five suggestions for living life on your terms, letting go of upset, and finding the silver lining daily.

  1. Exercise – beyond the health benefits exercise helps increase happy feelings, lowers stress, and gives you some “you-time”.
  2. Forgive – forgiveness is not forgetting!  Forgiveness is releasing harboring upset so that you can make room to enjoy life.
  3. Spend time everyday doing something you enjoy. I call this vegging out. Find that activity (watching TV, cooking, reading, take a bath, etc) that causes your mind to shift focus and settle down.
  4. Acknowledge how you feel and know the upset emotions are OK!  You are justified for feeling that way. No one can tell you how to feel. You are in control and you can take active steps to change how you feel.
  5. Release those upset emotions. Cry!  Yell!  Whatever you need to do to express the feeling do it. The thing about expressing emotions is that it will eventually stop. You may feel like if you start crying you will cry forever but you won’t. The crying will stop. Expressing emotions is like a coke bottle that has been shaken and opened. Eventually the coke stops exploding from the bottle and it settles. Then you are left with a refreshing beverage. Express your emotions so that once they are released you can enjoy life a little better.

it is not realistic to be happy all the time, but allowing yourself to feel and then release the feeling will create room for more pleasure and enjoyment in your life. You have one life. You have one day, today!  Fill your day with whatever feeling you choose. The good news is, tomorrow you get another chance.

 

* If you are having trouble letting go, it is Ok. Many people struggle with this concept. It can be hard, but extremely beneficial to ask for help. Don’t think that asking for help makes you weak or disabled. Asking for help gives you more power to overcome. If you need help letting go I can help!