Alternate title – Someone Order For Me, Please

It’s time. Time to pay attention to my diet, but I’m not exactly sure what I should be eating, so I know, I’ll go on the internet! All right, let me enter ‘healthy diet’ into my search engine… What! 168,000,000 hits. This may take longer than I thought, but here goes. Click – Eat All Protein. Ok, add tuna, cottage cheese, poultry to the grocery list. But—click—wait, because this one says Eat All Carbs. Hmm, now I’m not sure what to do with the grocery list. I’ll just click on this one – Eat Raw. Raw what? Hmm, never mind the grocery list, where do I buy raw? I’ll try another one—click—Eat The Colors Of The Rainbow. Rainbow? What’s a rainbow have to do with food!?

So I guess I need to put raw, colorful proteins and carbs on the grocery list(?)… What am I saying, forget I even tried!

Yikes! Sometimes, it’s not that we don’t try. Heartfelt and motivated we earnestly seek to do the right food thing only to be confounded by the information we uncover. Not only the volume, but the polarity of what’s right vs. what’s wrong and the snide, chiding tone if one dares eat anything but what is being touted – Shame on you to eat (fill in the blank)!

One result of the confusion is the set in of wellness paralysis – we don’t know what to change so don’t change anything! Resignation doesn’t make the wondering gnaw go away though so we are left with a lump in our belly that has nothing to do with what we have just eaten.

So, what to do?

Since you have read this far I know you don’t want to tread the proverbial food water forever, but first a disclaimer. Food is an enormously complex enterprise with separate channels related to the industry as well as diet. ‘Diet’ can refer to the eating plan we follow or describe the course of action we take to lose weight. The following tips are offered from the perspective of diet as a noun—an eating plan—and are offered with due respect to the complexity of the industry and the channel itself.

Ground Rules:

–Listen to your intuition. If a plan/claim/suggestion seems outrageous then likely, it is. You don’t need an advanced nutrition degree to determine outrageousness.

–If it’s a plan or suggestion you wouldn’t be comfortable including your child in (or any child) then don’t follow it yourself.

–Food truths are usually not as polarizing as some claims make them seem. For example, ‘Carbs are POISON’ or ‘Protein is POISON’ (or similar sentiment) are exaggerated, polarized claims that tend to be inaccurate. (Unless of course you contend with a circumstance that necessitates their avoidance.)

–Ascertain the expertise/perspective of anyone giving you nutritional/diet advice; e.g., level of education and is it in nutrition, what is their personal connection to what they are suggesting. Your intuition will red-flag incompetence or a conflict of interest. Note – personal training certification alone does not qualify a personal trainer to give nutritional/diet advice. Just last week I overheard a trainer advise her client to start taking a supplement “someone told me about.” Inexcusable lack of professionalism! The risk is obvious!

Preparing to Design a Plan:

First, the uniqueness that is each of us means we can respond differently to different foods. From a sidewalk perspective, we all have unique chemical sensitivities (obviously, food allergies and metabolic conditions, etc. present their own circumstances). For example, some of us can eat processed sugar and feel fine while others slump into a blood-sugar funk after a few grams, some can digest heads of lettuce at a sitting while others gurgle at the mere sight of a wedge, and some can comfortably take in all forms of dairy comfortably while others have to follow strict guidelines lest trigger severe gastro distress.

The point – figure out what makes sense for you by taking the time to carefully research your own cause/effect, then commit to what the results show. This sounds obvious and pedestrian but many of us simply don’t take the time to carefully scrutinize the effect of what we eat.

Second, we CAN’T pretend we don’t live in a world that includes lots of fatty, sugary, yummy food. It’s unrealistic to think the ‘bad food’ of 7-layered nachos, chunky shakes, meatball sandwiches, can be denied forever. Perhaps you can, but for the rest of us this is the set-up of all set-ups because often if we start to eat ‘bad’ food we will layer with more ‘bad’ food thinking, what the heck, I’ve started I’m just going to continue.

Similar to perceiving exercise as needing to ‘either train to run a marathon or don’t bother putting your running shoes on’, the emotion we attach to ‘bad’ food means it needs to be completely avoided, even forgotten about, less risk susceptibility to the ‘I’ve already blown it by eating one chip so I might as well finish the bag’ sentiment. Labeling certain food as ‘bad’ adds an all-or-nothing emotion that (usually) doesn’t serve us well.

Moving forward with a plan: Think sensibility-balance-portion control

The objective – develop a wellness-friendly, realistic eating plan. Another point-well-taken complexity, but remember, we need to move past wellness-paralysis. Some keys to designing a plan are sensibility, balance and portion control. This isn’t sexy nor is it trending with a celebrity’s endorsement, but if followed most experts agree in it’s healthfulness.

Sensible – adopt a nourishing scheme that is sustainable over long-range rather than one that arises out of panic for quick weight loss.

Balance – protein, carbs, fruits/vegetables, etc. all play a role in our nutritional wellness. Each nourishes our body differently by catalyzing functions that lead to feeling good not just ok. Foregoing certain types of food can mean missing out on the nutritional benefit unique to that food. For most, an optimal plan includes a balance of different types of foods.

Portion control – read food labels to understand a product’s portion size (and caloric value), then serve yourself accordingly. 22 chips is 22 chips. 1 cookie is 1 cookie. 1 ounce of meat is 1 ounce of meat. If we abide by the recommendations, most of us can enjoy A portion of most foods without repercussion. It requires a bit of discipline to count 22 chips out of the bag but after awhile you get used to it and most important over time your weight has likely been sustained and if you also pay attention to sensibility and moderation you hopefully also will physically feel good!

Someone recently asked me if my diet was ‘clean,’ meaning free of unhealthy fat, processed sugar, etc. It’s on the healthy side but not nearly spotless. I have a killer sweet tooth and if a loaf of bread is in front of me, well, it won’t be for long. I’m also as prone to emotional eating as anyone – and have done my fair share of panic dieting in advance of an upcoming event, thankfully that has ebbed with age. Overall, I’m not clean but ‘picked up’. One epiphany for me occurred years ago when I realized the cauliflower-celery phase really didn’t serve me well for playing sports. Pretty much zero energy, and I doubt I will ever live down the noxious, toxic ‘digestive issues’ I subjected my teammates to…

Note – if you have any questions about food/nutrition/diet, diligently seek answers from a reputable nutrition professional. The preceding is meant to offer perspective on the topic