If you've got a long history of dieting, you've probably tried them all. In the '80s, when I started, it was all about Weight Watchers, Richard Simmons and Jenny Craig.
Atkins came later, along with The Mediterranean Diet, Slim Fast, Slimming World, Paleo, detox plans… now Keto is the current craze. We've been told to go low fat, to go low sugar. We've praised the holiness of coconut oil then put in the realm of the darkest of poisons.
- Why diets don't work and you should just eat what feels right
- Have your cake, eat it too: Five ways to make peace with food
So. What the hell do we eat? Which diet is the best? Which one works? Which are the most effective? What does the research say?
If it's weight loss you're after, well, they can all help you achieve that short term. Any calorie restricted program will. But, is it still considered effective if it only works for six months? A year? Five years? At what point do we say a diet "works"?
Often, when we inevitably quit or give up, we're taught to blame ourselves, our lack of willpower, or self-control. But, if a diet works, shouldn't you be able to stick to it for life? Wouldn't it actually be the diet's fault if it causes you to 'break' because you just want some freaking carbs?
So. IS there a diet that works for good? There sure is. I'm currently on it. What's the magic formula? In my experience it has to tick the following boxes:
1. It's accessible.
Everyone's lives are different. Some have families of five, some are single. Some of us have a $250 budget for groceries each week, some have $25. Some of us travel often, some work from home.
Any way of eating that you take on has to fit within your current situation. If your diet is causing you financial stress, it's not sustainable. If it's too hard to find 'said' foods on the road and your job requires you to travel, it's not sustainable. If you are exhausted following a busy day at work and have to spend an extra 45 minutes each night making something that you can fit into your plan while your family sticks to the usual, that may not be sustainable either.
A way of eating that lasts, has to be flexible or else, you guessed it - it won't last or won't even be doable to begin with.
2. It makes you feel good. Physically AND mentally.
Most diets, when we start them, do in fact make us feel great. If they don't, as I have said before, they are not sustainable. But we have to remember that health is more than how our body feels physically. Health is also about how we feel mentally and emotionally. If your diet causes you to feel left out, craving your favourite foods, or stressed when eating out or visiting friends and family, then it's not as healthy as we'd like to think. Eventually the cravings become too much and the cycle of 'on again off again' continues.
3. The one that is enjoyable
The way of eating that you choose has to allow for enjoyment. If you feel deprived in any way, or miss your favourite foods or think "I wish I could eat that", then eventually we will crave and cave. It happens almost every single time. You may think you're not deprived. Those coconut flour buns might hold you over for now but if you genuinely love a good quality baked bread and have put it in the 'naughty' list, eventually you're going to have some and the feelings that follow that will decide the outcome to follow.
Any diet you choose should not only be sustainable mentally but it has to be physically sustainable also. We can go for quite a long time on a nutrient deficient diet in some cases but ultimately, eventually, it will catch up with us. Our body needs proteins, healthy fats, fibre, and all those delicious little micronutrients. Eventually, a lack in these vital elements that make us healthy, is going to turn that "I feel great" feeling into the opposite. We're humans. We need a balance of micro and macro nutrients.
So what's the best diet on the planet? The one you can access, one that's sustainable, pleasurable and provides a variety of nutrients considering your current budget/lifestyle.
One that enable you to have a piece of cake or freshly baked bread and move on.
One that understands that health is a feeling, not a look.
Healthy eating has to be flexible, enjoyable, compassionate, sustainable, simple and delicious. If it leaves you feeling deprived, even if it's 6 months down the road, then we're simply not going to be able to adhere to it and that's no weakness to you.
My Empowered Eating program takes into consideration all of the above. We're about making it happen within your life. With compassion, flexibility and a researched-based approach to healthy eating.
Michelle Yandle is a Certified Nutrition Coach and author of A Diet for 7 Generations and The Empowered Eating Handbook.
She specialises in Nutrition Coaching for Empowered Eating so you can feel great AND eat cake!