The No-Diet Diet

Posted: October 1, 2021 in General Posts
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In a world filled with fad-diets, how do you pick? Well, my answer is – you don’t. I’ve been asked many times what kind of “diet” I follow, and I’ve always found it hard to answer.

The original meaning of the word “diet” is just the types of foods a person, animal, or community typically eats, but over the course of the the last few decades it has taken on the additional meaning of restricting oneself to certain foods or amounts of foods.

Unfortunately, that usually means cutting out an entire food group that serves a nutritional purpose. Sure, you can take supplements and try to make up for it, but at the end of the day it is much healthier and more efficient for your body to take in nutrients within the food matrix than in concentrated supplement form.

The other bad thing about fad diets is that they are hard to follow! A diet usually boils down to restricting calories somehow, and these dietary restrictions can be hard to maintain. Once people go off the diet, they often end up worse than where they started. This is termed “yo-yo dieting”, which leads to increased fat mass and lower lean body mass.

Image Credit: MyFitnessPal, Accessed 10.1.21

With that being said, I’ve developed my Top 5 Common Sense Diet Recommendations. This isn’t actually a diet – it’s a method of eating that promotes healthier choices. The point is to guide your choices instead of restricting your choices, to develop healthy habits that can be maintained rather than a rigid set of rules that cause negative attitude towards food. So without further ado, here are my recommendations:

The Common Sense Diet

  1. Keep all meals and snacks balanced to include carbs, fats, protein. This supports optimal digestion and nutrient absorption, while also preventing overeating a specific macronutrient.
  2. Make sure to get at least 30 grams of fiber from whole foods each day – not from a supplement! This will ensure you’re getting enough veggies and fruits, and encourage less consumption of processed food. 
  3. Do about 75% of your shopping on the outside of the aisles at the grocery store. This keeps everything fresh and you’re not getting as much of the overly processed foods with lots of fillers. 
  4. Cook at least 75% of your meals at home. The amount of calories in food you consume when you eat out is astronomical compared to if you made the same exact type of food yourself.
  5. You don’t need more than 1 – 1.2 gram of protein per kilogram (not pound) of body weight. Everything these days promotes higher protein intake, but most people don’t need elevated intake. On days you work out, you could add a casein protein shake before going to bed or eat Greek yogurt or cottage cheese to get the casein to help rebuild muscle overnight. 

    Bonus tip: I personally like to follow a 20/40/40 protein/fat/carb macro split. It’s a bit lower in carbs and a little higher in fat to keep you full. If you’re actively going through physical training (military, athletics, endurance), you may need to be more toward the 20/30/60 split to make sure you’re replenishing your muscle glycogen to give you energy during extended workouts.

So there you go. That’s the type of “diet” I follow and what I recommend to others based on the research studies I’ve read. Ultimately it’s not the food you eat, but the pattern of eating that determines health. Having a positive attitude toward eating and eating habits will always be much more effective than the negative associations with dietary restrictions. I hope this No-Diet Diet will help you enjoy eating again!

Articles of Interest:

  1. Sumithran, Priya & Prendergast, Luke & Delbridge, Elizabeth & Purcell, Katrina & Shulkes, Arthur & Kriketos, Adamandia & Proietto, Joseph. (2011). Long-Term Persistence of Hormonal Adaptations to Weight Loss. The New England Journal of Medicine. 365. 1597-604. 10.1056/NEJMoa1105816.
  2. Shaw, Ruth & Cassidy, Tony. (2021). Self-Compassion, Mindful Eating, Eating Attitudes and Wellbeing. Sumerianz Journal of Social Science. 73-80. 10.47752/sjss.42.73.80.
  3. MacNeill, J. & Miers, P.. (1996). Nutrition Education is as Effective as Calorie Restricted Diets in Promoting Weight Loss. Journal of The American Dietetic Association – J AMER DIET ASSN. 96. 10.1016/S0002-8223(96)00501-9.
  4. Anderson JW, Baird P, Davis RH Jr, Ferreri S, Knudtson M, Koraym A, Waters V, Williams CL. Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutr Rev. 2009 Apr;67(4):188-205. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x. PMID: 19335713.
  5. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 Version.

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