The best path to a healthy body and mind is to build skills over time, not to follow some fad diet or workout plan.
As a nutrition and wellness professional, all too often, I hear folks say things like the following:
– “This Monday I’m going to start Keto.”
– “I’m going to start doing HIIT 5 days a week beginning next week.”
– “How do you feel about low carb?”
– “Dude, do you do meal plans?”
These statements (and many of the like) are said with the absolute best of intentions. I truly believe that anyone who looks at a diet or workout plan wants to get in better shape, live a healthier life, and generally feel better. But there is a problem with this mentality. Here it is:
By taking an all or nothing approach like the ones listed above, you are setting yourself up for failure.
Here is why. Imagine someone walking into a boxing gym for their very first lesson in boxing. Upon arrival that individual calls out the veteran boxer in the gym for 10 rounds of full contact sparring. How do we anticipate that would work out for the newbie? I think it’s fairly obvious that the new fighter would lose, and likely get hurt. This is an all or nothing mentality to boxing. A more reasonable approach for that same individual would be to show up on day one and take a beginner class to learn the basic stances, breath work, and punches that a boxer needs to know. That person would likely not be very good at these things initially, but with practice and commitment (and a lot of repetition) they’d likely improve and develop some skill. Eventually, after years of practice, they may be ready to spar with the veteran fighters or even be considered a veteran fighter themselves. (If you haven’t figured this out yet, I’m the ‘individual’ in this story and after 5 years of boxing at least a few days a week, I still get knocked around hard by the veteran fighters).
While anecdotal, this story illustrates an important point. Any time you start something brand new, you will most likely suck at it. Sorry to be blunt, but it is the truth. And a diet or fitness plan is no different. That being said, let’s get back to the topic; “The best path to a healthy body and mind is to build skills over time, not to follow some fad diet or workout plan.”
Any diet plan or fitness plan requires certain skills to be successful. I’d like to break down the keto diet as an example. In theory, the keto diet operates on the premise that if you eat very few carbohydrates then you will burn fat as energy as your body goes into a state of ‘ketosis’. There’s plenty of science to support this and I am NOT here to debunk the keto diet (or any other diet for that matter). It has its benefits, without question. What I am here to debunk is the idea that you can successfully execute a keto diet starting this Monday when on Friday you aren’t even sure how to keep your fridge stocked with groceries or consistently cook meals at home (Remember the example of the boxer above? This is how it ties in). In order to successfully execute ANY meal or diet plan, you need to develop a baseline set of skills first. Jumping into the keto diet from one day to the next is the nutritional equivalent to full contact sparring on your first day in the boxing gym, YOU ARE SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR FAILURE.
I feel strongly that the diet industry has failed us. Many diets out there by their very nature encourage all or nothing thinking. Go check out a few diet oriented social media accounts and see how it goes when you even suggest that their diet of choice isn’t the absolute best thing in the world. It can quickly get as heated as a debate about healthcare in America.
Is there a solution? Of course, there is. Here it is: get rid of all or nothing diet thinking, stop thinking about diets as black and white ideas with zero room for progression, and start looking at nutrition on a sliding scale that can gradually improve over time.
I don’t like to offer opinions without trying to provide some solution. So, let’s look at a few of the ‘sliding scale’ nutrition strategies that I’ve used to lose over 65 pounds and evolve over time into a competitive athlete.
Some essential skills one would need to develop in order to effectively execute any diet (keto, vegan, paleo, fruitarian, pescatarian, etc., etc.) are as follows:
1. Consistent grocery shopping
2. Consistently cooking at home
3. A top of mind understanding of the basic nutrients (protein, carb, fat).
4. Cognitive restraint against erroneous eating and snacking.
5. Eating more slowly
6. Eating to satisfied not stuffed
7. Awareness of our hunger cues
This list is far from comprehensive but gives you a basic idea of the skills that are applicable to any diet or good nutrition program. These skills can take years to develop but with practice one can build skills and these skills can turn into lifelong habits which can help you to get healthy, for good.
If you’re interested in the steps I would take to build any one of these skills click here.
Previously published on medium
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Photo credit: Joey Szolowicz