In Part 1 we ventured into the world of adherence and resilience: the best, most ideally designed diet without the ability or discipline to follow it is a waste of ink, and the most perfectly followed diet for short periods followed by long, long stretches of not is counterproductive to long term health. Pick a diet - any diet beneficial to health - and stick with it. If and when you fall off, dust it off and get back to it. ASAP.
In Part 2 we'll look at two more tenants that, when combined with the principles of adherence and resilience, dictate our overall success changing our diet and lifestyle in a healthy manner.
3. Changing everything at once typically leads to burnout, "diet fatigue", and the age old adage, "some people are just meant to eat healthy and I'm not one of them."
One of the most daunting tasks of setting a dietary or nutrition goal is the sheer number of practices it seems are necessary to change to ensure success. Reading food labels, remembering macronutrient percentages, shopping for foods "on the list", making sure to eat the appropriate number of meals at the appropriate times, and even the act of having to think about and remember/record what we put into our bodies can seem like a huge burden at first.
The art of progressing from one change to the next is subtle and often overlooked. Typically an overhaul is attempted and two or three weeks later (if even that long) we're right back where we started.
Action #3: Choose one or two practices to focus your energy on--and commit to making those practices daily and monthly habits.
One of our favorites is the commitment to eat mostly whole food sources.
Folks doing the nutrition challenge have several healthy practices to choose from. Eating meats and veggies, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar is one; drinking adequate levels of water is another; sleeping 7+ hours a night i still a third...
Some people are feeling as though they are "failing" for only picking up certain ones. You are not, I repeat, NOT failing.
You're picking the tried-and-true, tested tenant of progression. Once you've mastered your first practice and made it habit, move on to the next. Keep up with the small, incremental improvements over time and you'll be amazed where you are at the end of your journey.
4. Seeking 100% perfection will cause you to miss out on the fun and mentally relaxing nature of shirking all responsibilities every once in a while...even those of eating healthily.
Those who reap the most benefits from a healthy diet are the ones who eat mostly healthy most of the time. Those who hold themselves to the unattainable or unsustainable image of dietary perfection are generally setting themselves up to accomplish just that: unsustainable or unattainable concepts of what it means to eat the way they should.
Action #4: Life is too short not to enjoy a dessert, a life event, or a vacation with your family every now and again. When you do, don't beat yourself up about it. Make the conscious choice, enjoy the moment, and then enact Action # 2.
All-or-nothing is typically a lot more "nothing". Shooting for a healthy balance of "pretty darn good" should be the average human beings' goal with nutrition.
Typically I will tell folks that eating healthsome, whole foods 80% of the time and indulging in the above mentioned, sparsely occurring occasions 20% of the time allow folks to enjoy both the physiological benefits of a healthy diet and the psychological benefits of allowing some leeway.
Regardless of where you are in your journey towards health, try implementing the four tenants discussed here and in Part 1. If at any point you need some guidance, direction, or just a little clarification please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by my office and let's chat for a little while.
Best of luck, healthy people!
For more information about the above concepts please see the inspiration behind this post, Understand Healthy Eating: A Science-Based Guide To How Your Diet Affects Your Health by Israetel, Case, and Pfaendtner (Renassaince Periodization).