1. There is no one-size-fits-all diet.
Both in mainstream and social media, seemingly every day and everyone has the answer in terms of the miracle diet that is going to make you healthy. Unfortunately, these stories and programmes are based either on individual studies or individual experience, neither of which account for the fact that we are biochemically individual. Some nutritional protocols will suit you and others won’t. What works for your friends, family or partner won't necessarily work for you. Everything from your sex, age, DNA, to lifestyle, including exercise, travel, and medical history can have an effect on which diet or foods will help or hinder you. A great example of this is intermittent fasting. The 5:2 diet, for some (especially men) can be a simple, effective way to lose weight and also reduce health risk biomarkers. For others, however, who are less well adapted to switching to starvation fat burning, and who are prone to blood sugar imbalances, the 5:2 can be challenging and can even have a negative effect on health.
To find what works for you, it is important to assess your goals and tailor your nutritional support your body. Most importantly, listen to your body; if what you are eating makes you feel healthy and vibrant, it is most likely working for you. On the other hand, if you're feeling miserable and like you're struggling, it is probably not working for you.
2. There are particular nutrients that you are almost certainly not getting sufficient amounts of, even if you have a healthy diet.
There is no doubt that a healthy diet is the backbone of good health, however, there are some nutrients that are almost impossible to get adequate amounts of in modern life. Vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids and magnesium are the most common deficiencies across the board.
RDAs (recommended daily allowance), currently being renamed as NRVs (Nutrient Reference Values), for vitamins and minerals are misleading. These are set at the amount that must be consumed to prevent illness. Often these values are not set at levels that are required for optimum health, and generally need to be set much higher.
3. Healthy eating isn’t about cutting things out, it's about getting the good stuff in.
The rise of the health/food bloggers and wellness focused media has fuelled a culture of food intolerance. It is important not to view food as the enemy. We are lucky to live in countries where food is abundant and where we have infinite choice. No food is bad. Let go of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods replace with ‘nourishing', ‘special’ or ‘treat’ foods. Nourishment should come first, and should be what satiates your hunger. Then, if you wish to add ‘treat’ foods afterwards, then you can do. Aim for 80%/20% split in terms of nourishment and foods just for pleasure. This is a more sustainable approach to diet and lifestyle, and far easier to maintain in the long term.
4. Health is more important than aesthetics.
Many people would love to lose a few extra pounds, but often what is stopping them from feeling good about their bodies is actually not what they look like but what they feel like. Poor digestion, especially bloating, low mood, anxiety, stress, fatigue, hormone imbalance, and immune system are all things that should take nutritional priority over weight loss. More often than not, once you have solved these issues your body will re-calibrate to your optimal weight, as well as allowing you the vitality to actually get moving.
5. Eat more, not less, to stay slim.
It is a common misconception that managing weight is about ‘dieting’ and ’eating fewer calories’. Not only is this not sustainable, but it can also end up slowing the metabolism and make weight fluctuations more probable. A weight-loss program that overly restricts calories will set you up for failure. There is a point at which cutting calories will work against weight loss because consuming too few calories (or too few meals) leads to increased appetite and low satiety as your body prevents starvation. You will find it hard to implement your healthy eating goals when you're feeling hungry and dissatisfied. And you will suffer from cravings, ultimately causing you to fall into under-eating and over-eating cycles.
To lose weight and manage a healthy one, we actually have to eat more food, and they need to be the right foods. Changing our diet so it is packed full of nutrient dense health foods means that we move away from this cycle, and move into a balanced, nourishing state. Crowding in is a key; the more ‘good’ nutrient dense food that you can get in, the less you will crave ‘hollow’, high-calorie foods. Focus on getting as much plant based foods, high-quality protein and healthy fats into your diet as possible. The key is to start to make mind-body connections with food and nourishment, then the rest will naturally follow.