Clean up your diet- what is the best diet?

If you’re looking to improve your health, lose fat, or get fit, you’re probably considering changing your diet. But the question is, what is the best diet? and which diet should you go onto?

Various forums, blogs, magazines all toot different messages. There is so much information that you feel lost. Ironically, I’m also about to give you more information. However, I’m not going to suggest which diet you should go onto. Rather let’s discuss the fundamentals.

There are two elements to a good diet, it will:

  1. achieve your short term goals
  2. help you play the long term game

It’s a common perception that losing fat is all about calories in vs calories out. However true that may be, a calorie of sugar is not the same as a calorie of protein. If your sole purpose is to lose fat, then yes, possibly. But that’s the expense of rule number 2. Rule number 2 is more important – after all we’re here to create the best version of yourself.

Health is a long term game. Most people don’t treat it as such.That’s why people ‘go on a diet’. They think that they’ll do the diet, get off it, and everything will be just as they imagine it to be. The reality is much different though. Some will achieve their short term goals – but at the expense of longer term gains.

Therefore magazines, blogs, and the media industry leeches off this. For the sake of writing new content and getting clicks, they will publish anything – as long as it gets them the views or the sales. All this content and click bait is designed to do the following: meet Rule 1 – achieve your short term goals.

Yes most advice works because it’s based on the simple principle: calorie in vs calorie out. Create a strong caloric deficit and you will lose weight.

The biggest problem you have with short term diets is that it destroys your metabolism – if not done properly. Most people don’t do them properly. What people end up doing is:

  1. Reducing their calories
  2. Reducing nutritional content

A caloric deficit allows you to lose weight because you burn more calories than you consume. Likewise, a caloric surplus will let you gain weight if you consume more calories than you burn off. So what people do is – they reduce their calories. Say they are consuming 2500 calories per day. They go on a diet, and bang! They reduce to 1500 calories per day.

They cut out foods, good or bad, replacing with quick meals or snacks. So not only have they reduced calories, they’re also malnourished. Then because these diets are so hard to maintain, they’ll yo-yo, continuously.

Metabolic Adaptation

The calorie in vs calorie out principle may be fine for the short term as it does indeed to what it’s essence is. But it excludes key factors, all which play a huge role in your long term weight and health:

  1. Metabolism
  2. General Health

Your ability to metabolise food, convert to energy and expend it varies throughout life. Your diet itself plays a pivotal role in your metabolic rate and fat loss goals. The higher your metabolic rate, the more calories you can afford to consume. E.g. If you have a low metabolic rate you will gain fat on say 2000 calories. However if you have a higher metabolic rate you may lose fat on the same 2000 calories.

The human body is a complex system. It is designed to be as efficient as possible. One of these ‘efficiencies’ is on how it preserves or uses energy (or energy stores such as fat). Unfortunately, the way we diet – by creating a harsh caloric deficit (using more calories than consuming) – it creates havoc on this efficient system. The body will try to preserve energy stores when that happens- especially if done suddenly. So even though you may be dieting down severely and exercising more – you’re body is trying to do the opposite. It’s trying to preserve the energy stores in your body. You want to lose the fat- but your body tries to adjust it self so it doesn’t want to burn the fat!

Bad and good diet- reducing calories can be bad

Because your body is efficient, it will then learn to live off a low calorie state than before. It’s trying to burn less energy by using less. So now you need to increase the deficit. You need to reduce more calories, or start exercising even more. Bit hard to do when you might already be at 1000 calories per day, and exercising 10 hours a week!

But congratulations – you’ve just done what the health industry has been telling you to do, and in the process destroyed your metabolism. If you’ve done the above successfully, you’ll also find that once you’re off the diet, you’ll not just have gained back the weight you lost, but put on extra kilos!

Because the body has adjusted to live off a lower caloric state, it also means that if you now eat what ever you used to eat pre-dieting, you’ll actually be burning less of it. It’s a lose-lose situation.

That’s why, I introduce rule number 2: your diet will help you play the long term game.

Rule 2: Diet is a long term game

Always start with the end in mind. This is no less true when it comes to health and dieting. Most people, when it comes to dieting consider ‘the end’ to be start of summer – when you want to look good by. Their diet goals might be for 2, or 6 months, or even 1 year.

No, the end means looking down 10,20,30, even 50 years. This is the long term game. Don’t be look most people who yo-yo up and down constantly, chasing short term health goals and in the process destroying their metabolism. I’m sure you know at least one person who tends to be on the latest diet or latest fad – but they never actually lose any weight – in fact you probably see the opposite.

I discuss the importance of creating your mission constantly. Striving for personal improvement to your physical being should be a a key part of your mission statement. Then therefore, maintaining a healthy diet plays a crucial role in fulfilling this mission. Your mission is the long game. It is not a short term goal. I want you to look good not by summer, not by next year, but look good through your entire life.

During your mission, you will have certain (short term) goals or milestones- e.g. gain 5kg muscle, or increase strength by x, or lose 10kg fat, and so on. Although you can adjust (you will need to adjust) your diet to help achieve these goals, but anything you do, you must consider the long term effect.

So any change you do, you must consider what impact it will have on your life in the long term. The key question you should ask is, can I sustain this? can I live like this for the rest of my life? if the answer is no – then you need to re-consider what you are doing or how you will do it.

So what is the best diet then?

Yeah, if you’re still asking this question then you haven’t paid attention to the above text. You need to get your fundamentals right. Hopefully you are in a state to really look after your physique and want to diet down. In that case, congratulations. But this is what you need to do:

  1. Educate your self – be your own doctor and know your body
  2. Track what you eat – do not remove foods yet – only track
  3. Start with increasing your foods, not reducing them!
  4. Replace sugar laden foods from your diet with nutritionally dense foods
  5. Replace fried foods
  6. Then look at reducing your calories- very slowly
  7. Combine with a strength building regimen that is part of your lifestyle
  8. Adjust calories or diet gradually to meet short term goals

As for what not to do, I’d strongly suggest the following:

  • Do not severely cut calories instantly.
  • Do not remove nutritionally dense foods with quick meals that have hidden fillers.
  • Do not consume low fat foods.

Majority of the grocery isles at the supermarket are stacked with foods with hidden sugars and unwanted contents. Majority are processed foods and most are hormone or chemical infested. So yes, even when you ‘think’ you’re on a healthy diet you food is still probably laden with harsh chemicals, sugars, or fillers.

Start with knowing what sort of foods you are eating. Are they primarily processed? Look at the sugar content on the foods you eat, you may get a nasty surprises. Most sauces and the like can be filled with 50-60% sugar. Are you buying low-fat or fat-free products? Think twice before you do – you’re just wasting your money, getting less nutritional value from these, and in the long term may as well be doing more harm than good.

I also suggest getting some sort of calorie tracker to track what and how much you eat. Any decent calorie tracker app will also let you get an idea of your food macros (protein, carbohydrates, and fats). If you’re leaning on carbohydrates or fats as the majority, it’s definitely time to switch.

Don’t track your weight only. Look at your body fat percentage also. Body weight tracking is a false way to track your health. There are numerous ways to gauge body fat. Most convenient and accurate way,  at a reasonable price point will be a Dexa scan. I’m sure you’re not a training to be an elite athlete- so I’d bypass this option for now. You can also order a caliper set which give you some idea on fat percentage. The caliper let’s you pinch a bit of fat and measure the length, on various parts of your body.

I personally do have certain diets that I follow, one being intermittent fasting. I’m not a professional, I can’t suggest you do it. It works for me, likewise it may work for you. It works for me because it’s helped me lose fat, maintain my weight, counter my busy lifestyle. So that’s why – become your own doctor – know your body. See what you can fit into your mission and your lifestyle.

Either way we’re all on this journey together so I’ll explain various diets and approaches through out this blog, and hopefully these will let you live out your missions!

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