Finding The Right Diet

I have never, in my years working within the fitness industry, known anybody successfully stick to a ‘diet’, and this is most likely down to the fact that they actually feel like they’re ‘dieting’; dieting automatically brings about the thought that you are cutting foods out and not allowing yourself the things that you enjoy most. For this reason, finding the right diet, one that you are able to sustain, is essential to your nutritional success.

You should take the approach of completely changing your lifestyle – if you look over a diet plan and think ‘yeah I can do this for a few weeks’, then it’s really not the right one for you. You should be able to see longevity in the suggested changes as well as balance. If there is a good balance, then there is no reason to be cutting out foods; however, moderation should be key for everyone.

How do you know if a diet is healthy, balanced and maintainable?

A sound diet plan should be created by a qualified professional, involve a variety of foods from all food groups (proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals), include specific portion control to suit your body type, and promote gradual progression toward your goal. It should not rely heavily on supplements and should incorporate snacks for in between meals as well as allowing small portions of your favourite food and drink. Your diet should work around you and be adaptable to your lifestyle; it should allow you to continue with your eating-out and travel habits as well as being family friendly and affordable.

So now you know what diet to look for, are you clued up enough to know which ones to avoid? If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is…

Most fad diets will offer a quick fix and often suggest eliminating one or more of the five food groups. Commonly, you will find that these fad diets are put together in order to promote and sell a particular product – a meal replacement shake for example.

Ask yourself this; have you or anybody that you know tried one of these fad diets for a significant length of time? If so, did you reach your goal? More importantly, what happened, when you returned to your normal eating habits?

If this sounds familiar, and bells are starting to ring then you most likely have experience of this type of poor advice; but don’t worry you’re not alone. Many have assigned themselves to one of the latest ‘crazes’ over recent years, but the truth is, if they really worked then everyone would be doing it, consistently. Taking the simple approach seems to work best: if it’s weight loss that you’re after, aim to eat fewer calories than you are expending throughout the day; if its building muscle mass that you want, aim to consume more calories than you are burning. Regardless of your goal you should always consume a variety of foods from all of the five food groups, with relevant portion sizes.

Why mustn’t we cut out food groups?

All vitamins and minerals regulate different bodily processes. As an example, Calcium helps to strengthen bones and prevent damage such as fractures and vitamin C boosts your immune system to help your body to fight infection. Fad diets that suggest excluding food groups and therefore essential nutrients put a strain on our body, resulting in the risk of illness and can potentially even cause the development of certain conditions, especially if your body is depleted of such nutrients over a significant period of time; hence the importance of a balanced and varied diet. The level at which we are reliant on nutrients is evident in the food/drink cravings that the majority of the population experience…

A food craving…

…is an overbearing desire to consume a specific food or beverage and feels different to the usual sensation of hunger; some believe that cravings are a good indicator of what type of nutrients are required at the time.

Cravings can also be linked to emotion and are often present during periods of heightened stress and or anxiety. Commonly we tend to crave carbohydrates, which boost our serotonin levels; serotonin is known as our ‘calming’ hormone and therefore food containing a combination of sugars and fats can bring about the same calming effect that this hormone creates.

In addition, cravings can simply just be connected to memories of how good the food tasted or smelled last time you ate it; and is therefore representative of emotions and memories.

There are three regions of the brain (hippocampus, caudate and insula) that are triggered during our cravings and it is suggested that these areas are responsible for associating particular foods with a reward; it has also been proven that by denying ourselves of these foods, it actually lessens the strength of this type of association. So next time you’re craving goal-hindering foods, when you don’t deserve a reward, fight that feeling. The chart below will help to reduce this overbearing desire, as well as highlighting the foods that our bodies may be in desperate need of.

If you are craving

Then you’re body is craving

Which can be found in

Chocolate

Magnesium

Nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits

Sweets/Sugary Food

Carbon

Fresh fruits

Chromium

Broccoli, cheese, grape, chicken, dried beans

Phosphorus

Chicken, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, legumes, grains

Sulphur

Cranberries, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli

Tryptophan

Cheese, raisins, sweet potato, lamb, spinach

Bread, pasta, carbohydrate rich foods

Nitrogen

High protein foods: meat fish, beans, nuts

Oily/Fatty Food

Calcium

Cheese, milk, yoghurt, legumes, green leafy vegetables, broccoli

Salty Food

Chloride

Goats milk, fish

General Hunger/Overeating

Silcon

Nuts, seeds (avoid unrefined starches such as white bread, pasta etc)

 

Tryptophan

Cheese, raisins, sweet potato, lamb, spinach

 

Tyrosine

Green and red fruits and vegetables, orange


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