by Laura Kauffman
Have you ever asked someone who has had success losing weight or gaining muscle what they’re eating? Perhaps you’ve been asked yourself because you’ve recently lost 20 pounds or showed significant muscle gain over a short period of time. Chances are, if you are in any way associated in fitness, whether it be as a member of a gym or as a Fitness Professional, you’ve found yourself in the topic of discussion concerning DIETS!!
My name is Laura Kauffman and when it comes to nutrition, I’d like to share with you a little advice about shared advice. Let me first tell you about myself. I have been involved in some form of fitness pretty much my whole life, from active team sports as an adolescent to daily gym maintenance as an adult. I’ve been a Fitness Professional for over 8 years as a Certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, and former owner of two fitness facilities as well as a nutrition and supplement shop owner and distributor. I am currently working towards becoming a National Certified Health Coach. I have studied and researched countless aspects of diets and nutrition over the last decade or so and have experimented with several different plans myself either to achieve weight loss or muscle gain. I have found (and am still learning) what has worked for me and what hasn’t worked at all.
I often wondered how some people could go on and on about how their diet plan is “the best” and swear that their way is “the only way,” yet, it didn’t work for me. Sometimes their “scientifically proven diet” actually had the opposite effect of what I was hoping for. Most of us have either experienced this ourselves or have seen others struggle year after year with this constant battle and search to find that magic mix of food we call a diet. Well, I’m here to let you off the hook… you ready for this? DIETS DON’T WORK!! There, I said it. And now that I have your attention, allow me to explain.
People are hypnotized by dietary theories, and that’s just what they are… theories. Nutrition information is often taken from social media, magazines, the Internet, or books, and when a specific diet doesn’t work for one person, it brings on a sense of failure. Whether you are giving or receiving dieting advice, know this: you are NOT right or wrong and you are NOT a failure! You are different, and that’s what makes or breaks your nutritional needs.
Simply put, everyone is different or is bio-individuality. In other words, just as we are all unique in mind, body, and spirit – we are also unique in the things that support our individual health and happiness. When it comes to diet, lifestyle, and happiness, what works for you won’t necessarily work for your family members, friends, or coworkers. For example, I recently made the decision earlier this year to switch to only plant-based foods. I personally have never felt more vibrant and healthy. I have friends who have tried the same approach and were left feeling completely drained and lethargic. This is a perfect example of how everyone metabolizes food differently meaning one person’s food can be another person’s poison. In other words, be careful about what you believe is “the best” or “most effective” approach.
Health is complex and multidimensional. There are so many variables that it’s impossible for all our needs to be the same. And it’s not as simple as maintaining a healthy diet or exercise regimen; it’s understanding that there’s a lot more to it than just making the “right choices.” There are so many biological and environmental factors that contribute to one’s health (or lack thereof) including your chemical/hormonal make-up, your age, your gender, where you live, what foods you have access to, your relationships and support system, your spirituality and level of stress, your career and financial situation, and, of course, your current health and daily activity. Does everyone stand on the same line or live at the same level in each one of these categories? Of course not! All these things will affect what foods are going to work for you and not against you. This means you need to be mindful when asking for AND offering advice. Experiment to find what the right decisions are for you – the right environment, diet, or workout that helps you thrive right now at this point in your life knowing that will change through the years as you age.
So, the question still remains… if diets don’t work, then how are you supposed to know what to eat and what to stay away from? Also, does this mean that you’ve given or received bad advice? Absolutely not! Again, it all goes back to what works best for YOU! I’ve witnessed bio-individuality in my own life by experimenting with different meal plans and just being aware as to how I feel mentally and physically. I’m always having to self-correct day to day, because each day I have different needs. As bio-individuals, I encourage you to do the same by exploring what foods work for you and to trust your body. You can’t fail at a “diet” that you create for your unique self.
Still, looking for a little more direct guidance? Let me throw you the proverbial bone without prescribing a specific diet… a few tips pretty much all us true health and nutrition geeks can agree on:
1. Focus on mostly on whole foods. Remember, the closer to nature, the better.
2. Stay away from added sugar at all costs (especially artificial sweeteners) . Your body needs exactly 0 grams of added sugar every day. This is totally different then sugars found naturally in foods.
3. Ditch the refined, packaged, hydrogenated, and otherwise processed foods. Keep it simple… as our ancestors did!
4. Incorporate more plants into your daily meals. It is now recommended that about half of your plate (not half of your calories) should be dedicated to fruits and vegetables. Check out www.myplate.gov for an illustration.
5. Explore more variety in foods so that you’re consuming a balance of all the necessary macro- and micronutrients your body needs in order to function properly. No one knows how much of anything YOU need so do not listen to anyone that quotes you specific grams or percentages.
6. Don’t tell anyone or let anyone tell you what kind of diet is “the right diet!” Embrace your bio-individuality and listen to your body. You know you better than anyone else!!
7. KEEP MOVING!!!
When you think of exercise, what immediately comes to mind? Going out for a jog? Loading up weights at the squat rack? Or maybe both?