Keto, low carb, carnivore, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, South Beach, Mediterranean, Blood Type, raw food, Whole30, Atkins, DASH… The list is quite literally ENDLESS. When I did a quick Google search of “How many different diets are there” hundreds of options were listed. There was even on article comparing ONE HUNDRED different diets.
One hundred different ways to eat, many with multiple rules to follow, creating a complicated relationship with something that is so primitive: food.
Think about it, even “intuitive eating” as become a diet. If there were no “diets”, wouldn’t that just be…eating?
Food is fuel. Food is also community, tradition, relationships, connection, sharing, and so much more. But, in fitness, we often distill it down into numbers and metrics, good and bad, allowed and not-allowed. So. Many. Rules.
What if we just scrapped it all? What if we forgot about the rules and got back to the basics? What if we just ate like adults, chose foods that we know are nourishing to the body, and added those that may not be as nourishing a smaller percentage of the time?
What if we just simplified it all?
The power of basic nutrition principles (or really just the basics of anything) cannot be underestimated. Before we identify the basics, how can we recognize that something may be too complicated?
- A list of rules approximately 1 mile long that you have to follow exactly.
- The exclusion of some of your favorite foods or food groups entirely.
- Rules that restrict the timing, preparation, or consumption of food.
- Fear-based marketing around insecurities or “problems” you’re experiencing.
- Telling you that supplements or specific products from that company are necessary to achieve success in their program.
By no means is this a complete list, but hopefully it stirs your thinking. Does any diet that you’ve followed in the past come to mind as you’re reading this list?
I know it does for me!
Sure, there will be success stories from diets and programs that use these rules. But at what cost? Or, one of my favorite questions: Does the diet really ‘work’ if it doesn’t WORK long-term? Of course, you may see weight loss that you want in the short-term, but is that worth giving up your favorite foods forever?
How can we simplify?
It’s really that simple. Water is kind of magical. It makes up a HUGE percentage of our body and is the catalyst for digestion, metabolic reactions, and so much more throughout the body. As a general rule, we want to aim for at least 1/2 our bodyweight in ounces per day. But ideally, anywhere between 1/2-1 ounce per lb. of bodyweight is a good estimation. This will depend not only on body size, but activity level, type of activity, weather, body temperature, among other factors.
I know what you’re thinking: Water is boring.
While sure, 1/2-1x your bodyweight may sound like a ton of water, you get used to it as you’re consistent in consuming fluids! Incorporating fruit infused water, unsweetened sparkling water, and herbal teas can help increase fluid intake.
Control your portion sizes.
I know what you’re thinking – count calories. No, no – I’m not saying that at all. Calorie counting is often far too complex for what we need for baseline health. BUT portion sizes can be an easy way to ensure that we’re eating a well-balanced diet with a variety of macro and micronutrients.
To do this, let’s use our hand.
Using our hand is simple, we can eyeball it, and (literally) goes with us everywhere. While it’s simply an estimation, we’re not looking for exact measurements in the basics. We’re looking to nail the basics.
Educate yourself around food & food labels.
Knowing what foods contain certain macronutrients and micronutrients can give you power over nutrition. This allows you to build plates that fit your goals, regardless of where you are – eating at a friend’s house, out to eat, or just hanging out at home. Yes, this will take time up front, I’m not going to sugar coat it. But, in this case, knowledge is quite literally power.
Eat like an adult.
Think back to when you were a kid – What were your eating habits and patterns? How did your parents talk to you about food? How was food viewed in your house? Often, many of these habits or practices from our adolescent years shape our relationship with food as an adult.
Some are habitual, others are routine. Taking time to recognize these can allow you build eating patterns and choose foods that nourish your body. To me, eating like an adult means choosing foods that nourish our bodies, but still allowing space for those foods that may not be as highly nutrient dense.
Personally, I focus on an 80/20 split during most times of the year. That is – 80% foods that are high quality, nutrient dense, and make the body feel good and 20% foods that aren’t as nutrient dense, but also nourish the soul 😉
Focus on you.
Everyone, and I do mean nearly everyone, that starts a complicated diet will want to talk about their complicated diet. While it may be tempting to hop ship and start something more complicated, focus on you. Know that while the basics won’t provide the quickest results, they’ll provide the longest-lasting.
How does that sound? Too simple? Of course, the thing is, it’s simple but just not easy. There’s many things that want to get in the way of our nutrition. But focusing on crushing these basics, even in the most complicated of situations, can help to anchor and improve our progress – regardless of our goals.
Now, that’s not to say there aren’t times that we may need to dial in a little tighter on nutrition. If you’re in a fat loss phase, we might have to add some tracking, make sure we’re in a caloric deficit, and keep protein intake high to preserve muscle. If you’re trying to gain muscle, we may have to make sure we’re eating in excess, adding in an extra snack or two throughout the day. But these are all individual and should be done with an established base of basics.
Problems arise when we attempt to jump to more complicated, complex rules without establishing this base of basics first.
Stop underestimating. If there are basics you’re not nailing, take time to get those down…you may be surprised at the progress you make from just that alone!
Take time this week to recognize those basic habits that you’re CRUSHING. Celebrate those wins – keep doing that! At the same time, take inventory of what needs some polishing up. What habits aren’t going so great? Is there one that stands out? Make that habit your focus this week.