The Most Sustainable Diet You Can Stick to for Life
Summer’s around the corner--partially sprung up on us for a hot (literally) second here in NYC--so, I think it’s an appropriate time to talk about our diets. I’ve tried them all (well, many--there are a lot): keto, whole 30, paleo, vegetarian, dairy-free, gluten-free, intermittent fasting, juice cleanses… and after all is said and done, I always resort back to the simplest way of eating: for nutrients, from whole foods.
At the very base level, our society’s use of the word “diet” is completely misconstrued. A diet is simply the kinds of foods a person, animal, or community habitually eats. The word “diet” nowadays is synonymous with “fad diet” and associated with weight loss and cutting calories--limitation, really. So, understand when I refer to my “diet,” I mean the foods that I eat on the regular.
Now, I’m no a registered dietician or nutritionist, just a well-read human being in the study of nutrition and health. As well as someone who has dealt with disordered eating for over a decade. There. I said it. So, feel free to take what I say with a grain of salt.
Food is fuel. Your diet should consist of real foods: unprocessed, unbleached, unpackaged, whole foods. If you’re eating for nutrients, there’s no need to supplement in any form, including vitamins (which were found in various studies to show no real benefit). My diet consists of (categorized how I consider these foods in my mind, not according to any food pyramid):
- Vegetables: in unlimited amounts.
Lean Proteins: cage-free eggs, antibiotic-free chicken breast, fish (cod, sea bass, salmon, tuna), lean red meat about once a month (around that time… ya know, when you’re losing iron?), whey protein (for smoothies--my exception to ‘whole foods’)
Fruits: bananas (considered a carb) and berries
Complex Carbohydrates: sweet potato, brown rice, quinoa, farro, barley, oats, chickpeas, beans, lentils
Healthy Fats: avocado, peanut or almond butter, chia or flax seeds, coconut milk
Dairy: splash of cream for coffee and fat-free Greek yogurt
Spices: cinnamon (anti-inflammatory), chili pepper (I love spice), turmeric, ginger, curry
Sweeteners: I typically avoid sugar, but if not sweetened by fruit, I use raw honey
Alcohol: red wine and gin, and the occasional IPA
I eat every 2-3 hours
I eat protein at every meal
I start each morning with an ashwagandha pill alongside my coffee
I, do, typically intermittent fast for about 12-14 hours on weekdays
I “carb-fade” as the day goes on or eat carbs around my workouts
I end the day with either an herbal tea and/or shot of ACV-lemon-turmeric-ginger
1. SCREW THE SCALE
I don’t own one; I don’t ever plan to; I avoid it in the gym locker room, and I resent my physician for forcing me on it once a year. Like age, it is just a number.
The scale is a horrible misrepresentation of your overall health and wellbeing. We’ve all heard that “muscle weighs more than fat,” which is true, so don’t forget it, but what that really means is that the number you read does not differentiate body composition. Sure, there are ways to determine your BMI, but a generic floor scale for weight will only tell you your overall mass, not your make-up. Don’t let it get to your head. I know - way easier said than done, hence my aversion to it.
2. DON’T COUNT CALORIES OR DEPRIVE YOURSELF
The stress, alone, of tracking macros, counting calories, and logging every ounce, gram, and piece you consume is not worth it. And high levels of stress can cause weight gain… more on that in a separate post. But, truly, everything--from nutrition labels to calorie trackers are guestimates. If you feel your time is best spent doing that, I support your ambition; otherwise, just eat when you’re hungry and stick to those whole foods.
As far as cravings go? Use your judgment and make better choices. I crave chocolate hard when I’m getting/have my period. Rather than depriving myself and inevitably going insane, I opt for dark chocolate with a high cacao percentage (high in antioxidants amongst other benefits). I make healthy decisions when I can, but also indulge in the “real deal” from time-to-time ‘cause nothing beats a serious burger or proper slice.
3. MINDSET DETOX
Stress is incredibly toxic for our bodies: mental and physical. I can’t emphasize this point enough: your mental wellness absolutely affects your physical wellbeing. Start with a “mindset detox,” may that also involve avoiding a scale, banning your calorie counting apps, or cleaning out your pantry and fridge to start fresh, so be it! But, you’ll benefit immensely and in so many ways from practicing mindfulness and self-love in the form of affirmations. Speaking kindly to yourself, being easier on you, goes a long, long way. Give yourself some grace if you have a “cheat meal” or a “cheat day”--it happens; it needs to happen. Tomorrow is a new beginning.
Case in point: don’t fad diet. Take the time to determine what makes your body feel its best. What helps you operate at the highest level. Form a positive relationship with food by way of cultivating a sustainable diet--one that suits you, for life.