Over the years I’ve come to realize that nutrition is absolutely the foundation of the wellness pyramid. I was in denial for years, but the truth is unavoidable. For the average genetic makeup, to get and stay healthy one must eat right. But what is right? And what can I possibly offer that hasn’t been said already? Well the truth is, I don’t think I have new information to offer, and I certainly don’t have nutrition figured out, but I would like to share some thoughts from my own journey of attempting to get my nutrition dialed in. I’ve done a lot of reading about nutrition and have tried a lot of different things, many of which have worked for me. Though I’m not a nutritionist or a medical professional in any way, and what I’m sharing is anecdotal, I believe what I’ve learned from experience may also be helpful to you.
See the end before you begin:
Before you set out to to fix your nutrition, it’s important to know what you are trying to accomplish. Your approach may be different if you are trying to determine if you have a food allergy or sensitivity versus if you are trying to lose weight. Know what it is you want to do before you start.
Start with a Whole30:
This may feel like a big step , but I promise it is worth it; if you can complete your Whole30 it will make the rest of your nutrition journey a bit easier. I wrote an entire article about my Whole30 experience , because it really was a turning point for me nutritionally. I don’t think (and neither do the founders of Whole30) it’s practical to eat Whole30 all the time for most people, but it’s a great way to start. Whole30 will help you decide if any food groups don’t agree with you. It will also make you an expert at label reading, which is essential for a decent diet.
There is a lot of confusing and even conflicting nutritional info out there. But when I first started considering how to clean up my diet, there were things I knew I was doing that I needed to stop doing. I remember reading a little book by Michael Pollan years ago called Food Rules. It was sort of a Reader’s Digest version of The Omnivore's Dilemma. In that book he, as the title indicates, lays out some basic food ground rules. One that really spoke to me was “Don’t eat anything your Grandma wouldn’t recognize.” Your grandma knows what pizza is, but she probably wouldn’t recognize a Hot Pocket. I wouldn’t suggest eating pizza or Hot Pockets on any kind of regular basis, but I think you see the point. Even before you start eliminating things to find out what works for you, deal with what you know you shouldn’t be doing (cough cough drinking soda cough).
The process of cleaning up your diet is not linear:
This is an up and down process. Finding what works for you will also mean experimenting with things that don’t work for you. You will have ups and down no matter the measure of success you are using. Learn to see the process of dialing in your nutrition as part of the reward, and use your effort as a marker of success even if you find something doesn’t work.
Find more meaningful markers of success than the scale:
I’m probably not as anti-scale as some folks. I think it’s an incredibly useful tool and it says a lot. But it is just a tool. As far as tools go, it’s like a screwdriver -- I use it a lot and it’s good for a lot of things, but I do need other tools. Check in on things like energy, sleep, mental state, workout performance, etc. These are all things (in addition to the scale) that are indicators of your overall success.
Different things work for different people:
There are a lot of options out there and a lot of them will work depending on your goals. Find something that is sustainable for you and allows you to enjoy your life. Some people can Keto all the time, but for some this approach won’t work. Food allergies may prevent you from doing a Whole30, but a vegetarian approach may work for you. Do your research and try different things. Be sure to give anything you try 100% effort, and don’t abandon an approach because you didn’t lose 20 lbs the first week.
Things that worked for you in the past may not work for you forever:
Just because something worked for you before doesn’t mean it will work for you in the long term. When I first started putting effort into my nutrition, I did Weight Watchers and made a lot of progress. At some point I tried some new things that didn’t work as well, but when I went back to Weight Watchers, that didn’t work either. Your goals change, your schedule changes; your nutrition plan may need to change as well to accommodate your life.
Nutrition gets easier over time:
I’ve found that as time passes, I’m more capable of trusting my judgment and intuition when it comes to eating. This has come from years of trying different things, and reading and learning about different approaches to nutrition. I know now what works for me. I still follow a very general approach, but over time it’s gotten easier and less time consuming.
Keep your eyes on your own plate:
This principle goes well beyond nutrition, but don’t get consumed with what works for other people and the progress they are making. Everyone is so very different, and most of what we see on the internet is incomplete at best. So focus on you and your goals and congratulate others on their success. Don’t get sidetracked with other people's seemingly overnight success, because those results are either temporary, or their perceived overnight success has 10 or so years of work behind it.
These are just a few of the principles that have guided me to what works in my nutrition journey. I spent years denying the truth that nutrition is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle, but after a lot of hard work and experimentation, I discovered what works for me and that I truly could get my diet under control.