If you follow blogs or websites about nutrition, fitness, or healthy eating, you’ve probably come across quite a few articles reporting conflicting research. Some studies seem to suggest that a low-fat diet is best, while others support a higher-fat, low-carb plan. There are studies that promote a plant-based diet, while others tout the nutritional value of high-quality meat and dairy. So how do you know what to believe? Here are a few tips to help you tune out the static and find a way of eating that works well for you.
Realize that you are unique
It is very tempting to want to jump on board with a diet plan that seems to have worked so well for someone else. And indeed, many nutrition professionals seem to have the attitude that their approach to nutrition is the single best approach — that it is the key to health for everyone, everywhere. But this is not the case. Just because something worked well for a professional, a friend, a family member or co-worker, that doesn’t automatically make it the right thing for you.
So often we try to stick to diet plans that have worked fabulously for others, but when we don’t see the same kind of success, we blame ourselves. We start to think that maybe we’re not trying hard enough, we’re not being “disciplined” enough, or there’s something wrong with us. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Remember, your body has a unique combination of needs, and what works for you may be different from what works for others in your life.
Remember that your needs change
Not only do nutritional needs vary from person to person, they also vary for one person over time. If you begin exercising more, you may find you need more calories. If you’re pregnant, fighting off a cold, or going through a stressful time at work, for example, you may discover that foods you once relied on are no longer meeting your needs. Don’t force yourself to stick to a diet plan just because you think it’s what you “should” be doing. That kind of perfectionism will damage both your emotional and your physical health. Strive instead for internal peace, out of which can flow a confident determination to stick to your chosen path. Always listen to the intuitive wisdom of your body and allow yourself to be flexible as your needs change and evolve.
Find the kernel of truth
It is frustrating when a particular nutrition expert says one thing, while another says something completely different. How can knowledgeable professionals offer such widely varying advice? The reality is, nutrition experts sometimes extrapolate too much from the research. How easy it can be to make broad conclusions based on a very specific study, or attribute results to a single factor, when in reality other factors were involved. Even experts may take the kernel of truth from a study and read too much into it. In any case, this can lead to a philosophy of eating that is too extreme for the general public.
Your job as an information consumer is to find the kernel of truth and apply it to your diet in a way that works for your unique body and needs. For example, while the Atkins diet may not be nutritionally balanced, the core belief — that refined carbs aren’t the healthiest option — is true. So rather than cutting out nearly all carbs, you can take that bit of wisdom, pay attention to how your body handles carbohydrates, and develop a plan to consume carbs in a healthy way. Similarly, while you may not have the desire to go completely vegan, you can incorporate the core belief — that including many plant foods in your diet is beneficial — without cutting out all animal products. You don’t have to go to extremes with any diet unless doing so genuinely feels right in your body. For many of us, even positive change may be unpleasant or uncomfortable, but with your body as your ally, you can find what is right for you. Just find the underlying kernel of wisdom from the dietary approach you’re interested in and figure out how you can apply it to your own lifestyle.
Trying to find the one and only “perfect” diet, and beating ourselves up when what we thought was the “best” diet doesn’t work for us, only causes unnecessary anxiety and sabotages our efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle. So give yourself a break! Don’t be discouraged by all the seemingly conflicting messages. Take the time to really listen to the wisdom of your body and trust that it will lead you to the diet that’s best for you.
—The Alternative Daily