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Stop Dieting and Work on Your Nutrition

While the primary definition of diet refers to how you eat and the foods you put into your body, it has taken on a new meaning. The word “diet” now denotes a temporary alteration in eating habits. It is a specific change (or changes), for better or worse, that has a definitive beginning and end. Therein lies the problem with diets and “dieting.”

Here are the problems with dieting:

Diets also tend to be particularly restrictive, sometimes to a fault.

When you have an actual medical contraindication to ingesting certain kinds of foods, those foods need to be removed from your menu. When you don’t have a condition, removing the same foods could have a negative effect. If you’re not actually gluten intolerant, you could be missing out on a lot of good micronutrients the modern loaf of bread is enriched with.

The premise of the Paleo diet is to remove any foods produced in the agricultural age. Essentially, you eat like a caveman. While there’s a decent rationale behind this philosophy (e.g. limiting HG carbohydrate intake), limiting your diet can lead to the exclusion of some of modern society’s best work: easier, more convenient access to essential vitamins and minerals found in, that’s right, processed “enriched” foods.

They prey on emotion.

When someone idolizes an attractive actress and finds out she’s on the “juice cleanse”, the fan automatically goes on the same cleanse (more on this nonsense later). First off, food choices should never be based on emotion. Secondly, we are all built differently. What works for one person may not yield the same results for another.

Another emotional food choice might be to go vegetarian or vegan because you believe that killing animals for food is wrong. I’m not going to be the guy that tells you what your ideals should be but make sure that they’re your ideals. If you think that being an herbivore will make you healthier than a carnivore, you’ve been sorely misled. It won’t necessarily make you less healthy but the “health risks” from eating red meat don’t actually exist in a balanced diet.

Most aren’t based on scientific fact.

Despite the restrictive nature of the Paleo Diet, it’s relatively sound and does more good than harm. Most other options using the word “diet” don’t quite measure up.

Juice cleanses are pure nonsense. The weight you lose while on it is largely due to malnutrition, rather than fat loss. In fact, rather than lose fat, cleansers often gain fat at a more rapid rate once they get off the juice. When you starve your body it goes into hibernation mode. Essentially, it stores fat for potential use as energy at a higher rate because you’ve trained your digestive system to believe that it’s nourishment comes few and far in between.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. 9 times out of 10, anything being sold to you containing the word “diet” in it, only exists to collect your money.

They are finite.

Diets usually have a beginning and end. Due to all of the factors described above, you are usually worse off a few months after the diet has ended than before you started it. When you restrict yourself to the bare minimum, even if it’s healthy food, your body has been forced to quit junk food cold turkey. Imagine quitting heroin for 3 weeks and then being “allowed” to have it again! Odds are you go on a pretty impressive binge. Long story short, These diets just aren’t sustainable because they aren’t designed to be.

What to do instead:

Stop thinking about diet and start thinking about lifelong nutrition.

Weight gain or loss boils down to portion control. If you want to lose fat, you have to be in caloric deficit. in other words, you have to be expending more energy than you’re taking in. If you need to gain weight, do the opposite.

Digging deeper, it’s about the kind of foods you eat. Where the Paleo diet gets it right is the larger proportion of protein. Protein get’s a bad rap because of some crap about kidney damage during the filtration of high protein diets. This is ONLY true for someone with bad kidneys, in much the same way the strength training is bad for someone with a broken leg. The truth is, protein has a high thermic effect: it requires more energy to digest than carbs and fat. In other words, you’re using unwanted stored fat as fuel to digest protein. Don’t skimp on the carbs or healthy fats. You need them for energy to train because God knows that diet alone isn’t incredibly effective.

Get some colorful foods on your plate. The darker the veggie, the more nutrient-dense it is. Err on the side of veggies over fruits. I’m not saying to cut out fruits, mind you. Fruits just bring a high level of simple sugars with their vitamins. Veggies do not. If you’re trying to lose fat, particularly the last few pounds, go with the broccoli over a banana. If you’re going to eat a piece of fruit, eat one that has an edible peel. Most of the fiber that maintains your insulin sensitivity is found in the peel.

Lastly, be conscientious about how your food is prepared, especially if you eat out a lot. Look for the words baked, broiled, steamed, or grilled. Avoid fried whenever possible.

Ultimately, the reasons why “dieting” never works in the long run is that they’re unsustainable. They don’t provide enough energy long-term to fuel even the most sedentary of individuals, let alone athletes. The thought process has to change. Eat like the person you want to be.

You don’t have to make gigantic changes that restrict everything we love about food. Make small alterations and compromises and stay at your desired caloric intake to see real sustainable results. Work on your nutrition.


Aaron Runner, MS, CSCS

Author: Aaron Runner, MS, CSCS

Aaron Runner is the Owner of Full-Stride Performance in Roswell, GA and a former NCAA Strength & Conditioning Coach.

Aaron Runner, MS, CSCS

Aaron Runner, MS, CSCS View All

Aaron Runner is the Owner of Full-Stride Performance in Roswell, GA and a former NCAA Strength & Conditioning Coach.

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