Diets are notorious: notorious for their short period of currency (the fad syndrome), for being the best thing since sliced bread (pun apology) and, well, for putting on weight.
What seems to work far better, and certainly has assisted me to both lose weight and increase general vitality/fitness has been what I call a principled approach to nutrition. If you take this approach, it will allow for an inquiry/experimental approach to your health and weight goals. Since starting this process back in January of 2011, my outcomes have been:
- Sustained weight loss from 81kg to 68kg
- Increased fitness and vitality
- Body shape changes - some people now mistakenly assume that I am a runner from my body shape alone
- A general wellbeing that is far better than my quality of life at aged 40 (I am now 55)
Rather than jumping on any particular diet (though some diet research did influence my approach at times), I took an inquiry approach, trying things, and watching the results. This approach in education is known as an Action Research model, and there are key reasons why this is a successful health strategy. A mass fad/diet ignores the individuality of your particular biology. One of the big trends in various domains (education, medicine, fitness and training) has been that of personalisation, and you should take this very much into account when you take a health strategy. In other words, what worked for the author, or even the masses, may not work for you.
So what principles are good ones to start with? The ones that work for me are:
- Reduce calories and increase nutrition - most diets focus restricting calories, some without paying attention to nutritional aspect. I aim to leverage as much nutritional value (including enzymes, pre/probiotics, antioxidants and micro/macro nutrients) as I can out of my food.
- Decrease meat consumption, particularly processed meats, with more meat free days per week than meals with meat.
- Eat a wide variety of foods, including unusual or different fruits (well, excluding durian at least to this point), vegetables, nuts, grains and seeds.
- Eat at least 50% per day raw (clearly excluding things like raw chicken) - we need roughly half of our enzyme needs to be met by external sources. If cooked, then minimally processed. The more cooked and processed food we eat, the greater we put our bodies under enzyme demand. High protein diets (particularly animal protein) have high digestive enzymatic demands, reducing access to (e.g.) cell repair enzymes if the diet is lacking. Some people I know use the rule "raw before four" - only cooked foods after 4pm.
- Have a serving of at least 5 super foods per day. My regulars include raw organic cacao, turmeric, chia, flaxseed, organic raisins (golden and black), maca powder, a supergreens formula, ginger, garlic, dragon fruit, mango, coconut (water, meat or oil) blueberries and bananas (not all on the same day mind you).
- Take high value, powerful supplements. I regularly take probiotics, digestive enzymes, cell repair enzymes, vitamin supplements (must contain micro minerals such as selenium), melatonin and neem.
- Decrease processed sugar, particularly corn syrup, to as low an intake as possible.
- Decrease dairy products to a minimum
- Bend the rules, break out and enjoy an indulgent meal, and change it up and down (in terms of calorie intake). Keeping your metabolism 'on its toes' so to speak is a good thing.
- Keep reading, researching, experimenting
Looking at this list, it looks a bit intimidating, but it all started with one principle: reduce carbohydrates, particularly gluten based versions. Interestingly, this is no longer one of my principles, a victim of my learning, experimenting and individualising.
So my advice? Start with 3-4 principles of your own, work at it, create some habits and set yourself up as your own action research project. You'll be amazed by your journey!
Related post: My Morning Happy Juice