Stop listening to others — Start listening to yourself

People keep telling you that there’s a perfect diet — fat is good, carbs are bad, superfoods heal and intermittent fasting is the way to go. But which one is the best and where should you begin? Have you tried the No-Diet?

On our long journey to find the “perfect diet” we encounter many questions, mechanisms we don’t understand, connections we can’t make, we simply don’t understand what we’re eating and why. So we consult our wisest friend — Google.

Experts are hard to find and if you do find one, you still have to evaluate if you can believe the provided information. Or maybe you just trust.

Trust is important, but it can also lead you on the wrong path. Nowadays everybody is educating themselves through the internet, but you’re living in a bubble. Unless you know how to research objectively, you’ll always find what you’re looking for and what pleases you. It’s commendable that you’re trying to inform yourself, but it can do more harm than good.

Reading outside your comfort zone is what will educate you, make you learn new things. So go out and explore, but be aware that not everything you’ll find is gold.

I’m not a huge fan of the term diet. It implicates that you won’t stick to it, counting the weeks you’ve survived, just crossing out days in the calendar. If you’re honest, you wouldn’t hold onto it forever if you had another choice. That’s normal — it’s a diet — and no one could blame you for quitting.

The ephemerality of diets is their fallacy.

Most new diet forms haven’t been studied for more than six to twelve months, some even only for a couple of weeks. Nobody is checking in on their participants after they’ve lost a fair amount of weight and have proven the efficiency of the diet. But what’s going to happen in 5, 15 or 25 years? Long prospective studies to that extent are a rarity, which leaves scientists in the dark about the beneficial or detrimental long-term effects.

To this point, it is not finally clear which kind of diet is the most effective one (effective in terms of weight loss). Some report low-fat/high carb, others low-carb/high-protein. But whichever diet works, is highly individual and depends on countless other factors than just one macronutrient.

I’m not denying that diets work, but the critical time you’ll face after losing weight— when maintaining it. For example, although you won’t lose that much weight short-term, the diet with the highest long-term compliance is the Mediterranean diet. On the other hand, your weight loss will be much greater with a low-/no-carb diets, especially in the first months, but you have to decide on your own if you’ll be able to stick to it forever — otherwise, it’ll still be a diet.

Compliance is key to maintaining a healthy weight for your entire life.

But why struggle from week to week, denying yourself healthy and delicious food, if you can do it differently? You just have to make the switch from diet to lifestyle. Denying and prohibiting will make your cravings even greater.

Instead, try changing small things that can make your current diet or lifestyle healthier. My own diet was not very beneficial some years ago. Sweet, fatty, salty — who doesn’t fall for it? But eventually, I was experimenting with new ingredients, testing new recipes and spices I’ve never heard of, eliminating one or two “unhealthy” foods (or foods I just didn’t want to consume anymore) from my meal plan every week. For example, I did no-dairy, no-meat, or no-sugar-weeks, and discovered numerous delicious replacements that are now part of my everyday lifestyle.

Changing too many things at once, like most diets need you to do, will let your motivation collapse soon.

I don’t see it as a diet, I don’t have to force myself to include those new high-quality foods in my life and I don’t miss the once I cut out of my meal plan! And if I do crave for some potato chips or a burger, I don’t punish myself, I don’t force myself against it — I reduce consumption and make eating it an event!

You won’t gain weight from the few exceptions you allow yourself (if it’s not daily). Also, you won’t lose it if you continue living unhealthy. You have to find the right balance. But the only thing that will do that is a change to a healthy lifestyle that you can maintain literally forever — and that is not a diet.

My weight has been the same almost all my life. I gained some kilos during puberty and when I discovered beer and chips — but lost it again as soon as I started studying nutritional science. When I realized what food does to my body. Also, I started exercising on a regular basis some years ago and been practicing yoga for five years now.

I’m not following a strict diet, I just replaced foods one by one with healthier options that I enjoyed.

Since I’m predisposed with familial hyperlipoproteinemia (my body produces more cholesterol than needed so my blood lipids are higher than normal and I have an unfavorable ratio of lipoproteins LDL and HDL) I’ve always paid attention to what I eat. I’ve been on a complex-carb-diet with whole-grains, fruit, vegetables, and nuts, since I live mostly plant-based with only little dairy or meat. As soon as I eat too much fat within one meal I experience acid reflux or abdominal cramps, I can set the clock after it.

I began noticing this connection and reduced fat — I use vegetable spreads and olive oil instead of butter, I removed fatty meat and fried things from my meal plan. I started listening to my body instead of social media and the internet that told me what I must eat and what I have to digest well, because others do.

Scientists have shown that eating is highly individual.

Metabolic responses to food intake and to single macronutrients can be different between humans and what works for one can even be harmful for another. That’s the case with any diet — some people will lose weight, some won’t. Some people can prevent getting a metabolic disorder, some won’t. Some will maintain weight, and some simply won’t. The research area of personalized nutrition has been explored only to a small extent, but is promising.

So what’s the No-diet?

It’s listening to your body and trying what works best for you. There’s no perfect diet for everyone, in fact, it shouldn’t be a diet at all. Explore what serves your body best, what makes you feel good, and what keeps you healthy (regularly check that with your doctor). If you’ve found that diet, don’t leave it there, but make it your lifestyle so quitting won’t ever be a question.

Don’t let people tell you what’s best for you, instead, listen to yourself.

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