“The healthiest ingredient list is nature.” — Dr. Josh Axe
As a trainer and coach, I get asked all the time, “Coach, what’s the best diet to lose weight?” Such a simple question but the answer, not so. With the age of the internet and social media upon us, information overload and confusion is fairly common and many of us easily miss out on what is essential. This is why, in my opinion, it’s better to ask a more important question —“What’s the best way to gain health?” Because when people ask how they could lose weight, what they are really asking is how they can look better, feel better and be healthier. There’s a short answer to that question. The answer? Food.
Food is more than just fuel. Food is not just calories in and calories out which give us energy. Food is not just about making us gain muscle or lose fat. Food is information. Food gives our bodies specific instructions that will either promote our health or destroy it. That’s why it’s important to know the difference between highly nutritious, real, whole foods and empty calorie junk food. Also, knowing how your body reacts to certain foods is key in knowing which foods work for us and will best suit our lifestyle. Always ask yourself if your nutrition plan is working for you. At the end of the day, it’s not nutrition dogma but the overall effect in your health, performance, and well-being that is important.
“Your job as a scientist is to figure out how you’re fooling yourself.” — Saul Perlmutter
Most of the time, awareness drives change in people’s behavior. When we are simply made aware of how much harmful chemicals there are in some foods we eat, it becomes easier for us to say “no.” In line with this, knowing how our food is produced, processed, packaged, transported and sold before it reaches our plate may help us make more informed choices the next time we eat.
“What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.” —Abraham Maslow
Eating is a Set of Choices
The next time you are about to have a meal, think about it as being a set of choices you make rather than just satisfying your cravings, feeding your hunger or just killing boredom. Eating healthy is not about following certain diet rules but making more conscious decisions about what your body actually needs. To eat healthy, you first need to have a clear picture of who you are (your biology, genetics, age, etc.), how you are wired (your physiology) and what you want and need (your goals). Also, it’s a relief to know that we are not stuck to the genes we inherited. If we had diabetic parents or grandparents, that doesn’t mean we will automatically be diabetic. External factors like food and environment play a key role in what our genes will actually express.
“Lifestyle teaches our genes how to behave. In choosing between healthy or unhealthy foods and habits, we are programming our genes for either good or bad conduct.” — Cate Shanahan, MD
With so many diets out there—paleo, ketogenic, vegan, Pegan, Atkins, low carb high fat, Bulletproof—no wonder people get confused and ask the perennial question: “Coach, what’s the best diet to lose weight?”
What’s the best diet? Truth be told: there is none.
The reason for this is because people are so complex and can adapt to many different ways of eating. According to John Berardi, PhD, CSCS, founder of Precision Nutrition, “The human body can do well under all kinds of different nutritional conditions.” This is evident if we look at traditional diets of indigenous and ethnic groups around the world, which have extremely few chronic diseases:
- Arctic people and Masai eat diets that are high in fat and animal products with few vegetables.
- Kitavans in the South Pacific and the Hazda of East Africa eat diets that are low in fat but high in vegetables and starchy carbohydrates.
- The !Kung of Africa eat diets that are made up of mostly nuts and seeds.
- The Blue Zones around the world (places where people live extraordinarily long and healthy lives) have the Okinawan, Mediterranean and Central American cuisines.
“The best thing you can do to live a long time is to eat the highest-quality food.” — Dave Asprey
Back to Basics, Back to Earth
The best way to eat is to first know that good nutrition has more similarities than differences. Good nutrition is going back to the basics—real food that grow from the earth.
Eating healthy simply means paying attention to how and what you’re eating. Here are some guide questions to help you become more aware of the food you eat:
- How was your food produced?
- Is it organically grown or conventionally farmed by using pesticides?
- How was it processed or NOT processed?
- What other chemical ingredients added to extend shelf life?
- How was is transported?
- How long was it sitting on the shelf before you bought it?
- How properly did you cook it?
By just being aware, we can make the right decisions that will lead us a step closer to healthier, more vibrant living. We will gain perspective whether our efforts are actually working for us or not. We can distinguish what we perceive to be “right” versus what is actually working. We won’t get stuck in dogma, diets and information overload. We won’t blindly follow the “rules.” As Dr. Josh Axe said, “I’m a firm believer that there is not one diet for everybody.” Lastly, we will get back closer to mother earth where we came from and where we will ultimately return.
“What you put in your fork is the most important thing you do every day. It influences your capacity to live a rich, energetic and soulful life.” — Mark Hyman, MD
Eating healthy is focusing not just on food quality but also our well-being as well as our planet’s. Eating healthy allows us to function well, thrive and live the life we have always wanted.
“With food, you can look better, feel better, perform better, and just be better overall!” — John Berardi, PhD, CSCS