Four Easy Steps to Your Perfect Diet
You don’t have to look far to find a dietary recommendation for almost anything; blood type, body type, gender, race, region, you name it, it probably exists. With all of this "noise" how can you determine the right plan for you and your family? Perhaps asking that question differently is the key. Instead of "the right plan" perhaps the question should be "the plan that makes me feel best and is the best fit for my life."
There is very little benefit in temporary dietary and lifestyle changes. Quite the contrary, there may be a detrimental effect to short term changes that just revert to old ways, especially if those changes results in weight loss and gain.
The key when planning dietary changes is to stop thinking as simply as following a diet plan and think more specifically about what will work for you long term. Along that line of thinking, take time to formulate a plan that will work permanently for you.
When I am working with patients to determine the best diet plan for them, we first investigate by looking at the current picture, and a little at the past. Asking these questions can be very helpful:
Think of a time you felt best. Had the best energy, slept well, regular daily bowel movements, no ailments, no body pain or discomfort. How were you eating and exercising? What were your stress levels?
Before making any changes, ask yourself, how do you eat and exercise now? Keep a food diary for 7 days to be objective. This is a very important step. MyFitnessPal is an app for smart phones that can make this easier.
What are your favorite foods? Are there any cultural dishes that are important to you?
If you live with others, will their diet change with yours? It is much harder to change habits if you are the only one in the house doing it.
Use your seven-day food diary for this step. In most cases, you will only need to make mild changes to your diet. Reducing some foods and increasing others. Very few people interested in changing their diet and feeling better will need a complete re-write of their diet. There are some basic rules to follow when looking at your diet and planning changes:
Minimize sugars and simple carbohydrates. These foods lead to excess weight and thicker blood due to ensuring an insulin rich environment in your body, among other things. This includes all sugars; brown, white, raw sugars, honey, maple syrup, etc. Chinese medicine says "Beware the sweet flavor". That is an easier way to think of it. Minimize sweet things. Simple carbohydrates include anything made from flour (bread, pasta, crackers), potato, rice, cereal, soft drinks. I would also include alcohol in this category.
Include good fats, like avocado, nuts, seeds, fish, coconut and olive oils. Be smart about portions of these things but make sure to include them. Going low fat actually makes it harder to be fit and feel well. Avoid bad fats like fried foods, fatty meats (except fish).
Eat whole foods. This means including foods that are as close to the way nature made them as possible. Make sure lots of fresh vegetables of many colors and varieties are included daily.
Stay hydrated. Thirst can feel like hunger as well as make your body run inefficiently. Your body is 50-65 percent water so give it what it needs.
Watch out for flavored drinks. This includes coconut water and other liquids touted as healthy. Water is best with the occasional treat of other liquid.
Steps 1 and 2 together make up your plan.
Try it for at least 1 week before going to the next step. Preparation is key here. Go to the store with a list, don’t rush yourself so you can read labels and make new choices. Is something challenging or difficult to implement?
Go to Step 4 and adjust your plan then try for another week. With some minor tweaks you will have a long term and permanent plan that will fit your life.
This is an ongoing process both seasonally and with times in life like travel, eating out, stressful periods, etc. Most plans don’t need a complete re-write, but if you find you are not following what works for you dietary-wise, perhaps you need a sub plan. For example, many of us get busy during the November-January portion of the year. Form a Winter Plan that has some mild tweaks to it. Perhaps that plan includes pre-made foods that still fit what works, but allows more flexibility with a busier schedule. Maybe you travel a lot and need a travel friendly plan as well as a home-based plan. These adjustments ensure you continue to feel your best.
Sustainable and permanent dietary changes take some planning, patience and forethought. Either taking the time to do this yourself or enlisting the help of a holistic practitioner like an acupuncturist or holistic nutritionist will pay off in leaps and bounds in how you feel everyday.
You can do it!
Tracy Zollinger is a licensed acupuncturist who practices in Alameda. She also provides advice on herbs and nutrition. Find out more by calling 299-0057 or visit tracyzollinger.com.