Question: I have a very simple question. In your opinion, what’s the one best diet?
Answer: That’s an interesting question and one that’s harder to answer than you might realize. Put it this way—I think the optimal “diet” is one that accomplishes these three goals:
1) It gets you to your desired weight, assuming you have one;
2) It promotes health and helps to stave off chronic disease; and
3) It is sustainable for the long-term.
So if you want me to be specific, the optimal diet would provide plenty of water, 35-40 grams of fiber per day, and include ample amounts of whole grains, proteins, and poly- and monounsaturated fats. It would also include 8 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, a couple servings of fresh fish each week, a few servings of dairy, and would generally include more vegetarian options that the standard western diet.
Added sugars, sodium, and saturated and trans fats would all be limited, though it’s important that the diet is realistic and doable, so treats are certainly wouldn’t be outlawed. I know you’re looking for one diet to follow, but in all my years working in health and wellness, just about every diet is missing something, or places too much emphasis on this and not enough on that—you get the idea. Your best bet would be to track your food for just a few weeks, and gradually try to incorporate some of the recommendations above. I also recommend reading “The Way to Eat: A Six-Step Path to Lifelong Weight Control” by Dr. David Katz.
Question: I heard a personal trainer speak recently at a conference, and he said it’s important to just move more when it comes to weight loss. The funny thing is I don’t think he was talking about exercise per se. Thoughts?
Answer: The trainer was right! We simply don’t move enough anymore, and what he was likely referring to was NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis. Quite a mouthful, huh? NEAT is essentially the energy we expend when we’re not eating, sleeping, or exercising. Unfortunately, with desk jobs, TV watching, and web surfing now the norm, the calories we burn doing general daily tasks has diminished greatly. Some researchers actually believe that the movement (pardon the pun) from a manual labor-based workforce to a desk-centric one has been the biggest factor in the obesity epidemic. They point to the fact that our collective calorie intake hasn’t increased much at all in recent decades, despite the prevalence of French fries, potato chips, soda, and frothy, high-calorie Starbucks drinks. This particular issue is debated in the scientific community, but the fact remains. We are more sedentary than we’ve ever been before (we have low levels of NEAT) and we should do something about it. Break up your workday with mini-walks, keep the TV off for an hour or two when you get home, and disconnect from cyber-world for a bit. These small changes will alter your movement patterns, which could ultimately affect your waistline and your overall health.
Question: When I’m motivated, my workouts and diet are rock solid. But that’s my problem—motivation. Any tips to help me stay on track with my goals?
Answer: Absolutely! Even those of us in the health and wellness field struggle with motivation from time to time. We are certainly not immune. That said, there are several things you can do to keep yourself motivated. First of all, set small goals. It’s important to know the big picture, but the journey to get there can be daunting, so break it up into smaller, more achievable chunks. Scheduling your activities helps a lot as well. If you treat exercise like an important meeting or like brushing your teeth, it’s more likely to become a habit. Partnering up is also an excellent idea. It would be difficult to find a better motivator than a friend of family member keeping you accountable to your workouts, your diet, and your newfound lifestyle. And frankly, sometimes you probably need a kick in the you-know-what. Last, but not least, pay for it! This may sound a bit odd, but if you have some skin in the game, the game dramatically changes. Buy a gym membership, join an online health website, purchase a credible book, or throw down some cash for a heart rate monitor. Making an investment in your health will pay dividends in the long run.
About the author: David Pohorence is the club owner/club manager/Certified Personal Trainer at Anytime Fitness in Wesley Chapel, NC. To submit a question for future articles, please contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.