Each year, Americans spend roughly $33 billion on diets and weight management strategies. Every option has a common denominator: they’re all short-term solutions.
Diets are designed to yield quick results due to their heavy restrictions and caloric regulation. Once the diet is complete, we retreat to our regular eating patterns, which commences the exhausting and chaotic cycle of minimal to no results. The diet industry’s revenue increases, while our frustration grows.
These diets are missing one key ingredient: sustainability through balanced nutrition.
Unlike traditional diets that utilize deprivation, nutrition focuses on nourishing our body. Nutrition has an emphasis on what your specific body needs and offers those nutrients to optimize its function. There is no magic bullet or quick fix.
Implementing sustainable nutrition solutions is the critical denominator that provides long-term results.
People in the chronic diet cycle often operate from a mindset of scarcity regarding food. This is because diets focus on subtraction rather than addition. Most diets remove foods and label them as unnecessary. Diet makers often pedal fear when discussing certain foods.
Nutrition focuses on abundance and a variety of nutrients. This approach includes all macronutrients as well as a plethora of vitamins and minerals. The focus is less on which foods you need to remove but rather highlights the many foods you should add.
Altering your food mindset from subtraction to addition can be quite challenging. The first step is awareness of your preconceived notions around food. The second step is to learn. Understanding what certain foods do for the body, why they are important, and which roles they play for your long-term goals. Finding a nutrition coach can help to simplify this process and provide you with specific recommendations that address your unique needs.
An integral factor to understand is your connection between food and stress. Stress can trigger recessive patterns and hinder the healthy habits you’re building. Anticipating stress with a plan for response is integral for long-term success.
For example, during stressful times, you may have less time to cook meals — this is where meal prepping comes in handy. Allocate one day during the weekend to prep your produce, cook your protein and assemble quick, easy meals.
If meal prepping isn’t your thing, utilize local options that simplify healthy eating. Austin has plenty of options such as Snap Kitchen, HEB, Central Market or Whole Foods grab-and-go meals, Flower Child, True Food Kitchen, Cava and Honest Mary’s.
Small Daily Actions
With sustainable nutrition, you are striving for daily progress, not perfection. Because eating habits have been cultivated through a long period of time, maybe even your entire life, you’ll need to gradually phase in changes and consistently build new habits.
Think of it like training for a marathon. Most of us wouldn’t run 26.2 miles without training. Instead, there are daily actions taken to build mileage capacity. After consistent practice, eventually your body responds and strengthens. Then, you may even start to enjoy running.
Nutrition works the same way. You train your mind and body to accept real, whole foods over processed ingredients. If you eat mainly processed foods, your body will take time to adjust. Daily actions to bolster the transition may look like consuming three different colors from plants at each meal and consuming half your body weight in ounces of water. From there, you can try unique produce that is in season while also experimenting with new recipes. The key to consistency is to keep it simple.
Tracking Macros Sustainably
Tracking is not synonymous with dieting. Tracking macros is great for athletic goals and understanding your overall balance of nutrients throughout the day. Over time, it is common for people to feel burnt-out from tracking.
To avoid this, try focusing on your target protein number and filling in carbs and fats with whatever caloric target is left. This takes the pressure off.
Another strategy is to stop tracking for a bit and use your best judgement. Individuals who have tracked for a while understand portion size and overall balance. Listen to your body’s internal cues for guidance. During this break, you can assess your relationship with food.
Often, individuals experience an obsession with tracking, so remember, it is meant to be used as a tool to help you — not one that runs your life.
To continuously improve your health, look at nutrition as a long-term solution. Ditch the diets and focus on consistent actions of improvement! Above all else, have patience and compassion with yourself as this is a lifetime process.
Shannon Dolan is a nutritional therapy practitioner, personal trainer and owner of Health With Shannon.