The Elusive Search For The Perfect Diet
For more than 15 years, I was out there looking for the perfect diet. It’s kind of been my secret mission, because once I’d find the perfect diet, I’d have the perfect health, the perfect weight, the perfect looks and the perfect life. Basically, it would solve all my problems.
I would spend every spare minute of the day researching nutrition, looking for a new expert who had successfully lost weight using [insert diet] so that I could then go and try it out.
I would read all the before and after success stories I could find of people who had tried this diet, and then I’d convince myself that this time everything was going to be different.
This would be the diet, the perfect diet that would change my life.
And I’d be so convinced by it that I would start lecturing anyone who’d listen about 'how amazing this diet is and that we should all be eating like this'. To anyone who I’ve ever subjected to one of these talks - I sincerely apologise.
The other day I made a list of all the different diets I’ve tried over they years, I came up with at least 27 of them (and those are just the ones I can remember). From paleo to plant-based to low-fat, high-fat, low-carb, high-carb and anything in between.
Yet every single one of them ended up exactly the same.
I’d be able to stick to it for a while and see some small results, but inevitably the restriction-induced cravings would lead me to eat something that wasn’t on the approved list. At which point I'd say 'F*ck it!' and spend the rest of the night binging until I was in pain and extremely disgusted with myself.
And since I blew it, I figured I may as well keep eating whatever I want for the rest of the week and start again on Monday. And so the cycle repeats itself.
Ultimately, the more diets I tried, the larger I became.
Listen To The 'Experts'
There’s this funny thing happening in our society these days and that’s the concept of ‘experts’. Especially in this information era, it seems everyone is an expert.
And to a certain degree that’s true because we’re all experts of ourselves, of our own bodies and of what works and doesn’t work for us.
But a lot of these experts misleadingly use what worked for them and apply that onto your body.
They’ll show you their before and after photos, they’ll tell you their success story and how ‘they had tried everything else before without any success but when they finally found this diet/method/way of eating, their life changed and they lost all the weight super quickly and it was super easy and now everyone needs to try this because this is the only way you’ll get results’.
And what makes it even more confusing is that they’ll back it up with credible scientific information that’s really going to have you convinced that yes, this really does sound like the only way you’ll get results.
How is it possible that there are so many experts out there saying vastly different things yet they all have scientific proof to back it up?
Because you’ll find that for every study, for every piece of research, there’s an opposite study. It all depends on who does the study, who paid for it, who the test subjects were, etc. Because we’re all different.
There simply is no such thing as the perfect diet.
There likely are as many great ways to eat as there are people on the planet. What works for you might not work for someone else, and what works for you right now might not work for you 5 years from now.
There’s tons of factors that come into play like age, genetics, preferences, your sex, the environment you live in, this season, your lifestyle, the amount of exercise you do, any health challenges you might be dealing with, your personal goals, your personal beliefs and all kinds of yet-to-be-discovered factors.
Experiment With Food
When I finally let go of trying to find the perfect diet, I relaxed. I became curious, and I learned to approach food as an experiment.
I started tuning in with how different foods made me feel, how my body reacted to them, whether they made my tummy bloat, whether they made my skin dry, whether they gave me energy, etc.
I soon learned that I really didn’t do so well with white rice, yet butter wasn’t an issue. Garlic gives me a horrible stomach burn and causes severe bloating, but I make this coconut dessert that I love and it makes me feel good both physically and emotionally.
I started using my years of nutritional research and knowledge, including what I learned from all the experts, to experiment on myself.
But by not going in with the all-or-nothing mentality like I usually would, I could start to really pay attention to how my body would react.
Afternoon cravings now let me know that I either didn’t eat enough fat at lunch, or that I’m stressing myself out over something and that I need to relax. They do not mean that I have an out-of-control appetite or that I have no willpower.
This playful, curious approach towards food is called body wisdom, and it’s something we’ve forgotten over the years because we just keep hanging onto this idea of the perfect diet, and of all the ways we ‘should’ be eating.
I often see this in the Facebook groups and weight loss forums. Just yesterday someone posted a before and after photo in one of the groups I participate in, and immediately there were at least 5 different questions along the lines of ‘what did you eat to lose this weight’, ‘did you cut out gluten’ or ‘have you tried keto?’.
We live in a world of instant gratification. We are conditioned to think that we don’t need to do any of the hard work and get lured into looking for the quick fix, because for years the health industry has led us to believe that we can get what we want without any of the downsides.
Get abs without going to the gym. Lose weight without changing what you eat. It’s no wonder we’ve started to believe that we just need that one magical diet that’s going to make us lose 100lbs in a week.
And if you feel that way I don’t blame you, because for so many years I was that person. Constantly looking for the quick fix.
Ironically, if I had just focused on getting healthy by consistently nourishing my body with food and movement, I’d have gotten there years ago. It’s the yo-yo effect of the quick fix methods that’s held me back all these years.
When the mind continually commands the body to act against the body’s wisdom, the body desensitizes itself to the fundamental biological messages that inform us about our wellbeing. We’re so focused on labelling certain foods good or bad because the experts told us so, that we stop listening to how our body reacts to these foods.
So give yourself permission to be curious, to explore, to see your healing journey as something fascinating and exciting.
Give yourself permission to stop listening to the experts and start listening to yourself.
Stop hating on yourself whenever you feel like you ate too much, or you ate food that maybe wasn’t the best quality for your health, and start learning from these experiences.
You are not a failure, you’re not broken, your appetite isn’t out of control and you don’t lack willpower.
You simply have forgotten the art of listening to yourself.