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Ah, the modern “diet.” From eating according to calorie counts and macronutrient profiles to intermittent fasting, juicing, and beyond, there seem to be just as many approaches to weight manipulation as there are people.
And that’s fine, because we all have different goals. But the firstworld relationship with food is dysfunctional. We ascribe “good” and “bad” labels to plants and animals, and speak with palpable guilt about “cheating” on our “diets” as if they’re jealous spouses.
Diets don’t work. Sensible nutrition principles do.
So what if you just want to look and feel good without thinking and talking about food all the time – is that even possible? (It is.)
And what if you don’t want to get militant with your approach, or stop eating things that taste good just to wear fewer clothes in the summer? (You don’t have to.)
This article is about the principles – not rules – that have allowed me and dozens of my clients to eat the very best food available without obsessing over numbers, portion sizes, or whether we’re being nutritionally “naughty.”
Now, if you are trying to put on lean tissue, you will need a more structured approach to see continued gains. And I get it, because I’ve been there. No one was going to tell me that 2 pounds of grassfed beef a day was too much because I was trying to get yoked, son.
And it worked. But although I eventually grew to 230 lbs at 6’1”, it certainly wasn’t sustainable or healthy for me, and I now walk around at about 187. It should go without saying that if you are trying to build a substantial amount of muscle you will need a very specific diet.
You Know Why Diets Don’t Work
Anything that constitutes a meal plan or specific foods that you will only eat until you reach a particular goal is unsustainable. A sustainable approach is one that allows you to eat well, stay healthy, and be at your physical best most days.
In other words, if you’re eating more salads only until your wedding day or cutting carbs only until the lake party, you are going to be disappointed a few days, weeks, or months after your event. And if you’re an adult, you have probably already experienced this firsthand.
So here’s the truth: You are going to have to eat food for the rest of your life. You might as well figure out the most effective way to make it satisfying and sustainable.
So How Should I Eat?
- Eat The Freshest Food
The freshest food you can find is nearly always going to be the best food you can eat. It is found in farmer’s markets, grocery stores, and restaurants that sell local, seasonal products. This is food at its most vital, nutritious, and flavorful, and should make up the bulk of what you eat.
Your new food pyramid should be based on products according to a hierarchy of how recently they were harvested. Everything else is a step down from there, and should be eaten less frequently. Things that come in packaging and boxes and wrappers: almost never.
The freshest foods aren’t as readily available in remote areas or places that are cold most of the year. If you live in one of those places you already have your own unique dietary challenges. However, in most firstworld, habitable spaces, it only requires what seems to be so lacking these days – consistent effort.
Eating the freshest food is the most important investment you can make in your health. Not supplements. Not even exercise. The food you eat more directly impacts your overall wellness than any other factor, and the sooner people wake up to this fact the healthier humanity will be.
- Eat When You Are Truly Hungry
Have you noticed that your senses are sharpened when you haven’t eaten in a while? Isn’t that amazing? Just by not eating, you could actually think more clearly and improve your cognitive function. Stop blunting your mind.
You don’t need food every 2-3 hours unless you’re trying to put on weight as fast as possible or have a medical reason. You also don’t need “three sensible meals and two snacks,” either.
All of these ideas are mental and physiological conditioning (and good marketing), and their application means your digestive system is getting worked like it never has in around 200,000 years of our species’ existence.
Give your organs a break, and consider letting them rest for longer than you eat.
You should train yourself to eat when you are hungry, because that’s when you need food. Not when the clock strikes at an arbitrary hour, not when some celebrity is pimping a protocol, and not because the hottest new diet book says so.
- Pay Attention To How You Feel After Eating
Do you feel tired after you eat? I used to all the time. I would need a nap after my midday meal.
I’ve been monitoring this for a while, and for me, at least, it seems like this: Seafood, fresh fruits, and vegetables make me feel energized. Starchy carbohydrates and most meats make me feel tired. Therefore, I focus on the former during the day and the latter – if I need them at night.
It’s probably going to be different for you. But do you know what works for your body?
If we ate according to how we want to feel, how many of us would be crushing a rack of ribs or a plate of pasta at lunch? The importance of this can’t be overstated: most of us eat according to taste cravings rather than how we would like to feel and what we would like to do after eating.
Autoregulation of food consumption is what you should strive for, but start getting brutally honest with yourself. Is what you eat making you the best version of you? Do you need all that protein to get leaner? Should you really cut out all animal products to feel the best?
Only you know that. Just be aware that the nutritional value of the things you eat is only half the story.
Never Diet Again
The things you eat can be an afterthought if they were sourced properly. And waiting to eat until your body needs food will contribute to more sustained energy and brain function.
Finally, take note of what certain foods do to your mood, energy, and body fat levels. Apply what you’ve learned, change your relationship to food, and never diet again.
Listen to Thomas on the Digital Communion Podcast