Are you finally ready to get your life on track, lose weight, and feel better about your body? Well, you’re in luck. I just did a Google search for “weight loss plans” and there are 1,375,439,220 websites ready to show you how to eat in order to lose weight.
Okay, I made that number up. But I imagine I’m not far off. Really, if we just wanted to name a handful of dieting options, you could try the following:
- The Atkins Diet
- The Paleo Diet
- The Gluten Free Diet
- The Mediterranean Diet
- Jenny Craig (If that’s still a thing)
- Vegetarian Diet
- Vegan Diet
And, really, those are just some of the main-stream options you can find. You would not be short of people giving you diet advice if you were to seek it out.
Since we have so many dieting options, you would certainly think that we were some of the fittest, leanest, meanest people on the planet. But, as we all know, this is not the case.
Now, it’s certainly not a bad thing to have a few extra pounds about you. Our ancestors, after all, did tend to fluctuate in weight from summer to winter. They had to worry about staying alive when it was bitter cold outside, and the best way to do that was to pack on a few LBS.
But still, if we have all of this information available to use, why are we not more fit than what we are? There are innumerable reasons we could list. However, I want to focus on one particular reason.
Paralysis By Analysis
Options are a great thing to have in life. Over time, out options for most products and services has increased exponentially. Take groceries, for instance. Only 25-30 years ago, in late 80s and early 90s, grocery stores carried on average 10,000 items.
That seems like a lot of items…until you hear what the average store carries today. At the turn of the century, the average grocery store was carrying about 40,000 items. 40,000 ITEMS!! That’s insane! Who needs that much stuff?!
But they carry because we buy it. Some times we buy it because it’s what we normally want. Andsometimes we buy because we just want to try something different.
The point, here, is that our options for most things continues to increase. Ironically, though, more options doesn’t make for a better or easier purchase. As a matter of fact, we generally are less happy with a purchase with the more options that we have. Sometimes, even, we won’t make a purchase at all because we just can’t make up our minds!
This process of making decisions on so many different options and not making a choice came to known as paralysis by analysis. The idea of paralysis by analysis is simple. If you’ve ever gone to make a decision on something…anything…and ended up not making any decision at all because of a feelings over overwhelm or anxiety, you’ve been struck by paralysis by analysis.
What Does This Have to do With Dieting?
We’ve likely all had situations like this in our lives. Some decisions may have been small ones, like what ice cream to get a Ben & Jerry’s. Maybe you just couldn’t make up your mind, so you decided not to get an ice cream at all (that’s just crazy, BTW. You can never go wrong with any B&Js flavor!).
Or maybe you fell into this trap on a bigger decision in life, like making a career move. Maybe you just couldn’t decide if searching for a new job would make you happier with your work, so you ended up doing nothing instead.
This is what happens to many of us when it comes to dieting. We have so many options and get so much feedback that we just don’t know what path is right for us. And, sadly enough, in the end we take the worst path of all. The path of inaction.
Okay, What Should I be Eating Then?
Inaction is a poor choice because you’ve essentially decided to do nothing, when your goal is to lose weight. But if you do nothing about your current diet, which got you where you are, you’re further away from your goal.
This means that, in order to start to start to make some type of progress, we need to decide to do something. And that begins with understanding that there is no perfect diet for weight loss. Since we are all unique in our own way, we all require a different nutritional intake.
There are, however, some general guidelines that we can all follow. And, if you follow these basic guidelines, you will be much more likely sustain your nutritional change over time. Which should be the ultimate goal. Because being on a diet is short term. It’s not long-term thinking. So the change we want to make is change that we can keep with us for the long-haul.
With that said, here are 3 basic guidelines you can follow that, when implemented correctly, will help you achieve your goals AND sustain those results over time:
#1) Eat Mostly Whole Foods
Our grocery stores are filled with boxed, bagged and canned foods that are built for convenience. And, although convenience is a big factor for many of us, many of our health issues can be linked to an increased intake of processed foods.
A good strategy, then, would be to try as much as possible to eat whole foods. What are whole foods? They are foods with one ingredient. For instance, chicken, eggs, carrots, rice, cheese, these are whole foods. If you’re having trouble with this and need convenience in a box, find products with as few ingredients as possible.
#2) Eat When You’re Hungry
The fad on meal timing has changed over the years. Back in the day (and partly still today) we were told to eat of 2-3 hours in hopes of keeping out metabolism going. The problem is, this isn’t sustainable for most people.
Recently, intermittent fasting has become popular, which basically required one to not eat for 16 hours straight. While this can be a test of willpower (and also great for general metabolic function), again, it’s not sustainable for most of us in the long-term.
The fix, then? Eat when you’re hungry. Read that again. I said, eat when you’re HUNGRY. Not eat when you’re bored. Not eat when you’re around friends who eat. Not eat because you think it’s time to eat. Eat when you’re HUNGRY.
#3) Have Cheat Meals Based on Your Goals
Listen, although I believe that, in order to get the most of our bodies, we should feed it the best fuel possible, I also believe that brownies and ice cream are delicious together. And because I believe the latter, I would never tell anybody that they need to stay away from “bad” foods for the rest of their lives.
Like the saying goes, “Life is like a box of chocolate, so try one every once and a while to enjoy the flavor”. Okay, it didn’t go exactly like that, but you get the point.
What I will say about cheat meals is this: you should adjust the frequency of your cheat meals based on your goals. For instance, if your goal is to lose 20lbs in 2 months, it can be done. You just have to be stricter on yourself during this time so you can achieve your goal.
Maybe your goal is to live an overall healthy life maintaining a quality weight. Then, you can be a little more lenient about your food choices.
A good rule of thumb is as follows: for the average person who wants to be healthy, if you eat good 80% of the time, you can save the other 20% for your indulgences. For someone who wants to lose weight, you should move those numbers to 90% and 10% respectively. Again, you have to find what works for you. But you will make less progress if you increase that second percentage.
Overall, the goal of any nutritional change should be to make it sustainable. So decide what works for you and do it. Just start. Because you have to start somewhere.