When aiming to lose body fat, there are so many ways you could go about it that it can feel overwhelming. All these diets with different names, and they all seem to work for some people, but there doesn’t seem to be one “right” way. So, rather than looking for a specific diet, what if you looked at the traits that the best diets have got in common?
#1. They Fit Your Lifestyle
Your diet has got to fit into your lifestyle. You shouldn’t need to change your lifestyle to accommodate your diet completely. That means it can, and should, still include foods that you enjoy. Dr Shauna Collins, author of “No More Dieting!” recommends looking for ways to make your favourite foods marginally healthier. Such as swapping sandwiches for open-faced sandwiches, which have half the bread. Small, sustainable changes will help you not only lose weight - but also keep it off long term.
#2. They’re Flexible
When diets are very rigid, it’s easy to do something “wrong”. With forbidden ingredients comes the mentality that food can be “good” and “bad”. This can create a damaged relationship with food that can take years to undo - as well as massively increase the cravings for those foods which are off the table. Following a diet that allows for healthy choices preserves that sense of flexibility which the majority of people need in their diets.
#3. They Encourage Activity
The activity doesn’t necessarily have to be an exercise programme executed in a gym for an hour a day. It could be time spent outdoors, walking or hiking in the fresh air. It might include chasing a frisbee around a park or playing a team sport at the weekend. The amount of weight you lose through intentional exercise is minimal. Still, exercise plays a vital role in dieting because it makes compliance with the diet far more likely.
#4. Habit Based
The best diets encourage you to adopt healthy, sustainable habits. Crash diets can have a higher rate of regaining weight. To maintain your weight loss, you will need to replace a series of unhealthy habits which have often been built up over many years with new habits. These habits should be sustainable, and as such may need to be made incrementally, rather than as a significant shift all at once.
#5. Minimise Processed Foods
Rather than eliminating entire macronutrient groups from your diet, you might consider eating a balanced diet made up from mostly whole foods and trying to minimise mainly processed foods. Macronutrients are protein (found in meat, fish, and tofu), fats (from nuts, cooking oils and butter) and carbohydrates (such as potatoes, rice and pasta). Trying to get these macronutrients from minimally processed food rather than highly processed “fast” food will allow you to keep a closer eye on what goes into your meal as you’ll prepare it yourself.
#6. Portion Control
In the short term, it can be a useful tool to weigh, measure and track your food. Over time, as you become more proficient with recognising portion sizes by eye, it won’t be necessary to track everything forever strictly. It becomes another tool that you can use when you need to tighten things up and get back on track. Precision Nutrition recommends using a hand size guide to portion control in the long term for sustainable results.
#7. You Can Make Mistakes
Making consistently reasonable steps towards your goal is more effective than making occasionally great significant strides. Finding a diet that feels manageable will make it easy to get back on track when you have a blip with your eating. Diets shouldn’t put pressure on you to be perfect all the time - that’s very hard to sustain. Instead of beating yourself up if you fall off track, make your next meal one which takes you closer to your goals than further away from them.
#8. Focus On The Process
Diets which are only focused on the output goals - such as scale weight, ignore the process. When you have weight to lose, it’s going to take some time. Focusing your attention on those input goals that you have some control over is a way to maintain your effort where it can make a difference. That might be cooking at home 6 days out of 7, or getting 10,000 steps every day. By focusing your attention on those things you can control, you keep motivation high, and your overall weight loss goal will happen as a secondary result of those behaviours.
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