The world of dieting and nutrition can sometimes seem like a confusing labyrinth of conflicting information. We're bombarded with advertisements featuring eating plans, celebrity testimonials, "magic pills", before-and-after photos, scientific studies, etc., promoting the latest and greatest diet craze. Among all these diet trends, how do you find what works for you?
The problem with these fad diets is that they're often difficult, if not nearly impossible, to sustain over the long haul. While they may provide a handful of temporary benefits (including pounds lost and energy gained), the majority of dieters out there will unfortunately find themselves falling off the wagon after about 6-8 months, and will often regain all their lost pounds. This can be due to a multitude of factors, but the core issue is that most diet trends are designed to provide a temporary fix, like the need to shed a few pounds before your wedding day, or summer break or some other key event. Rarely do fad diets offer a lasting, long-term solution that can be integrated into your lifestyle on a permanent basis. While there may be a small handful of people that can diligently adhere to every single rule and stipulation of the latest "diet du jour" for the rest of their life, unfortunately the vast majority of people simply can't.
Consider Your Lifestyle
The truth of the matter is that there can be arguments for and against virtually every type of dieting plan, and the same exact diet can produce radically different results between two different people. So how can we filter out the white noise and find the eating plan that will work for us personally? The answer is by finding out what works for your unique lifestyle, body type and composition. All of us have different genetics and different caloric needs, so ultimately our bodies will respond to various foods and nutritional regimens in a different way. For example, if your job is physically demanding (construction worker, waitress, etc.), you can get away with eating a higher level of carbs than someone who sits at a desk for 8 hours a day. Carbs are designed to be burned quickly by way of physical exertion, so if you lead a more sedentary lifestyle, those carbs will stick around and eventually be metabolized and converted into fat. Taking your daily physical activity into account will help you determine whether you should have a low or high daily intake of carbohydrates.
There are a number of foods that can be problematic for people with certain body types and tolerance levels. Dairy products, for example, can be an issue for people who are deficient in the enzyme known as lactase. This enzyme helps to break down the lactose found in dairy products, and many people who are lactase-deficient (or lactose intolerant) find that they feel better when they reduce their intake of milk, cheese, ice cream and other dairy foods. But even this is not a hard and fast rule, because there are varying degrees of lactose intolerance among different people: some can't handle any dairy foods without getting an upset stomach, while others only experience issues with dairy products every now and then. If you've experienced certain unpleasant reactions to lactose, this doesn't mean that you have to cut dairy products out of your diet completely; you may just need to reduce your portions, or only consume them two or three times a week. Even if you're able to consume dairy products with no problems, make sure to select the ones made by companies that do not use artificial growth hormones in their production process.
Another problem food for many people is wheat. Some people experience a lethargic or bloated feeling after consuming foods containing wheat. This could mean that they're sensitive to fructans, which are a type of soluble fiber found in many wheat products. Other people only experience problems after they've eaten a large amount of bread or pasta. If you find that you're experiencing unpleasant side effects from eating wheat-based products, you should experiment with different portion sizes, or if need be, substitute gluten-free or legume-based products instead of wheat.
One thing that doesn't change regardless of what particular food preferences you may have is that dietary fiber is an absolute must for you to incorporate into your daily eating regimen. Adopting a diet that's rich in dietary fiber will help lower your cholesterol levels and keep your colon clean, which is important considering that 90 percent of all diseases begin in the colon.
Apply Patience and Common Sense
The main thing to remember is that there are no quick fixes and no one-size-fits-all dieting programs. A large part of finding what works for you will boil down to simple trial and error, where you experiment with certain foods and portion sizes until you find the right combination that will help you shed pounds and maintain good energy levels. With every new food or eating regimen that you try, pay attention to the signals your body sends you. Also, apply the basic rules of common sense, one of which is that any food eaten in excess will not be good for you. Apply a reasonable amount of moderation, listen to your body and be patient with yourself, and you'll be able to craft a diet that makes sense for your lifestyle and body type.