Tanja Shaw of Ascend Fitness says diets need to be personalized.

COLUMN: Finding the best diet just for you

Ascend Fitness founder Tanja Shaw talks about how to find the right eating style for you

Vegan. Keto. Paleo. Intermittent fasting. I often get asked what ‘side’ I am on. Am I vegan? Keto? (no, I’m Tanja).

“Have you heard about carb cycling? A friend is doing it and lost 12 pounds. I’m thinking I should try it…”

“My sister-in-law stopped eating dairy and her skin cleared up and she dropped weight. I think I should try it…”

With so many options out there, it’s sometimes hard to figure out the best approach to eating better and improving your health. Everyone has an opinion and many of those opinions are pretty strong (if you want to get into a heated debate, just start talking about politics, religion, or nutrition). Instead of arguing which diet is best, let’s talk about how to choose the best eating style for you.

What is the best diet to follow? At Ascend Fitness + Lifestyle, we believe in a bio-individual approach to nutrition. In other words, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to eating. And while it would be much easier if we stuck our clients into a box and gave everyone macronutrient or calorie-based goals to reach each day, or a meal plan to follow, it just doesn’t work. Everyone is different. The individuals we work with have different:

• Body types

• Food preferences and intolerances

• Lifestyles (travel, work, support at home)

• Dieting history

• Eating habits

• Activity level

• Age, gender, genetics

• Time and money to invest in healthy eating

Choosing a single diet camp makes no sense. There’s no such thing as one, universal “best” diet. And we do not believe in one single nutrition philosophy. Some of our clients follow a low-carb, paleo diet, others follow a vegetarian diet. Some practise intermittent fasting. Further, what works for you now may not work for you next year, or in 10 years. And what worked for you last year may no longer work for you. While there are obvious differences between eating plans, there are also some major similarities between all healthy diet plans- which is that most of them work (at least for the short term), and people feel better when they follow them.

1. They emphasize whole foods (diet plans that do not emphasize whole foods or promote buying shakes and packaged foods should raise a red flag!)

2. They draw awareness to eating and are an improvement from the starting point. If someone is following the standard America diet, high in processed foods, and makes ANY improvement (ex. Drinking water instead of pop, reducing portions, eating more vegetables, planning meals ahead of time, protein at breakfast, etc.) they will start to feel better and will likely lose weight- regardless of whether they follow a low carb, paleo or plant based diet.

3. They control quantity of food. When you’re more aware of your eating, choose better foods, and reduce processed foods, the result is almost always eating less food. Which, in turn, leads to weight loss, and feeling better overall.

4. They emphasize exercise. A healthy eating plan will encourage regular physical exercise. A plan that recommends abstaining from exercise should be a red flag.

There are plenty of diets to choose from: from Atkins to the Zone, vegan to paleo, low carb and everything in between. And while they are all different on the surface, and seem to contradict each other, they can all promote good health, fat loss and increased energy.

Which is why, we, at Ascend Fitness + Lifestyle coach our clients to follow simple nutrition guidelines (in a nutshell: more veggies, some protein plus fat, less junk). We are not however, attached to any single nutritional philosophy. In fact, any health or nutrition coach, that is attached to a single nutritional ‘camp’ will be too fixated on the food itself- and miss what most people actually need in order to make a lasting lifestyle change. While we do teach our client the nuts and bolts of what to eat, we focus more on coaching our clients on how to:

1. Change their habits. Long term nutrition habits win over diet overhauls and diet rules. We work with our clients to build habits over the long-haul instead of overdoing everything on day one. 2. Adjust HOW and WHY they eat. Are they eating under stress? As a reward for getting through the day? While working at their desk? Many of our clients have improved their digestion, lost weight and improved their energy not by changing what they eat, but by changing how they eat.

3. Build a winning mindset. To trade the all-or-nothing black and white thinking (start over again on Monday mindset) to an all or something focus. Celebrating the wins along the way.

So, there may not be one best diet out there, but there is one that’s best for you.

If you follow a plant-based diet, we can help you with that. If you are a busy parent and need to make meals in 15 minutes or less, we can help you with that. Your eating style should fuel your life, should help you reach your goals and what you want to accomplish.

Tanja Shaw is a High Performance Coach, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, host of the Fit and Vibrant You podcast and founder of Ascend Fitness + Lifestyle. She helps busy men and women lose weight, gain strength and energy, and to love the way they feel again with fitness, nutrition, mindset and lifestyle coaching. Learn more at www.ascendfitnesslifestyle.com.

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