What is the best diet to follow?

To find the best diet plan for you, ask yourself two questions, says Tanja Shaw.

Two questions for any diet: Can you live with it

Undoubtedly, what you put into your body impacts how your body looks, functions, and how you feel.  Whether your goal is to lose weight, improve your energy levels, or continue to live a healthy life, your diet matters.

In recent years the word ‘diet’ has developed a bad rap.  Call it an eating plan, nutrition program, lifestyle, or diet; I am referring to the food that you put into your mouth.

There are plenty of diets to choose from: from Atkins to the Zone, vegan to paleo, low fat to high fat and everything in between.  Proponents of each diet tout that their plan is better because of X, Y and Z, and each are backed up with plenty of before and after photos and success stories.  Some even have legitimate scientific evidence to ‘prove’ that the plan works.

So what is the best diet?   Good question.  There is no ‘best diet’ – but there may be a ‘best diet’ for you. To find the best diet plan for you, ask yourself two questions: ‘Can I be happy following this plan for the rest of my life?’ And, ‘Will this plan improve my overall health?’

Can I be happy following this plan for the rest of my life? If you want to pick a diet plan that works, the most important factor is to find one that is sustainable for life.  Not sticking to a plan is the number one reason most diets fail.  Some are too much work, requiring you to cook multiple meals so that you can feed your entire family, or are too restrictive.  Consider the following when deciding if you can follow a plan for life:

• Do you enjoy the food?  If your plan requires you to eat foods you don’t like, chances are you will not stick with it.

• Does the plan give you adequate calories and macronutrients to sustain your level of activity?  If you are hungry all the time, you will likely not stick with the plan for very long.  Adequate protein is especially important to keeping energy levels up.  Although very low calorie diets work in the short term, the long term success rate is very low.

• Can you still go out for dinner and participate in social engagements?  If your plan is so restrictive that you need to pack your own food when going to a friends for dinner, or that you avoid social situations because you’re afraid of what you are going to eat, pick a new plan.  Socializing and celebrating with food is a part of being human.  Your plan should teach you how to enjoy your food in all settings.

Is this plan healthy? For obvious reasons, you want to pick a plan that will improve your overall health- not just cause weight loss through calorie restriction.  Although a lemon juice and maple syrup diet may cause you to lose weight, it will not improve your health.  Ask the following to ensure that your plan is healthy:

• Does it emphasize whole, real, unprocessed food?  Whether it’s the Ornish low fat diet, paleo, Mediterranean or Atkins, pick a plan that has you eating real, unprocessed foods.  For example, a low fat diet that emphasizes fruit and vegetables, whole grains and legumes can be very healthy, whereas a low fat diet that is based on reduced-fat packaged products such as processed pasta and lunch meats can have the opposite effect.

• Does the meal plan include all the vitamins, minerals and macronutrients that you need?  Low carb diets, low fat diets, grain free diets, or meat free diets, and so on, can all be healthy, if they are carefully planned so that you are eating a variety of foods and that you get all your necessary nutrients.

There may be no ‘best diet’ out there.  Ultimately, you want to choose a plan that is improves your overall health, and that you can happily stick to for the rest of your life.  With that being said, never expect your diet to be perfect, or 100% adherence to a plan.  Life includes a glass of red wine, celebratory piece of birthday cake and indulgent meals with friends.

Tanja Shaw is the owner of Ascend Fitness Inc., a private training studio.  Tanja and her team of expert fitness professionals work to inspire and educate Chilliwack residents to make positive and power changes in their lives through physical fitness and sound nutrition.  For more fitness tips go to www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com.