At any given time, there are at least 5 mainstream diets that have their own nutrition principles of how to be successful within that program. In part, that is what makes these diets work for the people who partake in them. The guidelines are clear, and when you are abiding by these guidelines you create success for yourself.
Keto diet – low carb, high fat
Intermittent fasting – skip breakfast and don’t eat until noon
Whole 30 – elimination of sugar, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, grains, legumes, and dairy
Low carb – ensure your carbs are less than 60g/day
Clean eating – remove all processed foods
The problem comes when these guidelines do not fit into the constraints of what you know works for you and you stop following them. While these principles can all be beneficial they sometimes don’t honor the fundamentals that you know work for you. Then you tend to go back to your old ways and implement some things partially.
At the end of November, having a conversation with a friend, I was asked if I wanted to be a part of “a challenge.” Reluctantly I got the details to think about. This challenge was for 75 days. Essentially you make up your own rules with 10 days where you can break any rule. For example, if you create 3 rules and break any of them then that counts toward one of your 10 days of breaking a rule.
Not everyone in the challenge had the same rules, but they all encompassed three areas – nutrition, fitness, spiritual. After some thought I decided that I would do it. The rules I made for myself were:
- No sugar, specifically no sugary desserts or snacks
- Drink 75oz of water daily
- 2 servings of leafy greens every day (spinach, kale, Swiss chard, Brussel sprouts, cabbage)
- 15 minutes of meditation OR read a non-fiction/self-help book for 15 minutes daily
- 45 minutes of exercise
- No alcohol
For the most part I always do these things most of the time, but sometimes may go a weekend without green veggies (I am not perfect either). Or get to the end of the day and realize I was thirsty because I did not drink enough water that day. I exercise most days, but 7 days per week has never been my style – until now.
I am about halfway through my 75 days and I want to share the three main things I have learned.
First, creating my own principles has made it easier for me to focus on the fundamentals of what health means to me. They are a slight stretch to implement daily, but with intention they are very manageable for me. They are in fact important to me even if they do not fit into a popular diet protocol.
Secondly, these principles have given me freedom. While at first the idea of “no sugar” sounds restrictive. Yet when a king cake was brought to my house for a Saint’s playoff game, I did not have the internal dialogue that goes along with deciding if I should eat it.
“I’ll have just one piece.”
“I ate really well today; I deserve to have a piece.”
“If I’m going to have one piece, should I make it small or a little bigger, to make sure it’s satisfying.”
“I know I said I would only have one piece, but now it’s halftime. I can have one more, right?”
Surely, I am not the only one that does this?
When the king cake came, I had the freedom of not having any of this chatter because I have already decided I am not eating it. Period. End of story. There is no if or maybe.
The same thing happened when I went to a brunch with the girls. After describing the delightful drink of the day, she asked, “what can I get you to drink?” Water please. No thoughts of “well maybe I can have just one. I should be okay to drive afterwards.” Nope, just bring me water and I will be fine.
And lastly, focusing on these basic principles has made it easier to know that I am honoring my values. It builds self-esteem and self-confidence. I can do hard things. And so can you. It gets easier and easier as the days go by and then it is simpler to build on the fundamentals.
As we enter the new year where there are lots of opportunities to jump on the bandwagon to follow the mainstream diet principles. Most of these principles are great but I encourage you to create your own principles to intentionally spend your energy on. Refer to what you know has worked well for you in the past. Consider a 3-5 principles that if you just put a little more effort into it would create more vitality for you. How can you help yourself? Then laser focus on making them happen.
In case you need some ideas for yourself here is a list of nutrition and some lifestyle principles that may be useful to springboard your own.
- Drink 75-100oz of water every day.
- No snacking after dinner.
- No snacking when you get home from work or school.
- Eat at least 2 vegetable servings with each lunch and supper meal.
- No more alcohol beverages.
- Drinking alcohol no more than one night per week.
- Drinking no more than one alcohol drink at a time.
- Saying no all forms of desserts.
- Excluding gluten.
- Eliminating dairy.
- Eliminating the foods that I know I have food sensitivities or allergies to.
- Avoidance of caffeine.
- Eating breakfast every day.
- Getting to sleep by 10:00pm every night.
- No more snoozing -get up when the alarm goes off.
- Waking up at the same time each day.
- Waking up one hour earlier than needed.
- Meditating for 15 minutes every day.
- Journaling for 30 minutes every day.
- Writing down 3-5 things I am grateful for daily.
- Reading 10 pages in a book daily.
- Exercising for 30 minutes daily.
If you are moving toward a healthier you, make the choice to spotlight the basic principles that will help you get closer to where you want to go.