By Eric Buratty | Published February 16, 2015
Like it or not, your body has two choices; ADAPT or DIEt.
This may be extremely blunt, but it’s the truth. Fortunately, though, you have more control over your capacity to adapt than what you might think. For every choice you make, habit you create or health “rule” you break, you are either one step closer to adapting and living longer or one step closer to death.
Don’t believe me?
Just consider the many choices, habits and health “rules” that surround the following holistic qualities of our lifestyle.
When we change the way we sleep, our bodies must adapt. When we change the way we exercise/move, our bodies must adapt. When we change the way we eat, our bodies must adapt.
It’s only human to find excuses for not prioritizing these holistic qualities to achieve better health. Our lazy human instincts tell us to seek out artificial solutions like magic pills and quick-fix programs, gadgets or equipment to replace hard work, commitment and longevity. This is especially true in the beginning. In the long run, however, I believe most of us will come full circle in realizing that the holistic lifestyle qualities mentioned above are responsible for 80% of the results we obtain.
If you recall from the first pillar of any healthy diet, we looked at how nutrient absorption was impacted by our ability to balance stress and recovery. In the second pillar of any healthy diet, we took the calories in versus calories out equation one step further by applying Pareto’s 80/20 principle toward variables that impact our metabolic needs and wants: hunger, cravings and overall energy levels. So, in this third and final pillar of any healthy diet, it’s only appropriate to put our food preferences into perspective with our lifestyle to ultimately achieve dietary sustainability.
Pillar 3 of 3: Your food preferences are the key for sustaining the diet you choose.
Put another way, your food preferences make up the other 20% of the results you obtain. These are your food choices in reality–not in some utopian-like world where everyone adheres to the principles of a diet 100% of the time.
I don’t care who you are or what the name of your diet is. But I do care whether you can really go along with the foods you’re eating (or not “allowed” to eat) over the long run(?) Ask yourself that question (thinking in terms of practicality and your lifestyle).
Really be honest with yourself by relying on your experience, logic and intuition.
If your answer is yes, you’re off to a good start! (Keep doing what’s working for you.)
If your answer is no, you’re due for a nutritional tune-up! (Stop doing what’s not working for you.)
THE PROBLEM: Dietary Extremes and the Era of TOO MUCH Information
Here in the 21st Century, the average American is overwhelmed with information concerning the following dietary viewpoints. As a result, the word “healthy” has become so subjective that people are caught up in one extreme or the other with their eating habits.
- Count calories, OR don’t count calories.
- Eat larger meals less frequently, OR eat smaller meals more frequently.
- Eat a lower-carb/higher-fat diet, OR eat a lower-fat/higher-carb diet.
- Lose weight by eating less and exercising more, OR reduce fat by gradually reaching for higher-quality foods and realizing genetic/hormonal potential.
- Eat a diet rich in animal source protein, OR eat a vegetarian or vegan diet.
- Eat more vegetables and fruit for fiber, OR eat more grains and starches for fiber.
- Eat organic food only, or eat conventional food only.
- Use a point system for certain macronutrients/food groups, OR don’t use a point system for certain macronutrients/food groups.
- Use supplements to fill in nutritional gaps (and add in only one thing at a time), OR don’t use supplements at all.
- Drink coffee/tea for antioxidants and to help wake up, OR go on a caffeine-free spree.
- Use a daily/weekly/monthly detox, OR just eat plenty of colorful vegetables/fruits year-round.
- Do eat breakfast, OR skip breakfast.
- Eat the food “if it fits your macros,” or don’t include it in your diet. (AKA IIFYM — see video clip parody below)
- . . .
You get the point. This list can go on and on. You’ll also find supporting research for pretty much every one of these with a quick Google search . . .
We’re just so caught up in labeling and categorizing our diets all the time that we ignore which aspects are supporting our ultimate objective: which is to (hopefully) live a more healthful, higher-quality life.
Don’t you want to have more energy when you get home from work to play with your kids? Don’t you want to have better joint stability as you age to still enjoy some of the same activities you did when you were younger?
“You don’t stop playing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop playing.”
THE SOLUTION: The Hybrid Approach to Sustainable (Holistic) Nutrition
In the beginning, ANY diet can work for someone with the right mindset and level of commitment. This is because the most popular diets all emphasize a strong foundation in quality food choices–instead of the quantity of calories eaten. Just getting to a healthy baseline point should actually be the easy part if you make the following commonalities of these diets a part of your lifestyle.
- Eat lots of colorful vegetables. (NoBODY ever got fat/unhealthy from eating “too many” vegetables.)
- Avoid cheap, refined carbohydrate sources. (These are usually the boxed/bagged/canned foods found in the aisles of most grocery stores.)
- Avoid fats made in a lab. Real butter comes from cows. Extra-virgin olive oil comes from olives. But extracting oil from corn needs to be done in a lab. (It’s no coincidence that vegetable oils are also cheaper to produce.)
Over the long-run, a hybrid nutrition approach will be more appropriate for a given person. This is because the body adapts to the baseline health benefits from the anti-inflammatory foods above (e.g., normalized blood pressure and cholesterol levels, greater mental/physical energy throughout the workday, lower body fat and less water weight). So, in order to further capitalize on your health/fitness/overall wellness goals, you’ll need to consider three other key dietary realities.
- There is no single “best” diet for anyone to follow forever. (Eat well for the most part, and manage your caloric surplus meals based on how active you are when possible.)
- Don’t eat the same exact way daily/weekly/monthly/year-round. (In other words, incorporate lots of variety in your nutrition plan.)
- Don’t completely eliminate foods you prefer. (In other words, enjoy foods you absolutely love on occasion . . . use ’em, don’t abuse ’em!)
As long as you actually pay attention to what you’re eating, when you eat and how much you eat, you will never have to worry about becoming too complacent again. Besides, without enough variety in your food choices and enjoyment of foods you love on occasion, you’re only becoming more vulnerable to a new breed of eating disorder: orthorexia.
All things considered, our bodies are amazing adaptive machines, but that doesn’t mean you have to go to the extreme with some DIEt. Strive to find that nice medium, that balance, that positive stimulus that allows you to adapt, become stronger and live longer. Better aesthetics are just a side benefit from having dietary sustainability and finding more excuses to move your body–rather than be lazy.
Green, Nate. Story of a Recovering Fitness Junkie. The Nate Green Experience. <http://www.thenategreenexperience.com>. November 2013. Accessed at various points between time of publication and February 2015.
Kavadlo, Al. Sifting through the Madness. Al Kavadlo’s personal Web site. <http://www.alkavadlo.com>. 15 June 2011. Accessed January 2015.
Luoma, TC. Eating Clean vs. Orthorexia. Testosterone Nation. <http://www.t-nation.com>. 8 April 2014. Accessed February 2015.
Robinson, E. et. al. Eating Attentively: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Effect of Food Intake Memory and Awareness on Eating. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013. April; 97(4): 728-742.