The Perfect Diet
Different Diets Work
I want there to be a perfect diet. In fact, I want to be the one who puts it together...
The perfect diet will have a magical balance of macronutrients, micronutrients, fluid and fibre, all combined to be enjoyable, adhereable, and effective. Clients will get results in no time, and I will be the saviour of the body composition industry.
After three years in the industry, which was preceded by four years of tertiary study that incorporated research into this field, I am no closer to finding this diet.
I have used a range of nutrition protocols with clients, ranging from tracking everything they eat, to lowering carbs, timing meals, and a few things in between. Everything worked for some people, but nothing worked for everyone.
Early on, I went through phases of strongly favouring certain systems. All my clients did X - it worked for some, but not for others. Then I transitioned to Y – everyone did that, and again it worked for some, but not others (often different people to X).
The diets were personalised – everyone had their own meal plans, timing, etc – but the structures were very similar: four to six meals, certain foods, similar macronutrient compositions, etc.
I was trying to find the ‘best system’ that would work for the most amount of people. When one system didn’t work, I moved onto something slightly different, albeit usually having the same foundations (prioritising energy intake, protein intake, fibre, etc).
What I was learning - subconsciously - was that different people needed different systems. Not just a personalised version of the same system, but often a completely different system.
Low carb works well for some people, but others can't adhere beyond two days.
Alcohol bans are great for some people, but they drive others to overeat.
Some people lose weight by tracking their food, others can't stand the stress.
There is a scale of where people sit. Finding the right system, instead of modifying my own philosophy to people's needs, has consistently delivered the best results.
Effectiveness Is The Only Measure
The best measure of any nutrition system is effectiveness for the individual, at that point in time. Very simply – was it effective: yes/no.
If the goal was achieved, it was effective.
If the goal wasn’t achieved, it was not effective.
External factors such as work, family, time, and stress can all contribute to a goal not being achieved. However, these factors are all part of the client’s life, so if the system does not work in this context, it was not effective (Read: No Excuses, Just Reasons).
Effectiveness should not be confused with whether the system is logical, evidence-based, or ‘good'. I can build the best system in the world - based on research meta-analysis and systemised reviews - but it won't be effective if an individual can't adhere to it.
Science can also be overused. It’s not up to clients to know the science or evidence behind a system – that is for us to know. They simply want to learn what is effective for them, because this is information they can use for the rest of their life.
Developing a structure that a client can adhere to is better than educating them on metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and the thermic effect of food.
Motivation is the driving force of adherence. Since adherence determines success, it is vital.
I have often said that "progression is motivation" (in fact, it's written on the hoodie I'm wearing) meaning that the progress from your training program feeds back into motivation, promoting further progress (and therefore motivation).
But this adage discounts what gets you going. Because before day one, you have no progress to feed back into results. At this point, you simply have inspiration.
Inspiration needs to be converted to a motivation for action to occur. You can be inspired to get fit while sitting on the couch eating ice cream, but you need to be motivated to take the actions of training sessions and better meals each day.
Groups and leaders often facilitate motivation, as they build trust and confidence in their system, which gets 'buy in' from the individual. My next article will explore this further.
No single diet is perfect for everyone, but everyone can find their perfect diet. So long as the individual is motivated to adhere to a system, it will deliver results.
My next article looks at the Leaders, Groups, and Sources of Information that influence individuals to become motivated by their system. It covers the role of 'nutrition tribes' in getting people to buy in to a system, and why these tribes should be applauded, not demonized.