What I’ve learned in 2018

It’s all energy balance.

Paleo, keto, fasting, IIFYM, 5:2, vegan, anything else - if the goal is to alter body composition, it will work if an energy deficit is created and it won’t if it isn’t.

There is no particular style of eating that is synonymous with weight loss, or weight gain, for that matter.

Some people find they overeat when they are flexible with food selection, while others find adherence a possibility when they have this flexibility.

Eating a clean diet often leads to an increased consumption of lower energy-dense foods, which helps people feel fuller for longer.

But you can still overeat, particularly on things like fatty fish, nuts and avocado which leads to an energy surplus and weight gain.

Fasting mostly creates an energy deficit by restricted food intake to a certain window.

There might be benefits to health and longevity, but the question will always be whether or not they are independent of body composition changes - which is impossible to measure in one individual’s lifestyle.

The diet itself doesn’t really matter, what’s more important is the suitability to your goals, experience and lifestyle.

If it creates the energy deficit you need and it’s something you can adhere to, it’s a winner for weight loss and making progress towards your goals.

While us in the industry often get caught up in critiquing dietary systems that we don’t use - which I have certainly done - often we miss the point that if a system works for someone, we should look at why that might be the case and see what could carry over to others.

To some degree, we actually benefit from having people who believe in some of these alternative systems, otherwise, some people who do well on them might never find them.

Of course, when people spread misinformation, are selective with research, and simply make up facts, they open themselves up to criticism which is often taken poorly.

And if they did present the evidence, I think we would find it often ties back to energy balance,

So while we need to have a strong grasp on the evidence, we also need to have an open mind to approaches that genuinely work.

Nutrition coaching should be evidence-led because it’s somewhat naive to think it can always be evidence-based, as research rarely gives an insight into the subjects previous experience and lifestyles.

This means that people should be able to refer back to the scientific principles underlying their approach, but we also need to be open to what experts say works based on their experience working with clients.

In 2018, I have become more open to different approaches to food intake and modifying them to ensure an energy deficit is created.

Instead of everyone needing to eat a certain way, we can find the best way for each individual to meet their nutritional requirements.

While my first thoughts are always sceptical and the ideas are subject to critical analysis, often you can see themes that are consistent across industry expert insights that haven’t been probed by the literature.

If these insights can fill the gaps between the big rocks (research) we can end up with a much stronger structure than we otherwise might.

Tom Fitzgerald