When clients come to me for nutrition coaching, most of them are exhausted from trying to find diets that work. They've tried multiple weight loss programs and all the fad diets (you name it from keto to intermittent fasting.) All they want to do is lose weight and they can't figure out why particular diets didn't work for them. Just like you, they all want the answer to that one question...
I tell them the answer immediately...there are key signs. These clients just don't see the signs because they, like most of us, have been conditioned to judge a diet's merit on one thing - quick weight loss. Diets that work are diets that show you how to lose weight fast. Right? Not really...
It’s possible for a diet to work (in the strict sense of weight loss) but not work for you. Most fad diets - Keto, Atkins, Calorie Counting, Bikini Diet, etc - are immensely popular not only because of the marketing dollars behind them and the influencers promoting them but also because they often do result in weight loss. If you do everything right you will achieve what they say you will - you’ll get skinnier.
Whether or not you gain that weight back and whether these diets are beneficial for your long term health are usually not discussed (that’s a separate topic.) So on a pure weight loss basis, it’s not disputable whether these diets work, it’s whether they can work for you. Determining that involves so much more than just weight loss. When I review a client's dieting experience in a consult, it's always the case that warning signs were present from the beginning.
There’s a natural fatigue that happens when you change anything about your diet but if you’re eating the right way for you that should disappear after a few days. If it doesn’t? You’re not getting the nutrients you need. It may be because you're excluding key food groups that your body needs to run well (e.g. carbs or fat) or it may be that you're not eating enough calories to sustain your body's energy requirements (e.g. calorie counting or calorie restriction.)
This is a classic sign of calorie deprivation. Your body is telling you it needs more and/or what you’re giving it isn’t the right stuff. As with the first warning sign, it does take the body a few days to adjust to dietary changes. However, if you continue to feel hungry and irritable after a few days, this is an unmistakable sign that your diet is not sufficient. It may be that you're not eating enough protein, fiber or calories or all three. It's only a matter of time before your body and mind cause you to break your diet, binge and often develop a serious complex about food.
When you're on a healthy diet you will not experience constant hunger pangs or irritability.
Sometimes a diet change will lead to an initial acne outbreak or dry skin but those conditions should clear up shortly. If they don’t, then the culprit is your food. Skin often reacts poorly when high fat food is not balanced properly with carbs, veggies and fruit. This is why you might get excessive oiliness or pimples particularly around the face.
Your skin will also feel drier if you're dehydrated from not having enough water to facilitate digestion. We often think all the water we need comes from what we drink but much of it also comes from the food we eat. By excluding key food groups that have water in them, particularly fruit and certain vegetables, you're reducing the hydration intake that your body needs in order to operate efficiently. This will affect internal processes you're not consciously aware of and becomes externally apparent in the condition of your skin.
If you are on the right diet for you, your skin should actually improve in clarity, color and moisture.
Note that this sign does say healthy food. You might crave chocolate or ice cream but those are low nutrient foods, so if you’re craving them it’s more likely a mental or emotional craving and not a physical one.
This sign speaks more to craving certain food groups that your diet may exclude like grains, fats or fruits. Ever have that strange urge for oranges or grapefruit? It's often a signal to eat/drink more citrus so you can get important nutrients like Vitamin C.
In fact, you should also pay close attention to cravings for less healthy food and not immediately dismiss them. This isn't doesn't mean go get that tub of ice cream BUT maybe observe why you want that ice cream. Is it because you had a bad day or is it because something is off with your body? If you're craving highly caloric sweets it may be a sign that you need to eat more calories. Likewise, if you keep craving fatty or fried foods, it could be a signal that your body doesn't feel sated and it wants more protein or fat.
The bottom line is that if you're on a truly healthy diet, you'll rarely experience physically based cravings (cravings from emotional or stress eating are separate issues.)
If you're eating properly, you shouldn't even notice that your body's digesting food. It just runs seamlessly in the background. As with walking, you shouldn't notice the mechanics involved until there's an ache or pain. Similarly, if you eat the right food for your body, in the right amounts, then you won't experience feelings of bloating, heart burn, cramps or gas.
It's NOT normal to feel discomfort after eating. It's NOT normal to have runny, hard or discoloured poo. (I know guys, yuck, but sorry but have to mention it!) Any diet that has you regularly feeling uncomfortable after eating is not the diet for you.
Coincidentally, you will know you are on the right diet for you if you feel the opposite of all these signs: light, energized and healthy poo!
(It's important to mention here too that there may be certain foods rather than a specific diet causing these issues. Hidden allergies or intolerances can creep up when you're eating too much of a specific type of food or group (e.g. gluten, dairy, night shades, etc. If you suspect an intolerance/allergy might be the issue, consider doing an elimination diet like Whole 30 to determine what foods are aggravating your stomach.)
So if you experience ANY warning signs, what should you do? Stop your diet. Don’t worry about carrying out your resolution. Find another solution. Make sure that this time you also look for a healthy diet that promotes healthy weight loss not just quick weight loss.
If you have questions or any confusion on healthy eating, definitely comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for advice!
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