Do You Find The Whole Diet Thing Confusing? Does It Seem Like Everyone Has The Secret To The Fountain Of Youth Except For You!?
People always ask me which “nutrition camp” I fall into. Is it the paleo movement? The Vegan group? Low carbers? Intermittent fasting clan? Or something else? In essence, they’re asking: “What’s The Best Diet?”
I’m afraid that the answer isn’t that simple for them but today I’ll share my surprising answer. I’ll also explain how we’ve used certain “best diet” principles in our Miyagi coaching programs to help change the lives of hundreds of men and women over the years.
When considering making improvements to the way you eat, it’s so easy to set out in search of “The Best Diet”. You know, the one that’ll finally:
- Help you drop the kilos and body fat you’ve been unable to lose, in some cases, for many years.
- Make you feel physically strong and mentally sharp all day long.
- Help you rock a swimsuit at an upcoming pool party, enter a room with confidence and actually enjoy having your picture taken for once.
- Give you some energy back so you can run around with your kids (or grandkids), take the stairs without getting winded, and book a bucket list trip without worrying about whether you’re up to it.
Here’s the thing. That perfect diet might not exist. (At least not the way you think it does.) But the way you want to look, and feel? It’s totally possible.
We’ll dig into this idea in a second. First, however, I’d like to let you know that we’re soon opening spots in our next 12 week Gym Geisha & Gym Warrior Body Transformation Programs.
You see, twice a year we work with small groups of men and women hoping to find the right way of eating and training for their unique bodies (and lives).
Over the course of 12 weeks together, we help them get into the best shape of their lives and stay that way for good!
During the Miyagi Gym Geisha & Gym Warrior Program we’ll guide you through important decisions for: permanent improvements needed in your eating, exercise efficiency, training for your body type, performance capacity, and health.
You’ll lose the weight and body fat you haven’t been able to shed for years. You’ll build physical strength and gain confidence and you’ll end up feeling like the healthiest, strongest, fittest version of yourself.
Throughout the process, of course, you’ll discover the best way of eating for you. Which brings us back to today’s article…
What is the best diet?
Recently, I went “Live” for a Q&A on one of our social media platforms, while the questions ranged from health and weight loss to sports nutrition, one particular theme kept emerging. People wanted to know which “nutrition camp” I belong to.
One person asked: “I’ve visited your website and I’m still not sure, do you guys believe in ‘paleo’? Or do you believe in the standard diet stuff?”
Another person asked: “Your coaching program sounds great. But, if I were to sign up for it, would I have to cut out all my carbs?”
Yet another person asked: “I have a friend who’s vegan and she’s super healthy. I’m thinking of trying it…what do you think?”
In that one day I received at least a dozen questions like this, all of which essentially ask the same thing: What’s the “best diet” for people to follow?
After answering the same questions over and over again I started to get annoyed. Not at the people, mind you but at myself. Why? Because even after years of the same question, I haven’t yet been able to come up with a one-liner response that makes sense.
I simply don’t fall into a single “diet camp” and that confuses the hell out of people, since the human brain likes easy categorisation.
“But … but … I need to fit you into one of these nice little nutrition boxes.”
If I could help people stick me and Miyagi Fitness into the right nutrition box, I would. Believe me, it’d make things a lot easier but it just cannot be done.
The reason why is that I don’t believe there’s a single, absolutely, positively, without-a-doubt best diet for every person to follow, always, and forever.
Think about this, there are coaching program that have been tested with thousands of clients in 100’s of different countries with validated and peer-reviewed scientific studies.
You can imagine the diversity from:
- Body type: Some people are tall and thin and others are short and stocky.
- Dietary preferences & exclusions: Some people eat lots of meat every day while others won’t eat no meat at all.
- Budget: Some people have an incredibly low budget while others have an unlimited budget.
- Organic / conventional: Some people eat only boxed and packaged foods while others eat only natural, organic, whole foods.
- Nutrition knowledge: Some people are devout followers of a certain dietary practice while others have very little nutrition knowledge whatsoever.
- Time: Some people have lots of free time for a health and fitness projects while others have very little time to devote to health and fitness at all.
You get the picture?
There’s simply no way we’d be able to help all those people make incremental improvements in their eating if we were militant about a single nutrition paradigm.
Can you imagine:
“I know you have a super-low budget for food but if you sell your vehicle, or maybe one of your children, you’ll be able to afford the organic and free-range whole foods we recommend in our program. That’s the only way to get healthy and fit.”
“Carbs? You’re not alone. We all like ‘em. But this program is all about cutting way back. Low carb is what works, period. Insulin is the enemy. So say goodbye to sugar, pasta and potatoes, and rice…”
“Sure, I understand the moral and ethical obligation you feel but eating animal foods that’s how we do it. You need the protein and the fat and it’s how our ancestors ate. So suck it up champion, throw a steak on the grill, and let’s get this party started.”
While these responses are a little extreme, they’re not that far from what I hear every day in the gym or read on Facebook and it’s a shame because the best coaches don’t have a single nutrition philosophy.
Sure, if a particular nutrition idea like paleo or vegetarianism worked for you personally, that’s awesome. You should be happy you found something that helped you reach your goals.
But to suggest that because it worked for you, at one point in your life, under a particular set of circumstances, now everyone else should follow the same program? Well, that’s just silly.
Physiologically, the human body can do well under a host of different nutritional conditions.
This is clearly demonstrated by examining the traditional diets of various tribes and ethnic groups throughout the world.
For example, the Arctic Inuit and African Masai eat traditional diets that are very high in fat and animal products with very few vegetables.
Conversely, the Kitavans in the South Pacific eat traditional diets that are low in fat but very high in vegetables and starchy carbs.
The Tokelau near New Zealand eat traditional diets that are very high in saturated fats.
Crazy differences, right? Yet all traditional diet eaters are relatively healthy people with minimal incidences of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, inflammatory obesity etc.
This is only possible because the human body is amazingly adaptable to a host of different dietary conditions. It is possible to be healthy and fit whether you eat mostly meat or mostly veggies, mostly fat or mostly carbs, many times a day or just a few times, and so on.
Which means that, as a nutrition coach, I shouldn’t really belong to any specific nutrition camp at all.
When you work with actual human beings, you must be a nutritional agnostic and open to evaluating anything and everything that could work. Willing to test new methods, even if they fly in the face of current beliefs or practices and be humble enough to sometimes be wrong, even if you really like being right.
If I believe too strongly in any particular “nutritional religion”, I fixate on the food itself or my own personal way of looking at food and I lose focus on what’s most important as a coach: my clients and their individual physiological and psychological needs.
You’re probably wondering “How can such wildly different nutrition programs all lead to positive results?”
My response “They’re not as different as you might think!”
Most effective nutrition programs are more similar than different. (Yes, even paleo and plant-based eating!)
When done properly, paleo diets, plant-based diets, high carb diets, low carb diets, eating small meals frequently, eating larger meals infrequently, etc. all accomplish the following:
They raise nutrition awareness and attention.
I know, everyone wants to talk about the food itself, the proteins, carbs, and the fats. What to eat more of and what to avoid blah blah blah.
But research is now showing that simply paying better attention to what you eat is a key factor in whether you’ll lose fat, get lean, and improve your health.
Whether your attention is trained on avoiding carbs, eating more vegetables, seeking out organic / free-range food, avoiding animal foods, or avoiding “non-paleo” food, it’s all good because what you focus on may not matter as much as simply caring more about what you’re eating in the first place!
They focus on food quality.
Paleo and low carb advocates want you to eat more natural, free-range animal-based foods that are higher in protein, higher in fat, and are minimally processed. Vegan and high carb advocates want you to eat more natural, plant-based foods that are higher in fiber, antioxidants, and are minimally processed.
Recognise what’s common here?
Indeed, very few nutrition camps recommend you eat more processed, chemical-laden “junk” food.
Instead, pretty much every camp recommends eating whole, minimally processed and nutrient-rich foods and that may be one of the most important nutrition interventions of all, regardless of the protein, carb, and fat breakdowns.
They help eliminate nutrient deficiencies.
In keeping with the last point, the best nutritional advocates help us shift away from highly processed foods, which are often low in nutrients because they’ve been stripped out during processing, and toward more whole, minimally processed foods, which often have their nutrients intact.
Thus, a properly designed diet of any kind eliminates some of the most common nutrient deficiencies (water, certain vitamins and minerals, proteins, and essential fatty acids).
This is huge. We often look, feel, and perform terribly when we’re deficient in important nutrients but within a few weeks of correcting these deficiencies, we feel totally rejuvenated. (And because the transformation is so dramatic, that’s often when we become diet zealots.)
They help control appetite and food intake.
When we’re more aware of what we’re eating, choose more satisfying, higher quality foods, and eliminate nutrient deficiencies, we almost always end up eating less total food. We feel more satisfied. We lose fat, gain lean muscle, and perform better.
Notice that you don’t need calorie counting here.
Focusing on food awareness and food quality is usually enough for people to tune into their own hunger and appetite and that means calorie control without the annoying calorie math.
It also means you can maintain your results and weight loss. Counting calories has a shelf-life for most people and no one does it forever.
They promote regular exercise.
When people start paying attention to their eating, they usually start thinking about physical activity too. In fact, many of the diet camps recommend regular exercise which is a good idea since focusing on diet alone may actually interfere with establishing a consistent exercise routine.
When a person exercises regularly, with a mix of high and low-intensity activity, they dramatically improve their ability to turn the food they eat, whatever food that is into functional tissue instead of extra fat.
Hopefully you can now understand how different well-designed dietary philosophies even when they seem oppositional and antagonistic on the surface can all promote good health, body composition, and longevity.
Which is why choosing a single diet camp makes no sense. There’s no such thing as one, universal “best” diet for everyone. Humans have evolved to do well under all sorts of dietary conditions.
That’s why we’re happy to help people find the best one for them, no matter their dietary preferences. Of course, this is a big win for our clients. They get in shape doing more of the things they actually like and a win for us is we get to help more people.
As mentioned the most popular diets actually have a lot in common, when done with care, attention, and a little coaching they help control appetite, improve food quality, promote exercise, and raise nutritional awareness.
So that’s why coaches should never lock into a single philosophy.
Our coaching programs have helped 100’s of clients lose body fat and develop a new relationship with food and we’ve done that without forcing a specific diet philosophy on them. Vegans can stay vegan. Paleos can stay paleo. And they’ve all had success.
If you’re working with a coach who tells you that you have to eat a very specific way to succeed… well, you might want to re-think that relationship.
Our coaches don’t waste energy bullying people into a particular way of eating. It’s not necessary as habit-based coaching is better than diet-based coaching anyway. Long-term nutrition habits trump diet plans and “rules”… everyday of the week.
For more information visit www.miyagi.fitness today to find out how we can help you start living with greater levels of energy and feeling like the BEST version of you.