The “Perfect” Diet
Your answer to what is the perfect diet.
Yep. You read that right. In this article I am going to give you the answer to which of all the diets that you have tried, heard about, or thought about trying, is the best diet. I’ve come to this conclusion after reading and studying many articles, interviews with those who swear by the diets they use, and even based on my personal experience with the many (yes that’s right, many) diets I have tried myself.
Now, before I give you the answer, let’s discuss what the key principles or components of the perfect diet would be.
1- Calories In, Calories Out (or CICO): Whether you like it or not, calories do matter when it comes to reaching your nutritional goals. Now I’m not saying they are the only thing that matter (that is far from the truth), but whether you are trying to lose fat, gain muscle, perform better, or improve general health, you must be aware of the calories you consume and burn/use. An example I like to give is this:
Let’s say John wants to lose some weight. John also burns 2500 calories throughout his normal day of rest/sleep, work, exercise, and such. If John were to do a typical Paleo diet, he typically wouldn’t need to count his calories. And let’s say that John is eating 3500 calories worth of food each day.
If this is the case, it would be next to impossible for him to lose weight, even though the food he is eating is very healthy. Now let’s take the same John wanting to lose weight and still burns 2500 calories. And he also LOVES chocolate cake. He knows that he could lose weight by eating less calories than he burns, so he decides to only eat 2000 of chocolate cake. Will he lose weight? Possibly. Will he lose just fat? Most likely not. Will he feel good? I highly doubt it. Will he be healthy? Hell no!
Calories are important. And finding a diet that helps you monitor, control, and/or be aware of the calories you intake and the calories you burn will help set you up for success. This doesn’t have to be done by writing down everything you eat or typing it into an app on your phone. Find a way to monitor your calories that works for you.
For more information on CICO, here is a great article from Precision Nutrition on it: https://www.precisionnutrition.com/calories-in-calories-out
2- Food Quality: When you are looking for a diet that will help you reach your nutrition goals, it’s important to look for a diet that promotes good quality foods. Now while you could possibly lose weight eating only chocolate cake, how much nutrition are you getting from those delicious, rich, mouth-watering, scrumptious slices of heaven, there is almost zero nutritional value in them. Diets that help you recognize and promote eating high quality, nutrient rich foods are going to give you the best bang for your buck when it comes to meeting your nutritional goals. Does this mean you can never have that slice of cake? Absolutely not. Do you have to throw out the bag of potato chips and snub your nose to bacon? Who are we kidding, any diet that doesn’t let you eat bacon is just plain wrong. I kid, but it is important to look at the way you are currently eating and see if you are getting high quality, nutrient rich foods on a consistent basis. And when looking for a diet to help you in your nutritional journey, look for one that promotes those same high quality, nutrient rich foods.
3- Exercise: One of the best ways to increase the total amount of calories you burn throughout the day, is to exercise daily. Exercise can consist of 90 strength training session in the local meathead gym, to a 45 minute H.I.I.T. or CrossFit class, to a 15-30 minute walk in your neighborhood. As I mentioned, when you are trying to lose weight, exercise can increase the number of calories that you burn. So if you didn’t exercise before and you weren’t in a calories deficit, and you start exercising to lose weight, it is possible to enter a calorie deficit simply by exercising. But the benefits of exercise don’t stop there. Some other benefits to exercise include:
– Combating health conditions or disease.
– Improve mental health and mood.
– Provide more energy.
– Promotes better and more efficient sleep.
4- Probably the most important component to the perfect diet would be something that many of us would never think of. Many of us believe that the perfect diet is the one that restricts carbs, or the one that has you tracking every gram of food you put in your month. Others believe that you have to eat every 3-4 hours with smaller meals or fast most of the day. But I think Stan “the White Rhino” Efferding and Damon McCune, PhD, RDN (creators of the Vertical Diet) said it best. “The best (or perfect) diet is the one you stick to and helps you reach your goals.”
You can be perfect on making sure your calories in and out are exact, but if you stop doing that after 2 weeks that’s not the perfect diet. You can eat only whole foods that are high quality and nutrient rich, but if you constantly breakdown and eat 3 pieces of chocolate cake because you crave it, then that’s not the perfect diet. If you exercise everyday, but think that exercising is going to help you lose weight, that’s not the perfect diet.
So what is the perfect diet? The perfect diet is the one that you can consistently do day in and day out, and moves you closer to your nutritional goals, while helping you eat better foods, be aware of your calories, and promotes exercise.
And one last parting note. Diets will come and go. You may use one particular diet to meet certain needs and another for other goals. What is important is to take notice and enjoy the journey of working towards your goals.