60: The Best Diet is the One We Can Maintain for Life

Apr 08, 2024

When people start working on their health, one of the first things they usually want to know is: what is the best nutrition plan? But when it comes to the “best” nutrition plan for you, it really hinges on your own personal health goals. What are you actually trying to get out of the changes that you're making?

For the purpose of this blog, we’re going to be focusing on what kind of nutrition plan could be best for losing body fat. Drawing from both clinical observations and key research findings, we'll look at how to optimize your macronutrient intake to support your fat loss goals and ensure they align with your lifestyle for sustainable success.

Lessons in Sustainability and Fat Loss

I want to start off by sharing some insights from a JAMA study which investigated the effectiveness of four distinct diets, including the ketogenic (keto) diet, over the course of a year. 

Initially, individuals on the keto plan experienced significant weight loss, as often seen with its low-carb approach. However, as the study progressed, an interesting discovery came to light: by the end of the year, participants across all groups had achieved similar weight loss outcomes, showing just how critical sustainability is in our dietary choices.

The keto diet often results in a rapid initial weight loss because dramatically reducing your carbohydrate intake leads to a big loss of fluid, as well as a lot of the glycogen that's in your muscle. It’s important to recognize that losing weight quickly doesn't always mean you’re losing fat. While these changes can be motivating at first, they might not show real progress in the long run, especially in your overall body shape.

Ultimately, this study emphasizes the importance of choosing an approach that aligns with personal goals and that can be maintained over time. Whether it's low-carb, high-fat, or another dietary strategy, the true measure of success lies in finding a sustainable path to improved health and well-being.

Embracing a Flexible Approach

Flexibility in nutrition is key if you want to achieve lasting results. I've found that instead of rigid dietary restrictions, adopting an approach of "add, don't subtract" tends to be more effective. When I work with patients, I often start by conducting a thorough nutrition audit, which involves identifying areas where we can add more nutrient-dense foods rather than focusing solely on cutting out certain items.

Everyone's lifestyle and dietary preferences are unique. While some individuals may already have a diet rich in vegetables and lean proteins, others may have different eating habits, like eating out a lot or relying on prepackaged meals. But instead of villainizing certain eating habits, it's crucial to acknowledge that what works for one person may not work for another. When you adopt a more pragmatic approach to nutrition, you can make choices that align with your own preferences, budget constraints, and lifestyle demands.

I know how tempting it is to strive for perfection in our dietary choices. But life will always throw curveballs that affect our ability to follow strict meal plans. And research has shown that there is in fact minimal nutritional difference between things like fresh and frozen vegetables, so you have to do what you can, how you can, and modify in a way that works for you. 

Understanding the Role of Protein and Fiber

When it comes to nourishing your body, two key players stand out: protein and fiber. These powerhouse nutrients not only contribute to your overall well-being but also play a significant role in managing hunger and supporting weight loss goals.

Whether you're a meat-lover or a vegetarian like me, ensuring you get an adequate amount of protein is essential. Not only does it help with muscle repair and growth, but it also keeps you feeling fuller for longer, thanks to its impact on the hunger hormone ghrelin. While carbs might provide a quick energy fix, protein is the real hero for keeping hunger at bay over the long haul.

Found in foods like veggies, fruits, and legumes, fiber adds bulk to your meals, triggering those stretch receptors in your stomach that signal satiety to your brain. For example, if you’re eating a modest portion of chicken, adding some fiber-rich veggies to your plate can help you feel more satisfied and prevent overeating.

But here's the thing: incorporating more protein and fiber into your diet doesn't have to be complicated. Start by doing a quick audit of your current eating habits (I go through this in much more depth in my mini course, optimizing fat loss and maintaining muscle on a GLP one.) If you're a woman, are you getting at least 30 grams of protein three times a day? If you're a man, are you getting 30 grams of protein, four times a day?  And then are you making sure to have some veggies at each meal to provide part of that bulk that will help you to not overeat at that meal or potentially last a little bit longer until the next one?

Making Nutrition Fit Into Your Life

Crafting a sustainable nutrition plan means making it work in your day-to-day life. And that does not mean you have to give up social outings or follow strict rules. If you do like dining out, there are simple tricks to stay on track like starting with a salad or veggies before diving into the main course. 

As your interests change over time, so might your approach to food. And so adapting your nutrition plan to match your current lifestyle makes sure it remains enjoyable and practical in the long run.

Crafting a Sustainable Nutrition Plan

When creating a nutrition plan that truly supports long-term success, it’s important to remember two key principles: adaptability and balance.

  1. Fit for Your Life: Your nutrition plan should seamlessly integrate into your daily routine, allowing for flexibility and enjoyment. Whether you're dining out with friends or exploring new activities, finding ways to incorporate healthy choices without feeling restricted is essential.
  2. Optimizing Macronutrients: Balancing protein, fiber, and carbohydrates is crucial for managing hunger, stabilizing blood sugar levels, and promoting satiety. By ensuring that your meals are well-rounded and nutrient-dense, you set yourself up for sustained success.

3. Embracing the Journey: Sustainable change takes time and effort. Rather than seeking quick fixes or drastic measures, focus on gradual progress and continuous learning. Embrace the inevitable challenges and setbacks along the way, knowing that each step forward brings you closer to your goals.