Things I’ve learned from diets I’ve tried
Hi friends! How’s the week going so far? I hope you’re having a great morning. I’m excited for an F45 class and some adventures with the crew – I’m so happy the kids are off school this week!
For today’s post, I wanted to look back at some of the eating styles and diets I’ve tried and what I learned from them. Of course, if reading about this topic is triggering or uncomfortable for you, please skip this post and I’ll see ya in the am.
When I first embarked on my weight loss and health journey in college, I tried a lot of different things and quickly realized they weren’t the right fit for me. I’ll never forget drinking a WARM Slim Fast shake after finishing a philanthropy event for school. I went to my car afterwards, where my sad and warm Slim Fast was waiting for me. As I drank it, slightly gagging the entire time, I vowed that I would find a strategy with the freedom to eat real food and things I actually enjoyed.
While I could easily write a book on all of the ways different diets burned me and messed up my relationship with food, I choose to focus on the positive and the lessons I took away from trying so many things. One bonus: when I work with clients, there’s a good chance that I’ve also tried many of the strategies and quick-fix mentalities they’ve been through. It helps me relate to their experience and struggles, but also helps me design a sustainable and custom plan for them.
Here’s a little recap of some of the things I’ve learned and some of the stepping stones to where I am right now (still learning and evolving over time!):
Things I’ve learned from diets I’ve tried
This is when I actually learned how to balance my plate. Before I tried South Beach, I ate a lot of carbs and fats, but didn’t pay attention to the quality of the food I was eating, and didn’t emphasis proteins or produce. This is when I really learned how to balance a plate, and that each meal should ideally contain a protein, a healthy fat, a smart carb choice, and some type of veggie or fruit. While I don’t *love* all of the things about South Beach (especially the fact that I ate SO much Splenda, for years), I do think that it transformed the way I eat, and it also helped me when I lost around 40 lbs in college.
Originally I was like, “Why eat like a caveman when we have a Starbucks on every street corner?” It was perplexing to me at the time, because our lifestyle now is so different than our ancestors. At the same time, some aspects of Paleo make sense. You eat food that comes from an animal or the earth in some capacity (minus dairy, grains, and legumes), and that’s pretty much it. While I’ve definitely used Paleo strategies to simplify my eating style, I knew I couldn’t be full Paleo because I like rice and legumes a little too much. I also feel like Paleo eating styles can encourage a high intake of fats (they’re healthy fats, but I like everything in moderation) and didn’t like the idea of eliminating entire food groups.
This is when I started to read food labels and pay attention to the ingredients in my food. I was an on-and-off vegetarian for years – I stopped eating red meat when I was 8 years old and didn’t start eating it again until my 30s, and still don’t eat pork or lamb – and I’ve learned that my body likes meat. Vegetarian makes me feel good for a while, but in the end, I just start to feel depleted.
When I was vegetarian, I started reading the labels to see if they contained any animal products, and in the process, I was shocked to see what was in our foods. There were SO many multi-syllable ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce. It helped me decide what packaged foods I actually wanted to include in my life, and which ones were worth skipping.
OG blogger friends will remember the raw vegan days! (Also we have to talk about Bad Vegan. I have so much to say, especially as someone who went to one of Matthew’s raw vegan culinary schools and worked in his restaurant, and had a handful of email interactions with Sarma.) I’m only halfway through the documentary, but feel like they absolutely painted Matthew in a bad light, like he’s some kind of irresponsible playboy. For the record, he’s is an incredibly talented chef and is also a very kind and genuine human. He’s also crushing it, which gives you an idea of how her operates his businesses.
For Sarma – we did a giveaway on the blog together and I visited her restaurant a couple of times – I just feel like she’s a super generous person who had someone horrible take advantage of her, and I don’t think she’s a bad person. However, I feel badly for those who worked for her who obviously suffered for months. I’m just thankful that Netflix paid her enough to compensate all of her employees for the missing wages.
Anywayyyy back to raw vegan. This style of eating taught me how to pay attention to micronutrients, how to use various cooking tools and styles, and also how to take love and care into the preparation of food. Raw vegan can be a very labor-intensive style of eating (“ok I want a pizza in 2 days. Might as well make the crust and start dehydrating it today”), so it really taught me appreciation for the process. It’s when I truly fell in love with cooking (through un-cooking). I learned knife skills, how to dehydrate, sprout, ferment, make kombucha, and hack open a Thai coconut LIKE A BOSS.
(I only cut myself once.)
I also started to eat the rainbow. So many of my dishes were bold colors and beautiful flavor profiles. While I eventually implemented more cooked foods (easier to digest) and animal proteins, I still absolutely love raw vegan food.
Macro tracking reminded me of what a portion size look like (1 tablespoon of peanut butter is so dang small), and also helped me to ditch a lot of the all-or-nothing mentality that I’ve experienced. As you guys know, I haven’t always had the best relationship with food. A lot of it stems from perfectionism, the messages I constantly was reading in magazines and women’s diet books, and the desire to do anything to be “healthy.” It lead to extremes that were difficult to break, but having Liv was a significant turning point in my relationship with nutrition.
I think macro tracking can be an awesome tool because ANY food can fit within your macros. It can be very freeing if you’re the type of person who feels like they can never enjoy dessert or a cocktail because it’s “not on the plan.” While I absolutely think it can turn eating into a math project – I liked food too much to do this for the long term – it can be a helpful tool in certain scenarios. With my current nutrition clients, we use hand-sized portions (a cupped hand is one serving of carbs, a fist is a serving of non-starchy veggies, a palm is a serving of protein, etc), so that no one has to break out a food scale or calculator. 😉
So tell me friend: what eating styles have you tried over time? Anything that you’ve learned or that was helpful for you?
What’s the WORST diet you’ve tried?
For me, it was 100% Weight Watchers. I know they’ve changed their program, but when I tried it, a single Subway sandwich used most of my points for the day. Giant fail.
Thanks so much for stopping by the blog today and I’m looking forward to reading your comments about your experiences.
Hi Gina! Very helpful comparison. I had about 10 pounds to lose and tried Noom this year. It was so easy to follow and I liked that none of the foods I liked to eat where off limits. I learned a lot about portion control and changed my way of eating. There is some tracking involved but I don’t mind it. I did try paleo and being a vegetarian. I like aspects of both but like you, I felt depleted.
Now I eat a balanced diet and sometimes enjoy paleo or vegetarian meals.
WW helped me the most! I know it’s a point system and all that…but the point system helped me make better choices in terms of veggies and fruit (zero points). I ended up trying a lot of veggies that I wouldn’t normally try. Also, it taught me to excercise since I could earn points back that way…not the best mentality but I credit WW for introducing me to veggies and excercise. Also, whole 30 was big eye opener becuase it taught me how to cook and enjoy veggies and how to make my own mayo!
I had my share of yo-yo dieting in my 20s & 30s, and have mostly left that behind (thank goodness). I am currently doing my second round of Whole 30 and love it. It’s a great way for me to get back into the habit of eating whole foods, and it has refueled my enjoyment of cooking. This time, I’m focused on how to sustain these habits while incorporating back in foods that aren’t W30-compliant once I have finished the 30 days, without feeling totally restricted.
I thought of you when I was watching Bad Vegan! I remembered your experience with Matthew Kenney and I remember that giveaway. It was an interesting documentary. I appreciate hearing your thoughts on it.
So…I am still struggling with this. There is so much conflicting information out there concerning diet and exercise. I know you hate keto, but I lost 20 lbs on that. I actually really liked it, but found it hard to sustain. I would spend so much time in the kitchen preparing things. I’ve tried WW, but I too found that hard to do. I’m on the lookout for something I can feel confident in. That can produce results.
yes, you need a sustainable plan! let me know if you want to chat about 1:1 options
Multisyllabic ingredients that are difficult to pronounce aren’t by default “bad.”
I don’t think any food is bad. But, I don’t seek out those ingredients to include in my daily rotations
I’m also one who believes all foods are good, in moderation, of course. There are foods I try to limit though, like bread. I’m enjoying open-faced sandwiches or half a bagel instead of a whole one. Also learning to cut portions, sip water all day, include more veggies and fruits in my diet, and if I want a cookie, I don’t eat the whole package like I did in the past. If I want chicken gumbo, which is a treat, I’ll make it once or twice a year. And I love pancakes, but pour 1 T syrup on the side and serve them with fruit. These are all little changes I’ve made but definitely notice some weight loss and less pooch in my belly.