There are three questions which usually come up when I’m talking to folks who want to change their habits and pursue a healthy, active lifestyle. They can all three be boiled down to one meta-question: “What should I do?” Unfortunately, there is no meta-answer answer. More on that, later. But for now, here are the three most common questions:
Which is more important: diet or working out?
A healthy, active lifestyle is built on a foundation of good nutrition.
You cannot exercise your way out of bad nutrition.
If you start with good nutrition, an active lifestyle is much easier to develop and maintain. If you have bad nutrition, an active lifestyle is much more difficult to develop and maintain.
What is the best diet?
Simple: the best diet is the one you can most easily stick to.
While that sounds stupid, it is true. It absolutely does not matter which type of diet you try to adopt, it matters that you pick something and stick to it. Pick any diet: Weight Watchers, Adkins, DASH, Whole 30, Paleo, Mediterranean, or even the Biblical Daniel diet. If you stick any of those, or any variation, you will achieve results. The dirty secret among popular diets is that 90% of them say 90% of the same things.
So find what works easiest for you, stick to it, and you will see results.
What one thing can I do with my diet that has a big impact on me?
This is a two-part answer because sometimes (maybe 5% of the time) people can honestly get past my first answer. So, I’m going to go ahead and offer two things, in case you are already in that 5%.
First, stop drinking anything other than water. The average American drinks 45 gallons of soda every year. That is 375 pounds of soda in a 365-day period. Or 470 cans of soda in 365 days. That’s 20 pounds of sugar, per year.
“But Jon, I drink diet soda! DIET! See?” Really? How many healthy, active people do you see drinking diet soda? And seriously, how is that diet soda thing working out for you?
“I only drink one per day!” Okay, going out to eat for lunch and having your glass refilled three times is not “one per day.” And one large cup from McFastFood during lunch is 32oz, which is about 87g of sugar.
“I drink tea/juice/coffee, not soda.” If you’re in The South, sweet tea is every bit as bad as soda. (My Mother would add three CUPS of sugar to each pitcher she brewed.) Look at the sugar content of any processed juice and you’ll see it is nearly as bad as soda. And coffee is a completely different article all together.
To recap, stop drinking anything other than water. Give it two weeks and you’ll be surprised at a) how different you feel, b) the difference it makes on the scale.
Second answer, most people don’t make it this far. If you’ve already ditched the sweet drinks, I applaud you. I have been there. I know how much that sucked! However, if you’ve come this far I do have an additional suggestion. This is more challenging (sorry!) but bigger efforts have bigger rewards. My second answer is: fire up a food tracking app on your phone (like MyFitnessPal or FatSecret) spend two weeks changing NOTHING about your diet, but track everything, and at the end of two weeks look at the nutritional breakdown of your diet. Spoiler alert: You are going to say, “Wow, I didn’t think it was going to look like that…”
So, back to the meta-question: What should I do? You should work towards finding the best solution for you and your situation, but make sure it is a solution that you can maintain without much drama or despair.
Is my meta-answer ambiguous? No, it is generic. There is no one-diet-fits all solution. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something.
Does my meta-answer have an easy outcome? Once you find a solution that works for you and you can maintain, the outcome is easy. Getting there is the adventure.
If you’re interested in more creative solutions, get in touch with me directly, or follow Post-Normal on Facebook. But hopefully I’ve given you a nudge in the right direction. I’m happy to help, if not!