A few years ago, I decided to go vegetarian-ish. I ate fish and eggs, but stuck to a mostly vegetarian diet, with very little dairy. After a year or two, I decided to go full vegan, minus the occasional honey in my tea. I stuck to that diet for a few years, until I started craving eggs again and ate a feta omelet on vacation. A year later, I added fish back in and have been toying with the idea of eating meat.
While it may seem a bit schizophrenic, it’s very intentional and thought out. I like to try different things. I will never stick to one dietary style for the rest of my life. While there are times when I follow a stricter diet, such as the one in Detox 101, or when I add in coffee, meat, and dairy, there are always two consistent things in my diet. In fact, these two things are the main things EVERY good lifestyle diet has in common.
Here’s the deal: No matter what diet you follow today, it is highly unlikely you will follow that exact plan for the rest of your life. As life changes, your needs change. New science emerges, your body responds to foods differently, and new trends are created. There are many different dietary style already, and it seems like more and more are popping up each day. From paleo to vegan to organic eating, the choices are endless. No matter which one you prescribe to, and no matter for how long, each diet contains its own lifestyle rules and food guidelines. The good news is, it really doesn’t matter which one you choose, because there are two key things every good lifestyle-worthy diet is based around.
What are they? It’s simple. Eating unprocessed foods and eating more fresh vegetables.
If you look at the “rules” for paleo, vegan, vegetarian, organic, or any mainstream lifestyle diet, you’ll notice that they have many differences. Some swear by eating meat, some swear by avoiding gluten/dairy/meat, and some don’t care if you eat meat or not, as long as it’s organically raised. While they have their differences, the similarities are what’s important. In any diet that becomes a lifestyle habit, and is worthy of becoming a lifestyle, it will encourage you to eat more vegetables and to eat less processed foods.
The two items will help flood your system with nutrients and enzymes that make you glow, energize you, and keep your bodily systems moving and grooving. With processed foods, or foods that are prepackaged and full of artificial colors, additives, and food-like substances, your body has to work really hard to break them down. Instead of spending that energy on your daily tasks and joys, you end up using all of it to digest your food, leaving you tired, sluggish, and foggy-headed.
Eating more vegetables will help to reduce the processed foods and give your body the nutrients it craves, so it stops craving other things. You’ll spend less energy breaking down your food, so you have more energy to finish your work, play with your kids, and live your life however you wish.
Eat less processed foods: Look for foods in their natural state, or with minimal packaging. For pre-packaged foods, look for a short ingredient list, such as a granola or energy bar with 3 ingredients, or a yogurt with 2 ingredients. Your body will recognize these as food and know exactly how to turn it into fuel for your day.
Eat more fresh vegetables: Keep it simple. Buy fresh veggies and fruits whenever possible, rather than canned or frozen with a sauce. Use them raw or cook them on your own, adding spices and seasonings from your pantry. Again your body will know what to do with these and turn it into fuel, so you have more energy.
Here’s the key: more energy = getting more done, having more time to do the things you enjoy, losing weight (because you aren’t tired and sluggish), and living more fully. If you keep it that simple, you’ll be eating and living better, no matter what “diet” you stick to.
So your diet doesn’t have these? Then it’s time for an upgrade. There is no easier way to say it. If your diet doesn’t focus on these elements first, then it is purely a diet, a way to lose weight, and not a lifestyle choice or a healthy way to live. If it focuses on counting points, restricting calories, and forgoing carbs or fats, then your diet is just a diet and its time to drop it. Replace it with the two key items above and you’ve made yourself a lifestyle you can live with, rather than one that rules your life.
I’d love to know – is your diet a lifestyle or simply a diet? How do you plan to add, or already use, these two items in your current lifestyle?