I’m going to start out with a disclaimer: what works for me might not work for the next person. I am not for or against any sustainable diet that suits an individual best. This is only what I have learned over time through my own experiences and through the research that I have done.
I am a former carb cycler and now practice flexible dieting by tracking my macros. I also follow a 80/20 rule of eating whole nutrient dense foods 80% of the time and 20% treat items. This helps me not feel so restricted in my food choices and allows me to enjoy certain foods that I love and crave (cookies:).
I have been “flexible dieting” for years now not with the full intention of losing weight but with the intention of becoming an expert at what I am putting into my body, how certain foods, and certain amounts of food make me feel physically and mentally, and with the intention of not getting hung up on “good” and “bad” foods but having flexibility to eat whatever I want.
This is the mindset that you need to get into when deciding to count and track your macros because it is not a quick fix solution. It can be challenging at times, it can feel obsessive at times, and it requires patience. What it is though is a very good tool to establish and create awareness.
I personally use carbon diet coach, an app for tracking my intake. There are many apps out there and some are free. Sometimes I track my food to a “T”, other days I loosely follow my macro numbers, but what I have learned over the years is to just do the best I can with tracking most days and if I have days where I overeat or lose track, I get over it and start new the next day, no biggie. I realize that every day is a new opportunity to hit those numbers and if you can hit them majority of the time you will be successful!
I am a big advocate for adequate protein in the diet as my experience in personal training and as a nurse, is by far the most important macronutrient for the body.
What I have gained insight more of in the last little while is also the importance of micronutrients as well. While it is great to be non restrictive with your diet, it is also very important to take in adequate nutrients. This results in feeling your best and beneficially over time looking your best as well (weight control, muscle tone, skin health etc).
This is where my 80/20 rule really shines through. 80% of my diet includes nutrient dense foods including vegetables, fruits/berries, whole grains, legumes, lean meats, and polyunsaturated fats such as extra virgin olive oil.
It is best to get your nutrition from a wide variety of nutrient dense foods so I mix up my vegetables, fruits, and meats to get a wide variety of different nutrients. Alongside consuming lean meats I also have dabbled in vegan dishes with plant based proteins lately and have enjoyed many delicious meals so much that we alternate meat and vegetarian meals every night.
I have been lucky on the front that most foods that I consume don’t cause me discomfort (only when consumed in excess). This is not the case for everyone. There are many people out there who are gluten intolerant, lactose intolerant, require a low FODMAP diet, have multiple allergies. This is where the importance of body awareness comes into play.
Food journals are a great tool to document incidents of low energy, GI symptoms, migraines, aches and pains or feelings of guilt and shame around food as well. Becoming aware of your food choices can help you pinpoint ways to eat better and feel better and become more healthy in general.
I am in no way saying nutrition can heal all. But if there was a chance your diet could heal an ailment or make you feel more alive and energetic, would you take it?