Way back in 2014, I attended FitPro Live in London which included a few professional talks. At the time of attending, I had just started the Whole30 ‘diet’; I think it was probably my first one. So it was interesting to attend a talk entitled “What’s the best diet?”, delivered by Dr John Berardi, when I technically was on a diet.
In the back of my mind, I’m wondering, would the answer be Whole30? Or will this session make me think I’m mad for even doing a Whole30? Since then, I’ve learnt a lot more about diets and nutrition. Most recently, in 2019 I completed the Optimum Nutrition for Health and Performance online course, an Association for Nutrition (AfN) certified course.
Optimum Nutrition for Health and Performance is a comprehensive, evidenced-based course designed specifically to upskill Fitness Professionals and Coaches in the area of nutrition and is delivered by PhD level sports nutritionists. I used it as a time out when completing my Masters dissertation and honestly, I learnt a lot including the answer to the title question.
What’s The Best Diet For Me?
Working as an evidence based Fitness Professional means that I can distinguish between evidence based knowledge and marketing claims made by brands. It’s an amalgamation of recommendations I make for clients and their situation, my own experience and expertise as well as evidence from research.
Before completing the course, when clients or friends asked me “what’s the best diet?”…I would usually share with them what I’ve been up to, what I’ve recently learned and some basic starter points / principles such as eating breakfast each and every day, staying hydrated and being mindful of what you are snacking on. But these are what’s known as ‘best practices’…things that generally work but may not suit everyone.
Should You Take Nutrition Advice From A Personal Trainer?
Well, this is something that needs to be answered on a case by case basis. Personally, I completed a short nutrition qualification in addition to my overall Personal Training qualification. Within my role as a Personal Trainer, I’m able to provide nutrition advice based on published dietary reference values. If clients indicate the need for additional medical support, such as medical conditions or severe allergies, it’s my responsibility to ensure that I signpost them to the appropriate professional.
“Train how I train, eat what I eat, and you can look just like me!”
This is often what people end up paying a Personal Trainer to tell them! …it’s basically what we get when we see “XXXX XXX (insert celebrity name here) 4 week diet and training plan to get the body you’ve always wanted” in weekly magazines and daily Instagram posts. But following that plan meal for meal, exercise for exercise won’t make us look like said celebrity.
The Macronutrient Debate
During the talk I attended, John made some very valuable and thought provoking points. One that resonated with me was about the “macronutrient debate”. Each and every diet that is out there, is just another version of how much carbohydrate / protein / fat they believe our diets should consist of. However, research shows that no matter the macronutrient content of a “diet”, the results are always the same!
“Do you know a vegan who is in great shape?!”
“Do you know someone who follows the Paleo lifestyle who is in great shape?”
“Do you know someone who eats what they want and is in great shape?!”
…I certainly can answer “yes” to all three questions! Can you?! And don’t ask me about the Game Changers documentary on Netflix as I haven’t watched it yet and not sure if I will.
So, maybe, just maybe, this isn’t about macronutrients. And if it isn’t about macronutrients, why is there still such a big debate?!
“Put an end to the macronutrient debate”
In my efforts to put an end to the macronutrient diet, I became a nutritional agnostic who will respect anyones choice of diet. Because all the “diets” worth their weight in salt, may actually have far more commonalities than they do differences if we throw out the macronutrient debate.
What makes a diet work?! How do you achieve success on your chosen diet? What do all these diets actually do for you?!
Here are the secrets that you’ve been wanting to know…
What makes a diet work?!
….Adherence. Consistency. Sticking to it.
That’s the short answer. Well, that and a calorie deficit.
What do diet interventions have in common:
- awareness and attention
- focus on food quality
- eliminate nutrient deficiency
- control appetite and food intake
- promote regular exercise
Let me regress a moment here and go back to 2014 when I decided to take on the Whole30 challenge. I chose Whole30 after I read about the program, seen the results that could be achieved and deciding I would like to see what it could do for me.
Previous to this, in January 2014, I started mostly) following the principles of Alkaline eating. I upped my intake of fruit and vegetables and introduced a plethora of new foods into my kitchen repertoire. What I found though, was after a few months, I was still suffering from anaemia symptoms, my skin was still not clear but there had been other positive changes as a result.
Therefore it seemed to me that although some principles of eating alkaline had worked for me, on the whole, it was not THE “diet” for me. What I did learn though, was what place this approach had in my life – I learnt which principles worked well for me and which did not. Looking back at the list of commonalties of a successful diet, it had achieved 4 of these.
So then I explored Whole30 to see what place it would have in my life, and what principles I could take away from the experience that could then be incorporated into my lifestyle on a permanent basis.
Making Changes To Your Diet
If you are thinking about changing your diet, there are some considerations you should have in mind:
“Change one thing at a time and commit to this change”
This ‘change’ should be the biggest limiting factor, the most important change that you need to make there and then. For example, ensuring you drink enough water each day as dehydration can be physically and mentally debilitating.
From personal experience, when I am dehydrated I feel tired to the point of exhaustion and often end up sleeping any spare time away. I have slowly learnt to recognise the symptoms and am able to reverse the effects quickly and simply by just drinking more water, more often!
“Change should be measurable”
Using the goal of increasing water intake, you can use a visual cue such as doodling 8 empty cups in your diary on each day of the week. Each time you drink a cup of water, fill in a cup to track progress throughout the day, week and duration of the challenge. To be honest, in this day and age, there are apps that can do this for you too, but I’m old school.
“Changing one thing at a time has a 85% chance of success”
…don’t those odds sound positive versus changing three things at a time which has a 10% chance of success.
“Start when you are ready and confident that you can succeed”
Leah was the first person I knew who had done a Whole30 and advocated it. I watched Leah complete 4 Whole 30 challenges before I decided I was ready. I had to make smaller changes before I could commit to an overall bigger change. I then set myself up for success by thoroughly preparing for the 30 days ahead.
My Whole30 Journey:
When it comes to Whole30, or any diet for that matter, I’m not saying you should try it. Neither am I expecting to get the same results that others have reported. And I’m definitely not saying it is the best diet out there.
What I am saying though, is, I gave it a go to see which principles worked for me; I used it as an opportunity to learn how my body reacts to different foods and how my body works without the consumption of certain foods. I learnt to not focus on counting calories and to focus on the five commonalties I shared above of any diet…
Optimum Nutrition for Health and Performance
If you’re a Fitness Professional or Coach, I urge you to check out this course. It’s 11 easy to follow online modules, addressing some of the most common nutrition queries, myths and diet fads circulating in the industry. The information provided in the course will allow you to support your clients’ health and fitness journey with up to date practice based nutrition information.
As far as I know, if you’re a member of REPS, you can get a massive discount on the course too as well as collecting those annual CPD points that we need to remain registered.
What are your thoughts on ‘dieting’?