The Only Diet That Works Is The One That Fits Your Lifestyle

Keto diet, plant based diet, paleo diet, intermittent fasting, Mediterranean diet, the blood type diet, vegan, vegetarian and mindful eating are just a few of the weight loss diets that are very popular. It doesn't matter which one you choose to follow, there are pro's and con's for each of them. This is even before you start to consider what will work for your lifestyle.

find the diet that works for you with images of fruit, woman eating and measuring waist with tape measure

Ultimately, the best diet is one that you can follow most days, results in optimal health and provides the nutrients needed to keep the body in balance. It sounds pretty straight forward but here is where it gets complicated. Our bodies are unique and react to food differently. Plus, our body changes over time. Foods you may have been able to eat without any issues in your 20's and 30's may no longer work for your body and health in your 40's or beyond.


So what is a person to do? The honest truth is that we need to focus on our health the way we focus on our career, our relationships and our spirituality. Making your health a priority in your life, even before there are symptoms of something going wrong, is the only way to be aware of and in control of your wellbeing.


Here are the steps to take to find out what to eat now and in the future.


#1 TAKE A CLOSE LOOK AT ROUTINE BLOOD TEST RESULTS


It is easier than ever to get a copy of your annual blood test results. But do you know what they are really telling you about your health? Or are you just going by the doctor's quick review as to whether you are "within normal range" or not? I admit, it is easy to trust the doctor when the news isn't bad. Even I am guilty of not digging into the details to find out if I was truly healthy or not.

technician taking blood in a doctor's office

The key indicators to watch are: HbA1C, Triglycerides, Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL), High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) and Thyroid tests (T4 and T3). If you can review several years worth of testing to see the trends, that is ideal. One blood test performed once a year is great, but the trends over several years are better. Why? Trends show fluctuations over time and can help you identify if there were changes in your lifestyle, social habits or eating patterns that may be causing favorable or unfavorable results.


Each lab will give you the reference range they use to determine where your results fall (too low, too high or within range).


  • HbA1C is a key indicator of blood sugar imbalance which leads to potentially becoming diabetic. Science based research shows that a diet high in animal protein and low in fiber, results in the cellular body being unable to use the insulin produced by the pancreas.

  • The remedy: eat high fiber foods and significantly reduce the amount of animal protein and oils (such as salad dressing, sauteing vegetables in olive oil or eating crackers which contain oils). Animal protein servings should only equal the size of the palm of your hand. Re-balancing the foods on your plate heals the cellular body and helps the cells to start using insulin again.

  • Total Cholesterol is a great number to know but it is more important to know the specific numbers of HDL, LDL and Triglycerides.

  • HDL is the good cholesterol and it should be over 60. It can be a lot higher. There isn't scientific evidence that the higher HDL is, the better off we are. In fact, very high HDL can actually be harmful. "People who naturally have extremely high HDL levels — above 100 mg/dL (2.5mmol/L) — appear to be at higher risk of heart disease. This may be caused by genetic factors." (SOURCE: Mayo Clinic)

  • LDL is the bad cholesterol and it should be less than 70.

  • Triglycerides should be less than 150. If it is over 150, it is usually due to liver and/or pancreas issues. Even just one drink a day can raise triglycerides.

  • Please note, there are situations where cholesterol numbers may be higher than the above but the root cause is not your diet or lack of exercise. Menopause and Thyroid disease are two factors that influence cholesterol numbers. Getting to the root cause of why your cholesterol is high is essential to knowing how to fix it.

  • Thyroid tests are essential because the thyroid influences a wide variety of processes in the body. Processes such as weight control, hormonal balance, blood sugar balance and heart health are just a few of the critical pieces of health the thyroid can impact when it is not working like it should. Why the thyroid starts to have problems is unclear. Thyroid problems are lumped into the Autoimmune category, which currently has 80 diseases listed. (SOURCE: NIH)

  • Getting to the root cause of why the thyroid is not working properly is the best path to resolving it. Iodine, a trace mineral from food, is the key ingredient needed to keep the thyroid functioning well. Table salt contains iodine but with the prevalence of thyroid disease in well-developed nations, iodine containing salt may have been replaced with products like sea salt. Sea salt contains a very small amount of iodine. Supplementing with iodine is very tricky because too much can cause additional damage to the thyroid. Only supplement with iodine if you are working with a health professional.

Once you have routine blood tests, how do you use the data to make changes in your lifestyle? A few tips were listed above. However, one of the best way to influence your health with food and/or supplements is to find experts to help with your specific case.


#2 EXPERIMENT AND LEARN


Now that you have gathered data about your specific health, you can start to experiment with foods and routines that fit your lifestyle. There are a couple of nutrition "rules" that we know to be true for everyone regardless of health status.

  1. Fat, protein and carbohydrates are a necessity.

  2. Drinking water is very important. 70% of our body is made up of water. It needs to be replenished every single day.

  3. Vitamins and minerals are part of the food we eat but we might need additional supplementation. One example is Vitamin D. The Coronovirus showed how important Vitamin D supplementation can be for our health.

  4. Excessive added sugar and processed foods are more likely to create illness and disease compared to foods that are not processed.

  5. Blood sugar spikes from food happens naturally. However, they should happen in a consistent pattern that allows the body to use glucose from food efficiently. When we spike our blood sugar every single day with too much glucose, it weakens our body over time, leading to high HbA1C, and eventually diabetes.

The above does not tell you what foods to eat, but it is clear that a balanced approach is necessary. Unfortunately, we learn a routine as a child that usually focuses on a core group of foods that we eat over and over and over again. We aren't shown that trying new foods helps us create a growth mindset about what to eat for our stage of life. Here is where experimentation comes in.

new mindset new results

There are some really great resources that you can use to gain some knowledge about which foods help maintain a healthy body. For example, I was diagnosed with borderline cholesterol in my mid-thirties, which is almost 20 years ago. At the time, I ate animal products, yogurt, cheese (lots of cheese) and bread. My diet was severely lacking in fiber and healthy carbohydrates.


When I was told to start watching what I was eating, I knew I did not want to take statins. So I started doing some research and I learned that reducing how much meat I was eating could help reduce my cholesterol. I did an experiment.


I decided to have one meatless day per week. I would eat vegetables, whole grains, beans and fruit without any meat, once a week. Monday was the day I selected. I found it easier to stick to a schedule during the week since I was already meal planning and brought my food to work. I did this for 12 months and when the Dr. retested my cholesterol levels, it had dropped 12%. Woo hoo! I was so happy I was managing this situation naturally and I had the proof to show for it. While it was hard at first to change my eating habits once a week, after about 3 months, it was just how I ate. I no longer thought about it. So I added a second day.


This is the same process you can use to address any health issue you are facing. It simply takes doing some research, maybe even contacting a professional nutritionist or health coach to help you, and decide to take action. This leads to the next step.


#3 HOW TO KEEP GOING? DETERMINE YOUR WHY


I didn't realize when I started eating one meatless day a week, that I had a very strong reason why I was motivated to lower my cholesterol naturally. My family has a history of heart disease. While I know now that only 5-10% of the time our genetics are the reason for future illness, it is our lifestyle choices that really determines if we get sick or not, I didn't know that back in my thirties. I assumed, like most people do, that since my family has a strong history, that I would eventually suffer the same fate.

the power of why

My why to lower my cholesterol was heart disease avoidance. By not having a heart attack, I would not have to suffer the way I saw others in my family suffer. Developing your unique why is a great way to stay motivated when making a change. See, when I started eating a meatless meal once a week, I still had to feed the meat eaters in my family. I ate something different which meant cooking different foods for mealtime. But my why motivated me to not be influenced by what everyone else wanted to eat. It is their choice if they want to join me or not. I chose to focus on my health. It was not their issue that I had high cholesterol. It was my issue and mine to solve. I chose a natural, food based approach. It was backed up by my why, which motivated me to stay on the path.


Developing your why starts with thinking about when you were your healthiest at some point in your life. What did that feel like? What was going on in your life? What are the skills that you used to be at your healthiest? Who was your support system? By looking at our past successes, we create our future success.


Once you've answered those questions, you are ready to create your why. If you are looking to lose weight, start by looking at when you were at your ideal weight in the past. What were you doing, eating, thinking and learning? Who was in your life? What was happening in your life? Then, fill out the below statements:


  • I am (describe your vision of your healthier self)

  • I feel (describe how you feel as your healthier self)

  • The skills and strengths I use (describe your skills & strengths to support your healthier self)

  • When I face obstacles I, (describe how you will use your skills & strengths to overcome obstacles)

  • My support system includes (describe people, places and resources that support your better health)

Notice that the prompts above are all written in the present tense. There is a clear connection between our beliefs and our health. If we believe we can heal the body with food, we will. If we believe we can lose weight, we will. Below is an example of a health vision written in the present tense.


“I weigh 150 pounds. My body is strong and I like the way I look in my clothes. My kitchen is stocked with healthy, whole food. I am energized and happy. I am motivated to stay healthy for my family and be an example of the power of wellness. When I face obstacles like stress, busy-ness or discouragement, I use meditation and deep breathing to refocus on the positives and get back on track. I am surrounded by people and places that support my desire for good health. I am mindful and intentional as I set weekly goals to realize my wellness vision.”


SUMMARY


Very little of determining the best diet for our lifestyle actually focuses food. It is not about healthy foods, anti inflammatory foods, protein foods, high fiber foods, a gluten free diet or a diet plan for weight loss. Instead, it is about tapping into our power to make decisions to focus on ourselves. To put ourselves first. To focus on ourselves with the same effort that we use to build our career, our family and the hobbies we choose to participate in. If you don't take care of you, who will?


About The Author

Heather L Donahue is a National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach and Certified Holistic Nutritionist. A self-proclaimed wellness geek, Heather has personally overcome hypothyroidism, a lifetime of struggles with her weight, constipation and the transition to menopause holistically. She is passionate about helping others achieve their wellness goals so they can live a life they love. When she is not helping others, Heather loves to read, cook, garden, go to the beach, practice mediation and yoga.

What is a health coach? A health coach uses a variety of tools, techniques and skills, to shift conscious (and mostly unconscious) behaviors which in turns empowers you to live a healthier, happier and longer life.