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  • Bryan Bacaoat

What is the best diet and how to choose the right one!

This question is probably up there as one of the most, if not, the most common question I get asked in regards to nutrition. There are many different diets approaches out there. You have things like the keto diet, low-carb diet, Atkins diet, Mediterranean diet, and on and on it goes. Each diet approach has people who espouse that their approach is the best one and that every other method doesn't work.

As such, you first need to know your goal. Is it fat loss, muscle gain, general health improvement etc. From there, realise that the best diet approach is the one that's going to work for you! Done! If all you wanted to know was which diet approach is best, there's your answer. If you want to know what I mean when I say all diet approach work and how to determine which one works best for you, read on. If not, you have your answer you can go back to your life, thank you for reading!

Guidelines

Below we are going to go through the general guidelines I use with my clients when determining a diet approach for them.

Guideline 1: Your environment

A significant, often overlooked factor is our environment, your work environment, and your social environment. For example, I am of Filipino descent, and I live with my family. I know for a fact that my Mother is always going to have rice readily available and that a lot of my meals will involve rice. When I go out with my friends, we tend to go to Asian restaurants, which are rice and noodle heavy. I can also refrain from ordering anything when we go out and watch my family and friends eat, which is kind of sad or be that customer who changes the menu a hundred different ways to appease my diet approach. I wouldn't go on a carb-free diet. Low-carb maybe, but not zero carbs. You can get your desired results without having to restrict certain foods. I can go carb-free, but I choose not to.

*Side story, because I like stories, I have a friend who got on the ketogenic diet. There was one time where we went to a restaurant that was not ketogenic diet-friendly, and my friend didn't show up. I asked him a few days later why he didn't show up, and he said, "I didn't want to break my diet." Mind you, my friend was getting amazing results on the ketogenic diet, but is it worth it if you feel that you cannot hang out with your friends in fear of breaking the diet? That's a question that is different for each individual. Some will say it's worth it, others not so much.

As always, the most critical point I consider when giving general advice on health and nutrition is to ensure that the method you pick fits into your current lifestyle and not the other way around. The less you have to change around to perform the diet consistently, the higher likely chance you will stick with it. Remember, consistency=results.

Consideration 2: Cultural, religious, or ethical beliefs

Are you from a culture that does not allow you to eat certain foods for various reasons, or are you part of a religion which prevents you from eating certain foods? If not, then you probably don't need to stop eating certain foods or types of food altogether. The exception being religions like Hinduism and Islam, where the consumption of beef and pork are prohibited.

Other than cultural and religious reasons, ethical beliefs can also play a part in why a person will omit particular food or food types from their diet. I'm not against individuals who are vegetarian or vegan. Plenty of people are vegetarian or vegan due to cultural, religious or ethical beliefs. Which is fine, I have nothing against it.

The point here is that you do not need to go vegetarian, vegan, paleo, low-fat, and so on if you do not need to due to cultural, religious and ethical beliefs. If you are being told to go vegan because it helps your friend, Sally lose weight, it might not be the best approach for you. I mean, go ahead and try. Like I mentioned above, I have nothing against any dietary plan. I only have beef with them if they tell you it is the only way to eat to get to your goals. Any diet approach done 80% 7- days a week will get superior results to a diet performed100% intermittently. It doesn't matter if that's vegan, paleo, carnivore etc.

Consideration 3: Foods that you enjoy

Are you going to enjoy the food in the diet you choose? Let's say you don't enjoy eating fatty foods; you wouldn't go on the keto diet because the diet consists mostly of fatty foods. The same goes for any eating approach that restricts a specific type of food or macronutrient (protein, fats, carbs). If the majority of the foods you're allowed to eat is not something you enjoy, you probably won't do it long enough to see a result.

That means if you love meat but hear that going vegan Is somehow more beneficial for you and you try it, chances are you probably won't stick with it. Again, these are hypothetical scenarios. Every one of us is going to react differently to each situation. However, the point I'm trying to make is if you enjoy a specific type of food/s, and it's going to help you stay more consistent with your diet, then don't completely cut it out.

The next two considerations are going to rely on how well you know yourself and whether you are honest to yourself about your current eating habits. In my opinion, honesty is the best policy, but that's just my opinion.

Consideration 4: Should you go cold turkey?

Plenty of people get excited when starting a new diet approach. It doesn't matter which diet they undertake, paleo or keto etc…, their strategy usually goes something like this: stop eating foods they perceive as "bad", mainly high calorie/low nutrition type foods, and replace them with low calorie/high nutrition foods. They will try and maintain a healthy eating regime until they can't anymore. From here, one of two things generally happens:

Number 1: they completely fall off the bandwagon because they were suppressing their desire for high calorie/low nutrition food. Individuals will suppress their urge for so long they can't control themselves anymore. They will eat everything they have been avoiding the past few days/weeks/months- however long the diet was. Number 2: you have that thing you've been craving, realised you didn't want it that bad and stopped at one piece of cake or cookie.

How you react to the scenario above will determine which diet approach works best for you. If you sound more like person number 1 then going completely cold turkey may not be the best strategy for you. If you are like person number 2 then going cold turkey may be beneficial. Again, I'm trying to layout all the considerations you need to take when deciding which approach to take.

I wouldn't typically recommend a cold-turkey diet approach. You might get to your goal quicker, but can you maintain that weight/body fat percentage etc.? Even bodybuilders and fitness models only go super clean 3-4 months at a time leading up to a show. Outside of competition prep, they will have a more balanced diet.

From experience coaching hundreds of general population clients, going cold turkey works wonders if you have a short-term goal. For example, your wedding is in 6 months, and you want to have biceps popping out of your tux. The problem with the cold turkey approach is that by restricting all "bad" foods, you don't build the right habits to be able to sustain the diet in the long term. That is why I generally recommend a slow and steady approach.

Consideration 5: Slow and steady wins the race?

Slow and steady is the opposite of the cold turkey method, and the one I recommend for most people. For this method, I would ask my clients the following question: "What is the easiest thing you can change with your current nutrition to help you get to your goals?". Think about it and whatever it is, go with that. It can be as simple as having a piece of fruit a day, drinking 2L of water daily, or incorporating vegetables or salad in one meal. You don't want it to be complicated. Keep it as simple as you can.

I believe this is the optimal method for 90% of the general population group. The reason for this is because if you do it right, you'll get the results. The key Is to pick changes that seamlessly fit into your life and won't interfere, too much, with your current lifestyle. Drinking an extra bottle of 600ml water per day shouldn't be a problem for most people. Once that habit has become automatic, timeframe varies depending on the individual and the habit being changed, you can add another one on top of that. The method above is referred to as habit stacking. To determine which habit to change, ask yourself the same question above; "What is the easiest thing you can change with your current nutrition to help you get to your goals?".

This process takes time. However, it is worth it. Realistically, unless you are an athlete needing to make a specific weight class or a bodybuilder/fitness model getting ready for a show or photoshoot, there's no need to rush. I'm sure when you read that you're like "but I want it now!". Well, keep in mind that the more aggressive the method to use, the higher the likely chance of a rebound effect.

There are always exceptions to the rule, and that is to hire a coach/trainer who has experience with what you want to achieve. If it's bodybuilding, hire a bodybuilding coach. If it's powerlifting, hire a powerlifting coach. This isn't an add to sell my services or anything like that, although it seems like it, hiring a coach with the right knowledge and experience is like taking a short cut- you're still doing the work, but they'll help guide you through the path and help you get there as quick and safe as possible.

Conclusion

Rather than prolong this article, so I hit some sort of word or character count, I am going to summarise here now. What have we learnt? We learnt that we shouldn't do a diet because it is a "popular" diet that your friend Sally used to lose 20kg. It might sound tempting, but everyone is different. We have different likes and dislikes, how we react to things that happen around us is different for everyone, and so on. There is no one size fits all diet approach. By all means, try the diet and see, it might work for you. The real question is "Can you maintain that type of eating the rest of your life?".

My best advice would be to do your research when it comes to a diet approach. If you have some medical issue, consult with your doctor to see if the new diet is going to impact any medication you are taking negatively. Once you pick a diet approach, do it as best as you can, for a consistent period. You need to give any method a few months, not a few weeks, to see if it is doing anything for you. Don't be a diet hopper- someone who goes from one diet to the next every few weeks. Diet hopping will guarantee you don't make progress. A lot of it will come down to trial and error. Again, I'm not trying to sell my service or my colleague's services, but if you want to cut down the trial and error time, hire a coach.

Till next time, this is coach Bryan saying, peace!

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