How to Find the Perfect "Diet"?

This week, I am extremely happy to welcome Susan Ogilvie as a guest poster.  She is a good friend.  Susan works in Brighton, Michigan as a personal trainer and habit-based nutritional coach.  She truly cares about her clients and isn't into the "quick fixes" offered by some in the fitness industry.  

One of the most asked questions that I get from clients is "So tell me, what's REALLY the best diet?," as if I have some secret ingredient that I have been withholding.  I consider it to be one of the hazards of my line of work, but don't worry, I have a simple answer.

It depends.

If there was one perfect diet, everyone would do it.  But, there are hundreds of choices and all of them seem great and effective.  So how do you figure out which one will work best for you?

You have no doubt heard a number of people account for their weight loss using different diets. More information doesn't seem to make your choices any easier, does it?

It is for this reason that I loathe the word diet.  At least, the way most people think about it.  The word's connotation smacks of risky, subpar hacks to get you into that bikini, which you just bought for your next tropical vacation.  However, by focusing on the now, it ignores long-term dietary success.

This long-term success can be obtained through a combination of exercise and good eating habits established over a longer period of time.  Not diet pills or shakes that guarantee a certain scale number, but ignores overall health.  And everyone can agree that their main physique goal is to look a certain way, but also be healthy, right?

Lets put it this way.  You're more likely to succeed when you have clear reasoning about whether changes toward a healthy lifestyle work for you, not if you work for those choices.  

So before you embark on looking for the "best diet," here are some important question to ask yourself!

5 important question to ask

1. Does it appeal to my personality and life philosophy?

We all come with different skill sets, interest, and beliefs.  My husband would love to be a diehard vegan, but I'm a carnivore and we have a kid with a nut allergy.  Veganism appeals to his beliefs about the environment, while eating meat leaves me feeling full.

Often, people jump on the bandwagon of a new, healthy trend because they think they will benefit from it.  Any number of currently popular diets seem to be great at first glance, but they often are guideline-intensive and pretty restrictive.

Actually, I recently wrote a post about needing a good foundation skill set before making drastic changes to your diet.  My rationale was that if you've been surviving on restaurant meals and take out, it's a complete mindset shift to think about cooking all of your meals at home.  It might work in the short-term, but is it sustainable?

This is why I recommend making smaller habit shifts to your regular routine, such as consciously adding protein to your morning meal!  This will be more successful and still afford you the ability to live your life the way you want.  Over the long term, it's these little sustainable shifts that will positively impact your larger goals and improve your overall health!

2. Is it affordable?

Take a look at the resources you can allocate toward your goal of losing weight.  And no, I don't mean just money, but also your time and effort.  Once you have decided that healthy eating fits with your personality and lifestyle, then ask yourself: Are you able to afford the cost of purchasing the food and the time spent preparing it?  If the answer is no, then a meal delivery service is a great option!  Especially, if you have a busy job and a social life.  It allows you to keep your current lifestyle while taking steps toward your new goal.

On the flipside, you want to be able to feel the pinch of the extra money or time so that you will stay committed to it.  When you have committed your time and your resources, you are more likely to show up - and that's the foundation for building the healthy habits you want to develop.

3. Does the program or regimen give you not only a what or how, but also a why?

A good program should be able to tell you a bit of the science - psychology, biology, or otherwise - behind why you should eat or drink a certain way in their program.

Your program should clearly and concisely lay out what will be expected on your part, a roadmap for how you will achieve your goal, why it is important to do things a particular way, and explain why it works.

For example, habit-based fat loss works because it addresses the reasons why most people struggle with losing weight.  The vast majority of people simply make too many changes at one time.  This is why habit-based fat loss is effective.  It focuses on changing one habit at a time ensuring better results.  Working on one healthy habit change at a time leads to long term success - without feeling like you have to turn down every social invitation or flip your life upside down!

4. Is there accountability built into the program?

Accountability is vital for sustainable weight loss.  Many of us perform better with external accountability.  Think about the deadline that your boss gives you to complete a project.  You feel committed to do it because your team and others are counting on your.  The problem is that we often lack the same integrity with ourselves, if we have a particular individual goal that we want to accomplish, such as losing weight.

Since we tend to be a little more on your game when others are watching or depending on us, we can use it as a tool to meet our goals.  As you move forward with an intelligently designed program that accountability may shift from more of an external system, such as check-ins, logs, group meetings, to one that you develop internally through the development of sustainable fat loss and weight maintenance habits.  The skill of internal accountability - our our shelf check-in - develops as a result of practicing the habit of external accountability with a partner, coach, or group.

5. Is it sustainable over the long term?

If you have more than 15 pounds to lose, don't settle for good enough.  Choose the habit-based changes that you see yourself maintaining for the next 6 months, year, or even two years. Research backs up small, sustainable changes over a longer timeframe as the preferred option for permanent weight loss.

Be honest and gut check yourself - what can you commit to over a longer time frame so that your weight loss becomes permanent.  This way you don't end up losing and gaining weight for the foreseeable future.

key takeaways

If you find yourself contemplating a particular health or fitness goal such as losing weight, take some time to compare approaches before plunging into what your office receptionist is touting as the "next best thing."

-  Scrutinize your potential goal approaches using these guidelines, and spend at least as much time choosing as your would spending thinking about an expensive purchase.

-  Better yet, interview or test drive some different approaches that could help you meet your goals - every good service or product should let you consult with them or try it out for free.

-  Once you have found something, continue to assess and evaluate whether your approach is working for you not only through pounds and inches lost, but also the good habits, knowledge and insights gained.

Susan Ogilvie is a personal trainer and weight loss coach in Brighton, Michigan, where she works with clients to create sustainable changes in their daily lives that move them toward their personal goals. 

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