Decades of diets: How to sift through the baloney

Category: Nutrition / Training Tips

As someone who works in the fitness industry, there is nothing that makes my eyes roll more than listening to people preach about the newest diet fad.

Gluten free is best.

Dairy is bad for you.

Going Vegan is best for longevity!

Be careful, eggs raise your cholesterol.

No wonder us North Americans are overweight and confused by how to eat healthy!

If you are 30 plus years of age, I am sure yourself have tried some of the ‘how to lose weight’ fads through the years. Here is a quick recap of the hottest diet trends from the last few decades:

Early 1970’s –Weight Watchers first came on the scene

Late 1970’s –Slim Fast (and some other liquid meal companies)

1980’s –Jenny Craig (remember Kirstie Alley?)

Early 90’s –Low Fat everything!

Late 90’s –Zone Diet (a specific ratio of fat, proteins and carbs with each meal)

Early 2000’s -The low carb craze, such as South Beach and the Atkins Diet

2010 –Weight Watchers with the new reinvented points system

2013 to 2019 –Vegan, Ketogenic, Gluten Free, Raw, Paleo, Intermittent Fasting…

Now the purpose of this blog is not to sell you on a certain type of diet.

For many of you that have worked with me in the gym or online, you understand that I truly believe diets do not work for the long term.

If you are looking to make some physique or body performance changes,

the most success is seen from those who make small habitual changes over time.

These small changes then grow to major ones down the road; I’m not sure about you, but I have never met anyone who wanted to get to a healthier weight but only for a certain period of time, and then want to gain it all back again!

 This does not mean that I don’t think that fad diets have their place.

I have many clients that follow some of the above listed diets and have had great results.

There have also been some studies recently on diets like the Ketogenic diet and how it can decrease the side effects of specific neuromuscular disorders, such as MS and Cerebral Palsy.

My sole purpose of writing this blog is to give you some very basic nutrition 101 so that you have something to reference when making better food choices. If you are new to the health and fitness world, or maybe this is your first attempt at trying to lose some excess body weight, then this is your guide.

You can use this guideline to help you make better choices anywhere; at a friend’s BBQ, at a restaurant, and even at a fast food joint!

First let’s take a quick overview of basic nutrition:

Understanding the Macronutrients

Our food can be broken into three categories:

  1. Carbohydrates: Are used in our bodies as the quickest source of energy.

Also known as Saccharides, carbs, sugar, starches

Types- simple carbs (sugars): Think white bread, white pasta, candy bars, milk or cheese, fruit juices

complex carbs (whole grain): Think vegetables, whole fruits, leafy greens, brown rice, popcorn

  • Fats: Are used in our bodies as a source of an energy reserve and are key for building blocks and hormone regulation.

Types- Trans Fats: This type is created by the food industry (barely occurs in natural foods). Think convenient foods that are fried in hydrogenated oils, frozen pizzas, generic baked goods, coffee creamer, crackers.

Saturated: Think coconut oil and animal products such as dark meats, milk and cheese

Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated:  Think ‘heart healthy’ such as vegetable oils, nuts, flaxseeds, avocados and olives. Animal sources are eggs and fatty fish like tuna, mackerel, trout, and herring.

  • Protein: Important for building, maintaining, and repairing our body tissues. Also serves as a fuel source.

Types- Animal protein: Think fish and shellfish, red meat, eggs, poultry, and dairy products

Plant protein: Think nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains

Okay, So What Do I Eat?

The above information is great, but it does not give us much guidance as to how to make a better food choice over another. Next time you prepare a meal at home or fix up a plate at a BBQ, try starting with any of the following questions:

  • Is my plate balanced? Do I have some carbs, some protein, and a little bit of fats?
  • Is my plate colourful? Vegetables and Fruits are very colourful. The more colourful the better!
  • Do I have (lean) protein? Whether you are vegetarian, vegan or omnivore, you can find adequate protein sources from animals and plants. This is especially important if you are following an exercise routine.
  • Do I like what is on my plate?  It is important that we enjoy what we are eating. Don’t force yourself to eat something you hate, even if it is coined as ‘good for you’.
  • Do I have more complex carbs than simple carbs on my plate? If not, what can you switch out on your plate to make that happen?

When it comes to nutrition, it is so easy to be bogged down by the latest diet craze, what the celebrities are eating, and what worked for your sister in law.

Diets can’t be cookie cutter.

Something will always work for someone else that may not work for you. Knowledge can go a long way, and if you are able to learn some basic nutrition and understand a little bit about your food, it will help you be able to focus on what works for you best.

Your Coach,

Megan Williamson

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