Gretchen Spetz, MS, RDN, LD
I'm on a Diet...Part 1
The word "diet" means many different things to different people, but usually it doesn't conjure up feelings of fun and enjoyment. Why is this so? According to Merriam-Webster, the basic definition of a diet is "food and drink regularly provided or consumed." This is a pretty neutral definition, friends. According to this definition, we are all on a diet!
Despite its definition, the idea of a diet brings with it ideas of restriction, elimination, and avoidance. As a DIETitian, I often have people refer to me as "the food police." People often arrive in my office bracing themselves to give up all the foods they love. Note - they leave singing a different tune!
During the next three weeks, we will sort out all the things related to diets, dieting, and diet changes. Let's get started!
Do you need to create habits to support a sustainable healthy eating plan or do you have a specific symptom or condition that warrants nutrition therapy?
This is the first question you should ask yourself. If you do not have good habits in place to support a healthful diet, your best bet is to look into building sustainable habits that make it easy to choose healthy foods that you enjoy. From here, a healthful diet will follow.
Here is an example: you find yourself gaining weight and feeling sluggish. Recently, you have been going through the fast food drive thru more than you would like. Why is this happening? There may be many reasons, but drilling down on one or two things will have a big impact. In this case, you may be grocery shopping once a month, and before long, your food runs out or goes bad. Infrequent grocery shopping certainly is a root cause of frequently choosing low-quality foods. Creating a new habit where you shop weekly instead of monthly for groceries allows you to focus on feeding yourself and your family for seven days instead of 30 days. Planning for seven days is so much easier than planning for an entire month!
When you have chronic symptoms like diarrhea, chronic fatigue, or joint pain, it makes sense to consider nutrition therapy to help heal your gut and reduce systemic inflammation. Anything you ingest impacts the health of your gut and causes some degree of an immune response. If you are constantly feeding your body foods that trigger a substantial immune response, you will have higher levels of inflammation, an unhappy gut, and unwanted symptoms.
What the heck is "nutrition therapy?" You may have heard of diets like an elimination diet, low-FODMAP diet, or ketogenic diet. They all seem to sound, well, scary! Let's clear the air around these dreaded diets:
Generally, these sorts of diet work best for 4-6 weeks. This is the amount of time it takes to bring inflammation levels down and give the gut some healing time. They shouldn't last forever!
Yes, you are excluding foods like wheat and food groups like dairy on these plans. Sometimes you are also excluding some perfectly healthy fruits and veggies. There is a reason for this, and it is always SHORT-TERM.
There is A LOT to eat! Focusing on the things you can eat - plant-based fats like nuts, seeds, and oils, quality protein, and vegetables (just to name a few) - makes nutrition therapy much more palatable.
There should always be a reintroduction period. You should slowly reintroduce the things you have been avoiding when directed. Generally, you will not know what foods triggers your symptoms until you eat them again.
Although challenging, nutrition therapy plans are the perfect stage for building sustainable habits you can rely on after the "diet" as you build your healthy eating lifestyle.
First, think about what you need. Do you need new habits or symptom relief? (The answer may be both!).
Next up: What is the best long-term diet plan for me?
Stay tuned: What is one thing all good diets have in common?