The best diet is the one that works best with your lifestyle, your budget, your food preferences and how much effort you’re willing to give.
One of the more entertaining aspects of my work is that whenever I meet a new weight-loss client, I never know where the conversation will lead. Usually, I’ll start by getting some history. I want to know what’s the most and the least they’ve ever weighed, what motivates them to eat better and get into shape, and also what’s worked for them in the past and what hasn’t. That sort of thing. From there, I can get a sense for how much effort each particular patient is willing to put forth and what their expectations are. Then we come up with a plan for their best diet. But I can’t just tell someone what they need to do. I need to help them figure out how they’re going to do it, too. We work together to figure out what’s going to be the best diet for them.
When it comes down to it, there’s no “one size fits all” diet plan. Everyone is different. I need to take into account not just a person’s food likes and dislikes, I also need to know what their day is like. That’s if they like to cook or not, if the cost of food is an issue, what time they exercise, how often they eat out and where. There are a whole host of factors that I have to consider before I can give someone meaningful advice.
I also have to consider what my clients want, or think they want. Some people prefer a fairly strict approach—often, in fact, deciding to tackle a lot at once. I’ve had plenty of clients who’ve decided to simultaneously attempt to lose weight, start exercising and quit smoking. It’s a lot to take on, but it can work. Maybe it’s the idea of wiping the slate clean and making a truly fresh start—sort of a “today is the first day of the rest of your life” attitude. Sometimes when you’re working on one thing, it can reinforce the other changes you’re trying to make. For example: “If I’m going to exercise, it doesn’t make much sense to keep smoking.”
When taking on too much doesn’t work, it’s usually because the process becomes overwhelming. There are just too many changes involved and too many adjustments to be made. It’s then that people tend to simply give up, and nothing gets accomplished.
On the other hand, there are those who take a more cautious approach. They like to dip their toes into the water and see what feels right. They might make a few changes to set them on the right course, get those pretty well established into their daily life and then move on to make a few more. Slowly over time, they accumulate a pretty impressive list of diet and lifestyle changes. Since they’ve given themselves a chance to let them settle in, they’re usually in pretty good shape to continue.
The point is this: There are plenty of paths that lead to the same destination. Some are short and direct, others might meander a bit. And no single path is necessarily better than the other.
Just as I do with my clients, you need to think about what you realistically can do. If you hate cooking or just don’t have the time, does it make sense to adopt a diet that requires you to home-cook every meal? If you can’t remember the last time you ate a fruit or a vegetable, is it realistic to think that you’ll suddenly start eating seven servings a day? Maybe not.
Just remember this: The way you choose to eat, the amount of activity you get, the lifestyle choices you make are yours—you own them. You also need to accept that the results you get will be a direct reflection of how much effort you put forth. The harder you work at it, the better the results. But that doesn’t mean that slow and steady can’t win the race. That’s because the best diet isn’t the one someone else tells you to follow—the best diet is the one that works for you.
Susan is the Sr. Director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife, where she is responsible for the development of nutrition education and training materials, and is one of the primary authors of the Herbalife-sponsored blog, www.discovergoodnutrition.com. She is a Registered Dietitian and holds two Board Certifications from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, and a Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management. Susan is also a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Susan graduated with distinction in biology from the University of Colorado, and received her master’s degree in Food Science and Nutrition from Colorado State University. She then completed her dietetic internship at the University of Kansas. Susan has taught extensively and developed educational programs targeted to individuals, groups and industry in her areas of expertise, including health promotion, weight management and sports nutrition.
Prior to her role at Herbalife, she was the assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, and has held appointments as adjunct professor in nutrition at Pepperdine University and as lecturer in nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Susan was a consultant to the (then) Los Angeles Raiders for six seasons, and was a contributing columnist for the Los Angeles Times Health Section for two years. She is a co-author of 23 research papers, 14 book chapters, and was a co-author of two books for the public: “What Color is Your Diet?” and “The L.A. Shape Diet” by Dr. David Heber, published by Harper Collins in 2001 and 2004, respectively.