The above post from our Facebook page illustrates what I believe to be the most important insight in the world of natural health, fitness and weight loss. There is no one way, there is simply your way. Your job is discover what that is.
There is no single right diet out there somewhere. It is not about finding a diet. In fact, spending your time jumping from one book, guru or diet system to the next is a sure way NOT to get results.
You don’t find a diet. That is not how it works. You discover the diet that is right for you. You don’t follow a protocol, you create a lifestyle that you can love, live with and own. One that delivers health, vitality and sustained weight loss without occupying every waking moment of your life.
The Short Answer
But if you look at the discussion of this post you will see the question that comes up over and over again. “But, how do I find what works for me?” That is what this blog answers. And the answer is pretty simple. Let me go ahead and give it to you right up front. Trial and error.
If you are like most people hearing that statement may have just made you want to punch something. We humans HATE uncertainty. In fact, psychology research tells us certainty is one of the key needs of the human brain. That is why we insist on believing, or need to believe, there is one single way.
There is not.
Insight versus action
How does it work then? Understanding the insight does not exactly tell you what to do? Insight without action is a lost opportunity. To get started on the process of finding what works you need to let go of some old ideas and beliefs that may be keeping you stuck. These include:
- That weight loss is linear, consistent and predictable. Weight loss is none of these things. The belief that it is will simply keep you disappointed. Your expectation should be the opposite.
- That being perfect is even possible or desirable. Perfection is a myth and even it were achievable there is no way to learn if you never make a mistake.
- That failure is not helpful. Failure is THE most important aspect of change. The harder and more frequently you fail the more quickly and thoroughly you learn the lessons required to grow.
- That information is the same as transformation. Information plus learning is education. Education plus experience is wisdom. Wisdom applied towards change is transformation. Learning, experience, application all involve action. Action is required. But most people would rather be looking for something to do versus doing something. Huge mistake. Stop looking and start doing.
What to do. Structured Flexibility
Structured flexibility is the way to think about this. You need enough structure to get you started. You know, some basic guidelines.
You learn some basics rules and a template of foods, meals, menus, etc to begin with. Then you use the response of your body to adjust and tweak your approach.
You don’t need the burner types to guide you, you can actually use any approach that appeals to you. In other words, start with any diet you like. Paleo, vegan, primal, Atkin’s, etc. These plans can provide the “structure”.
Now let’s cover the flexibility part.
Biofeedback, Results & Labs
Once you have the structure the idea is to become more like a detective than a dieter. You will want to read the “clues” the body is sending you. These clues provide feedback on whether the approach is working. There are three main feedback scenarios you can pick up on.
The body is constantly feeding back to you in the form of sensations. Hunger, energy, cravings, vitality, mood, digestion, sleep, workout recovery, etc. All of these tell you how your metabolism, and the hormones that power it, are functioning.
The most useful biofeedback sensations for dieting is the trio of hunger, energy and cravings (HEC or “heck”). If your HEC is in check, as I like to say, than you have a strong indication your hormonal metabolism is burning fuel, especially fat, efficiently.
This should be assessed at the end of each day or week. Rank the parameters on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being high and one being low.
This is a great way to subjectively understand your metabolism in real time. And is one of the only tools I have found that allows you to figure out the lifestyle factors helping or hurting your progress.
It is possible, but rare, to have HEC in check when you are eating anything and everything included in the standard western diet. That is why you also need to correlate this with results.
But it is a huge mistake to just use weight loss to assess. You need to know not just the type of weight you are losing, but also where you are losing it from. A combination of weight, inches and body fat is best. But that still does not tell you about your shape.
An optimal result is for women to be moving toward an hourglass shape and for men to be moving toward a V-shape. Standard measurements never look at this.
That is why we built a tool that looks at all of these factors. This tool is free to use and can be found here: Metabolic Effect Body Fat & Shape Calculator.
This should be assessed no more frequently than weekly and no less frequently than biweekly. For best results complete this at the same day, time and under the same conditions (i.e. first thing every Friday morning before eating and drinking).
Finally, there are certain biomarkers that indicate whether your metabolism is heading toward optimal health or at risk of disease. Your doctor runs these when you get your labs done.
A chem panel with lipids and a CBC are the standard tests that are run. The most important indicators on these test include a fasting blood glucose, liver enzymes (ALT & AST), cholesterol and triglycerides.
In addition you may want to have the doctor include a HgA1c (hemoglobin A1C), serum vitamin D and a full thyroid panel. The HgA1C is an indication of your average blood sugar levels over a 3 month period, vitamin D is an essential metabolic hormone and the thyroid panel will give you an idea of how one of your body’s main fat burning glands is functioning.
All these test should be improving toward optimal. If they are, that is a great indication your diet is indeed working for you, especially when your biofeedback and body-composition is in agreement.
These blood labs should be done every 2 months to every 6 months.
Putting it together. The AIM process
Once you have the above pieces of information in place, especially items 1 & 2, you can begin the process of tweaking. I refer to this as the AIM process:
- Assess. Check in with HEC & body composition results.
- Investigate. Like a detective, analyze the results. Was HEC in check or not? Did you lose fat or not?
- Modify. Based on your investigation above, modify your approach.
If you are unclear how to modify your approach, check out this video I did on the process.