Holistic Health: Four steps to your perfect diet

Holistic Health: Four steps to your perfect diet

Tracy Zollinger

You don’t have to look far to find a dietary recommendation for almost anything: blood type, body type, gender, race, region – you name it, it probably exists. With all of this “noise,” how can you determine the right plan for you and your family? Perhaps asking that question differently is the key.

Instead of “the right plan,” perhaps the question should be “the plan that makes me feel best and is the best fit for my life.”

Temporary dietary and lifestyle changes offer very little benefit. Quite the contrary, short-term changes may have a detrimental effect on dieters who just revert to old ways, especially if those changes results in weight loss and gain. The key when planning dietary changes is to stop thinking about them as a short-term diet plan and think more specifically about what will work for you for the long term, and to take time to formulate a plan that will work permanently for you.

Here are four steps for long-term success.

1. Investigate: When I am working with patients to determine the best diet plan for them, we first investigate by looking at the current picture, and a little at the past. Asking these questions can be very helpful:

• Think of a time you felt best, when you had the best energy, slept well, experienced regular daily bowel movements, no ailments, no body pain or discomfort. How were you eating and exercising? What were your stress levels?
• Before making any changes, ask yourself,: How do you eat and exercise now? Keep a food diary for seven days to be objective. This is a very important step. MyFitnessPal is an app for smart phones that can make this easier.
• What are your favorite foods? Are there specific dishes that are important to keep?
• If you live with others, will their diet change with yours? It is much harder to change habits if you are the only one in the house doing it.

2. Formulate: Refer to your seven-day food diary for this step. In most cases, you will only need to make small changes to your diet, reducing your consumption of some foods and increasing others. Very few people interested in changing their diet and feeling better will need a complete re-write of their diet. There are some basic rules to follow when looking at your diet and planning changes:

• Minimize sugars and simple carbohydrates. These foods lead to excess weight and thicker blood due to ensuring an insulin rich environment in your body, among other things. This includes ALL sugars;: brown, white, raw sugars, honey, maple syrup, etc. Chinese medicine says, “Beware the sweet flavor.” Simple carbohydrates include anything made from flour (bread, pasta, crackers), potatoes, rice, cereal and soft drinks. I would also include alcohol in this category.
• Include small portions of good fats, like avocado, nuts, seeds, fish, coconut and olive oils. Going low fat actually makes it harder to be fit and feel well.
• Avoid bad fats like fried foods, fatty meats (except fish).
• Eat whole foods. This means including foods that are as close to the way nature made them as possible. Make sure lots of fresh vegetables of many colors and varieties are included in your diet daily.
• Stay hydrated. Thirst can feel like hunger as well as make your body run inefficiently. Your body is 50 to 65 percent water, so give it what it needs.
• Watch out for flavored drinks. This includes coconut water and other liquids touted as healthy. Water is best with the occasional treat of another liquid.

Put steps one and two together to create your diet plan.

3. Implement:Try out your new plan for at least a week before going to the next step. Preparation is key here. Go to the store with a list, and don’t rush yourself – give yourself time to read labels and make new choices. Is something challenging or difficult to implement? Go to Step 4 to adjust your plan, and then try that for another week. With some minor tweaks you will have a long-term plan that will fit your life.

4. Adjustments: This is an ongoing process, both seasonally and with routine-busters that include travel, eating out and periods of deep stress. Most plans don’t need a complete re-write, but if you find you are not following what works for you diet-wise during these times, perhaps you need a sub-plan. For example, many of us get busy during the holiday season. Form a winter plan that has some mild tweaks to incorporate holiday stress and busyness. Perhaps that plan includes pre-made foods that still fit what works, but allow more flexibility with a busier schedule. Maybe you travel a lot and need a travel-friendly plan as well as a home-based plan. These adjustments ensure you continue to feel your best.

Sustainable and permanent dietary changes take some planning, patience, and forethought. Either taking the time to do this yourself or enlisting the help of a holistic practitioner like an acupuncturist or holistic nutritionist will pay off in leaps and bounds in how you feel everyday. You can do it!

Tracy Zollinger, is an Alameda mom, licensed acupuncturist and business owner. You can reach Tracy at 299-0057 or www.tracyzollinger.com.

Resources and further reading:

Fats and Cholesterol: Out with the Bad, In with the Good

Exercise: The News You Don’t Want to Hear

Weight Loss’s Effect on Heart Disease Risks
University of Pittsburgh. "Weight loss's effect on heart disease risks." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 June 2013. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130625074205.htm

A Call for a Low-Carb Diet That Embraces Fat