Check the box if you now or have had in the last year any of the following conditions:

– Cut out an entire food group (gluten, dairy, carbs, etc.) because you’ve heard that it “isn’t good for you,” but you’re not entirely sure why.

– Had a food plan that makes it difficult to go out to eat at restaurants or with family and friends.

– Followed a diet and gotten some good results, but then found it unsustainable to maintain over time (and gained back weight.)

– Extreme confusion over which hot new eating plan to follow, since Whole30 peeps have evidence that’s as compelling as the plant-based folks, yet the two diets seem to teach two totally opposite ways of eating.

If you checked yes to any of the above, it’s highly likely that you’re someone who (like me) is especially susceptible to fad diets and their shiny promises to make you feel great, drop excess weight, and have glowing skin.

The problem with many of these eating plans is that they require a massive amount of effort and discipline to stick to – and may require swearing off some of your favorite foods. And really, who wants to live without ice cream or bread for the rest of their life? (For those of you who have actual food sensitivities, please know that I am truly sympathetic and acknowledge that cutting out those inflammatory foods is likely the right decision for you. Here, I’m talking specifically to those who are cutting out foods because someone said they should, even though they haven’t personally felt any negative effects.)

But I’ve got some great news, and it’s come from my own “aha moments” after years of swinging from low-carb to lectin-free (I even tried a bone broth diet once that was true torture):

Different eating plans actually do work for different bodies.

The more I research, the more I truly believe that some people can totally thrive on a paleo diet whereas others might need more healthy carbs in their life to feel their best. So someone who buys into a different way of eating than you is not necessarily wrong or misguided – recent studies on epigenetics (the study of how our genes express themselves) prove that genetic alterations affect how your body breaks down fats and sends hunger signals. According to Dr. Sara Gottfried, “As a result of genetic variation, two people could eat the same exact diet but put on vastly different amounts of weight.” Meaning there is truly no one-size-fits-all diet. This was a huge realization for me, because it solved my constant confusion of how these different diets that seem so different from each other could all boast compelling evidence as to why they seem to work well for their followers.

HOW you eat is as important as WHAT you eat.

One of my favorite books that I’ve read this year is The Slow Down Diet. The basic premise is that our mental state can actually affect the way that our bodies digest food and burn fat as energy. From breathing while eating to chewing food more thoroughly to actually bringing pleasure and enjoyment to our meals – the author shows how awareness has a profound affect on the way we eat and process food.

“Awareness is presence. It’s our capacity to experience what life is doing in this moment. And when we bring awareness to our eating experience, it’s a wondrous metabolic force.”

It’s really not just “calories in, calories out,” after all.

The Mediterranean diet is the most universally beneficial for long-term health.

Note that I said “universally beneficial,” meaning it may not be the best for every single person (see my first point.) The reason I call out the Mediterannean diet, other than the fact that this annual report named it healthiest among the 41 most popular eating plans, is that it really is all about a balanced approach to eating that doesn’t demonize any one food group. What it does do is put front-and-center the common sense foods that we all know are good for us.

It emphasizes lots of vegetables, omega-3 rich fats, very small amounts of red meat, and it limits sugar and simple carbohydrates. Most importantly, the Med diet emphasizes physical activity and social relationships as the foundation of a healthy lifestyle.

I’ll share more in another post about exactly what I’m eating on a Mediterranean diet these days and all the different ways it benefits our health (would y’all like some Med diet-focused recipes??), but for now, here’s the deal: fad diets come and go, and the only thing that we can say without 100 percent certainty is that lifestyle changes encouraging high-quality unprocessed foods, including lots of vegetables and avoiding sugar, are a winning combination.

I’m personally enjoying my newfound food freedom that allows me to listen to what my body really wants. If a bowl of whole-grain pasta (loaded with a higher ratio of tomatoes, zucchinis, and fresh herbs than actual pasta) sounds good to me, there’s zero reason why I shouldn’t have it. If I’ve eaten a delicious grilled steak for dinner, perhaps I focus on veggies and a lighter protein load the next day. And if I want a glass of good red wine, I’m going to savor every sip, guilt-free.

The best diet is one that we can maintain for our entire lives, that doesn’t sacrifice the true pleasure found in food and celebrates gathering around a table with people we love to enjoy it. It means listening to our bodies and eating when we’re hungry, stopping when we feel (almost) full. It means – eating #likeyoumeanit. As The Slow-Down Diet perfectly states:

Give up all numbers. Let go of counting anything you eat. Live. Eat. Believe in yourself. Find your natural intelligence. Trust it. Respect it… You and I have an instinctive and effortless appetite that will clearly speak to us when we let go of fear and listen.

I’d love to hear from you guys: do you tend to jump on the fad diet bandwagon? What have your results been and what have you learned from the experience?

15 comments
  1. 1
    Susanna | March 21, 2019 at 6:20 am

    Me actually living in the Mediterranean (barcelona) I can say that Mediterranean diet or way of eating (which I prefer to call it) is indeed so balanced and once you get the chance of getting fresh fruits and veggies it can be a true delight. It’s healthy, balanced and delicious. Sure you cannot live on tortilla or fried tapas, but there are sooooo many options to try!! Just google spanish traditional cooking and you’ll find great recipes for sure!!

    Reply
  2. 2
    justine | March 21, 2019 at 10:19 am

    May be one of my favorite posts yet! Another thing to keep in mind with some of these fad diets is that a large component is marketing and trying to sell ‘stuff”. Really appreciated this post and it’s message.

    Reply
    • Camille Styles | March 22, 2019 at 8:27 am

      Thanks Justine, and that’s a great point – there is definitely a huge business behind the diet industry and when doctors are also selling products, it can make it really hard to trust their motivation.

      Reply
  3. 3
    Jennifer Rose Smith | March 21, 2019 at 11:35 am

    I love this, and couldn’t agree more! The Mediterranean diet has always felt intuitive and right to me. Plus, you still get to enjoy all the good things in life. For me that includes bread, cheese, wine, and sometimes red meat! And always family and friends. 🙂

    Reply
    • Camille Styles | March 22, 2019 at 8:27 am

      Yes!! You’re so good at this Jenn Rose – I love how you savor life!

      Reply
  4. 4
    Marcia | March 21, 2019 at 12:26 pm

    As someone with celiac disease and other food allergies, I love this post. I don’t understand why anyone would cut out entire food groups if they didn’t have to. Maybe because there are things I can’t eat, I try very hard to appreciate all the things I CAN eat. I am also personally really sick of people conflating food and morality, like calling foods clean/dirty or good/bad, “cheat” foods, etc., and judging themselves and other for their food choices. Food is fuel, and nothing is inherently good or bad. I do appreciate that you mentioned the Mediterranean Diet – I try hard to follow the basic principles of it, because it makes me feel good, and it doesn’t prohibit anything, just encourages eating more of the foods that are better fuel for the body.

    Reply
    • Camille Styles | March 22, 2019 at 8:28 am

      Thanks for this thoughtful comment, Marcia – it’s a really interesting perspective to hear from someone with celiac. I’m sorry you have to deal with food allergies – I can imagine that must be so much harder than most people would ever realize. And it’s inspiring that you focus on appreciating the foods that you can eat! Loved hearing from you, thank you.

      Reply
  5. 5
    Sophie | March 23, 2019 at 8:52 am

    Loved this post Camille! I usually try to stick to what makes me feel best during the week: lots of veggies, some fruit, lean protein. On the weekend I like to indulge or I go crazy! I also love my wine!!
    The most influential book I read was Dr Mark Hyman’s Food: What The Heck Should I Eat because it broke down every nutritional research study that has ever been done and distills it into a book that breaks down the food that we should eat and the food we should avoid. Highly recommend! Now I’m off to get some brunch which will include a veggie egg dish, high quality homemade sourdough and a glass of bubbly rose 🙂

    xo

    Reply
    • Camille Styles | March 24, 2019 at 7:45 am

      Your approach to eating sounds intuitive, healthy, and fun! I love it – what an inspiring comment, and I can’t wait to read Dr. Hyman’s book. Sounds like it’s full of common sense. Have a wonderful and delicious brunch!! xo

      Reply
  6. 6
    nicole rowe | March 26, 2019 at 9:58 am

    Thank you for this! I have been struggling all my life and this just makes sense. this is now front and center in my daily planner.

    Give up all numbers. Let go of counting anything you eat. Live. Eat. Believe in yourself. Find your natural intelligence. Trust it. Respect it… You and I have an instinctive and effortless appetite that will clearly speak to us when we let go of fear and listen.

    Reply
  7. 7
    Teia Collier | March 26, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    I pretty much took this same mindset at the end of last year. With a growing family and a growing business, it was too much to add a complicated diet routine on the mix. I am blessed with a body that has been trained well, but shiny promises are sometimes so enticing. Ironically, I fell into the med diet kinda by accident– though I balk at calling it a diet because guilt free eating and living is so much more manageable and quite frankly fun. Love that you shared it and was so transparent with your journey.

    Reply
  8. 8
    @Industrious_Jane | March 26, 2019 at 8:16 pm

    Loved this post! I don’t typically jump on fad diet band wagons, however I happened upon two books that inspired me to reconsider what and how I ate. Food Matters and Vegan Before 6:00 by Mark Bittman were life changing. Basically, eat more plants and less processed foods.

    Reply
  9. 9
    Jen | March 26, 2019 at 10:53 pm

    I agree with you. After many years of diets, plans and research, I’m a source-first, nutrient-second, preparation-or-ferments-to-optimize-digestion-third and to wash it all down, intuitive eater these days. As treats, I make sourdough bread with einkorn wheat, make homemade pizza and enjoy variety that I didn’t once allow for. But it wasn’t easy to come by and I had to heal my own gut to get here. There is TMI frankly these days in some ways, and not clarity. I think people have forgotten to ask how certain diets make them feel – so they jump on bandwagons instead of eating more naturally, intuitively and joyfully. I also believe most people’s guts are compromised from our modern food and pharma system, so the reason why we seem to “need” such extremes is due to our damaged microbiomes, food quality, environment and lifestyles. If you look at when RoundUp as a desiccant came on the scene for wheat and grain crops, you’ll see a direct correlation to autoimmune disease, diabetes and many other illnesses we now think of as normal. Thus, many people don’t do well on grains but their parents did just fine. (Now we know that glyphosate causes cancer.) Besides organic food production, we have virtually forgotten ancient preparation techniques like sprouting, sourdoughs, ferments and the importance of fats to make some nutrients more bioavailable, and thus, we don’t feel well even when stray ever so lightly from a “clean” eating path. So, for all this, it is complicated and is a “journey” for many women especially. We have to take care of our hormones and the beautiful delicate balance it is to be a woman. Thus, to nourish and nurture ourselves should be priorities, whatever that may mean for each person. Strict diets – unless medically necessary – I have learned, just don’t serve most of us well. At this point, I am happy to be informed, but not beholden. No diets, just healthy balance.

    Reply
  10. 10
    Daniella | March 27, 2019 at 6:06 pm

    Love this! And yes – would love some more Mediterranean recipes!

    Reply
  11. 11
    Leslie Register | March 27, 2019 at 9:56 pm

    I was so glad to read your post. I’ve been quizzing everyone all week about different diets. I’m 54 and have gained weight in the last few years that will not come off. My goal is to find a diet that allows me to live life to its fullest and look cute in my blue jeans all at the same time. I’ve always said, “I’d rather have half of what I really want than all of what I don’t.” I’m starting back on the app MyFitnessPal. To me, that seems to keep me closely watching what I eat and makes me exercise more. I’ll do anything for an extra glass of wine!

    Reply
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