Diet mistakes can be divided into two categories – cognitive and qualitative.
Since the development of healthy relationship with food is a precondition for a healthy diet, I’ll start with mistakes related to thinking about food and diet.
First of all, I believe we expect too much from diet. We consider food to be a medicine, and we get disappointed when it doesn’t solve our problems. Food is the best known prevention, but it’s not a cure.
We also tend to neglect the psychosocial component of diet. Food isn’t just nutrients and a tool for disease prevention, but also a source of pleasure also providing the time to hang out.
We bark at the wrong tree. Focus is wrongly pointed to dietary habits of suspicious justification, which in best case scenario won’t have a significant influence on health, but might have a negative effect. We also tend to neglect the wider context of total diet quality, which will actually influence your health. There are no healthy and unhealthy foods, just healthy and unhealthy diet.
Diet care can be excessive. For many, dietary choices are a source of significant stress and/or don’t allow them to have a normal social life. In these cases we speak of orthorexia – healthy diet obsession. Instead of increasing the quality of health, excessive worry has a negative effect. We don’t live to eat, we eat to live.
We people have a tendency for black or white – „all or nothing“ thinking when it comes to food. Every little stray from the plan is a reason to quit, and even punish ourselves. We either completely follow the program, or don’t follow it at all. We either don’t eat chocolate or eat all of it. Diet isn’t black and white. A step back, if you previously made two forward, is still one step forward.
Change your habits with patience
We’re in a hurry. Dietary habits aren’t created overnight, not quality ones, not the other ones. Extra kilos also aren’t hoarded overnight. Every (dietary) change is a process in which you need to persist. Short term results make no sense; long term habits will influence health. Don’t expect sensational changes, instead change your habits with patience.
We seek advice in the wrong places. Internet is both a blessing and a curse. It gives us instant access to all human knowledge, but there’s no content quality control. Without an adequate basis in biology, biochemistry, physiology, and psychology, it’s easy to get lost in its wideness and go alternate diet ways. Considering we all eat several times a day, many feel qualified to give dietary advice. And internet is the perfect medium for this endeavor.
Just as you seek legal advice from a lawyer, seek diet advice from the person educated to give one – a nutritionist.
It’s modern to make an ideology out of everything, including diet. Individuals who think this way choose a certain dietary approach, mostly alternative one, give it magic properties and defend it at all costs as the only right one – a priori rejecting and criticizing all others, often on unjustified moral grounds. There’s no room for moralizing in diet. There are many ways to achieve a healthy diet. There is no one perfect, optimal diet.
Contrary to popular opinion, primary dietary problem in terms of quality isn’t excess of a certain “bad” food item or nutrient. It’s the insufficient intake of all of the nutrients our body needs. Instead of including as many food items in the diet as we can, we mostly focus on their exclusion, believing that certain food items or their groups are responsible for our health problems. No food is poison, the dose makes the poison. By excluding food items from the diet you reduce variety, which is the basis of diet quality and your health.
Monotone diet and the lack of variety are usually a consequence of habit, running out of ideas, and fearing something new. A typical diet is based on a very small number of food items, which can be uninteresting, and create nutritive deficiencies.
We eat too much. We don’t gain weight from air. We don’t gain weight from bread, bananas, or butter. Excess weight is a consequence of energy imbalance – energy intake chronically greater than energy spent.
Also, we can’t lose weight if there is no energy deficit. There are no food items which melt excess weight away. Nor will low carb (LCHF) or low fat diet give results without energy deficit. Excess weight is melted by a quality energy-restricted diet which provides an acceptable level of fullness during the diet and creates a strong will to fight the body’s urge to hold on to excess weight in case of need.
The advice I almost universally find helpful is to standardize the daily number and content of meals. This means we know how many times per day we’ll eat, avoiding unnecessary snacks, and knowing relatively well what should be on our plate. In the age where food is easily accessible and programmed to stimulate taste buds, very few people can rely on bodily signals to determine the need for food.
We, nutritionists, are becoming annoying with this advice, but there really is one that works for almost everyone. Plant based foods should be emphasized in your diet. This includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts. More diversity and color, the better. Research undoubtedly shows that a higher consumption of plant based foods is connected with lower risk of chronic diseases. But don’t jump the gun. To achieve a healthy diet you don’t need to become vegetarian or vegan.
Too much unverified information
We receive unverified information about food and diet from all sides. This is one of the reasons why I started this web page – to offer a scientific, rational, and practical dietary advice.
Trends are by definition here to disappear, so I advise you to not waste time, energy, and health following them. A healthy diet can have many forms, but diversity (non-exclusion) and moderation are the basis of each one.
To achieve the healthy diet, you don’t need to frantically search the internet trying to find a trick that will make you healthy. Diet can be simple, if you go by professional advice. Nutrition science is complex, but diet shouldn’t be.