What do you think about when you hear the phrase “good nutrition”?
Kale? Celery juice? Low fat? No carbs?
With the over saturation of fitness and nutrition content on social media, there seems to be a prominent emerging look of “good nutrition” that people are subscribing to, almost as if eating healthy only has one look.
You probably know what I'm talking about. It's always the same diets, supplements, and foods that are being touted online. It almost seems as if following a specific diet can help you reach all your nutritional goals and needs. However, this could not be further from the truth.
One glaring problem of a “one size fits all” approach is that humans respond to the same foods very differently. Food recommendations have historically assumed that if people follow a standard plan, they will look a certain way and develop fewer chronic diseases. We now know that this is completely flawed, as research continuously shows how the same foods trigger very different responses among different individuals. Moreover, due to the complexities of the human body, we still do not even fully understand all of the factors that influence a person’s reactions to a wide range of foods.
Healthy eating is not a rigid prescription, but is rather a flexible and personal plan that should accommodate our personal food preferences and nutritional requirements that fit within the framework of our cultural eating habits. This means that we do not, and should not, eat the same foods to have a healthy diet.
Of course, this is not to say that there are no dietary guidelines for us to reach our nutritional goals- in fact, there are general and broad pillars of good nutrition that you should take into consideration when you eat. They are:
Adequate caloric intake
Sufficient protein intake
Plenty of fruits and vegetables
Nutrient/fiber dense foods
And the thing is, there are an infinite number of possible food combinations to accomplish the above. Maybe you like having smaller meals or you enjoy having a more carb-heavy diet or a more fat-heavy diet … whatever your preferences are, find what works for you and your body. This is going to differ from one person to the next, and that’s okay. It’s silly to assume that what works for one person will work for you when we all have wildly different nutritional needs and metabolisms.
The next time you scroll past your favorite influencer, don’t be tempted to eat and exercise the same way as them. In fact, you should never, ever blindly follow someone else’s diet or exercise regime. Your body, your needs, and your medical history are specific to you and only you, which is why you probably have completely different needs.
While we should be encouraged to eat a wide variety and sufficient amounts of nutrient-dense foods from each food group and subgroup, that’s where the guidelines stop. As fitness professionals, we will always encourage you to eat in a way that makes you feel your best and will never promote extreme deprivation, unsustainability, or fad diets. What matters in the end is how everything within your eating pattern adds up over time, and that you are following a plan that you can stick to in the long run.
Simply put, food and good nutrition is not a one size fits all. Health looks different for everyone, and it is not one specific body size, meal plan, or exercise regime.
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