Anatomy of The Perfect Diet

The Origin of "Diet"
 
Do you hate the word diet? I don’t blame you.
 
Even dieters who say they love their diets leave out the word diet and instead say they’ve “gone paleo” or “become vegan”. Diet is a dirty word because it represents the elimination of fun food, the obligation to count stuff, cook, chop vegetables, or yearn for more. 
 
But a good diet, the perfect one for you, doesn’t have to be that way.
 
You see, diet comes from the Greek word, diaita, which means way of life or regimenIt’s not about the scale, the mirror, or the macronutrients in your breakfast or bulletproof coffee. It’s not even about your pant size, portion control, or the pre-packaged frozen meals that arrive on the doorsteps of those desperate to lose 30 pounds in 30 days. 
 
It’s about change for the better -- the kind you can live with and the kind you can keep. 
 
If your diet has spiraled out of control, your way of life just needs to be organized, not nit picked, neuroticized, or micromanaged. But figured out and carried out with intention. And an organized diaita can be a beautiful thing. 
 
What the Perfect Diet is Not 
 
Rigid rules mess people up the most. Have you ever seen Bob Harper’s Skinny Rules? This is what I’m talking about. 
 
 
Here’s what I see in this list: Do this. Don’t do that. No excuses. Get it right. 
 
This list is a great example of missing the forest for the trees. Because if a person with an out of control diet simply dropped all the obvious junk, sugar-laden desserts, fried food and fast food, it wouldn’t matter if she had the occasional white potato, artificial sweetener, or added salt. These are totally inconsequential (and they can actually be part of a perfect diet).
 
Nobody wants to be a partially compliant dieter, yet half of the demands on this list should make critically thinking adults question total compliance. So when a dieter tries to adhere, then drops the ball, she’s going to experience one more failed attempt at improving her way of life for the better. If your eating habits were out of whack and you tried to uphold all 20 of these ridiculous rules, do you think you’d have much luck? 
 
When Minutia Actually Matters 
 
Diets, the ones we hate and dread, are the same ones which teach people that more neuroticism is better. But majoring in the minor stuff doesn’t address the problems that cause people to gain weight in the first place. It certainly doesn’t break them in gently with healthy habits they can own and love as part of their regimen. 
 
The truth is, improving your diet doesn’t mean getting bogged down with extraneous rules unless you are preparing for a very specific event and those rules are just a temporary tool on top of your firmly established diaita. There is an appropriate time for messing with the minutiae. And it's best left for those who've already mastered the basics.
 
Maybe Harper’s rules work for his lifestyle and body. So it is the perfect diet -- for him.
 
Diets like his remind me of grade school teachers who love to discipline students over nonsense policies when their behavior doesn’t hurt or disrupt anyone. If diets could speak, these would be overbearing and hypercritical, and they’d demand your perfect compliance instead of saying, “You ate better today than you did yesterday. Job well done.”
 
Kaizen: The Key to the Perfect Diet 
 
 
Ever heard of it? Kaizen is a Japanese concept that means constant improvement. It doesn’t mean immediate perfection, it means change for the better, no matter how small that change is. 
 
So how do you implement kaizen? You focus on that which you know you can improve and adopt into your way of life. You sharpen your focus on that area, small as it may be, and work on consistently doing well with it. Then when you’ve got it mastered, you look for another area to tweak and improve.
 
Do you think you can choose carrots over candy in between meals? Then have carrots! Don’t worry about their number on the glycemic index. Can you picture yourself replacing ice cream and cookies at night with a protein shake or piece of fruit? Great! Don’t fret about an artificial sweetener or having carbs after dark. Don’t overthink the details of what are obvious improvements. Minutiae only matters when all the obvious pieces are in place. 
 
Constant improvement never stops serving you, and you never stop working towards it. Your perfect diet is an ever-changing process. It’s not about an end destination, and neither is kaizen. 
 
The Perfect Diet Evolves (And So Do You)
 
Last year I spoke to a woman who said she resented salad. Her idea of an enjoyable lunch was fried chicken that she could get at a KFC drive through. Do you think she was about to adopt salad into her way of life? Not a chance. But what she would be able to do is have some baked chicken, a little catsup, and a side of fruit or vegetable. Is salad a prerequisite for being healthy? Not at all, and telling her that she must eat it would’ve made her want to give up altogether. Eventually she was able to eliminate fried foods from her diet and feel as though it wasn’t a struggle to turn it down.
 
Like the woman above, if you’re a fried food lover you’ll see major results when you eliminate it. No news there. And if you’re not into fried foods, then avoiding them is a skill you’ve already got under your belt. It requires no effort or focus. I believe we can achieve this same ease with anything we want to drop from our diets. 
 
 
Dropping the foods that hold you captive and make you tempted to overindulge is not a form of punishment and deprivation if you learn to ease yourself out of wanting them. The cool thing is, when your diet gradually progresses without such things, your preferences evolve too, and eventually you no longer want them. 
 
You become less of a crybaby. 
 
Your perfect diet evolves as a result of consistent, good choices made day after day for many days in a row until they require no effort or focus. It’s not fussy or fanatical. Although when you free yourself from the foods that many people can’t live without, you’ll be considered tyrannical by those who aren’t improving in the same ways you are.
 
As your needs change, so should your diet. Your dietary progress, activity level, metabolism, hunger, amount of time you spend on your feet every day, type of workouts you do, and convenience all determine what would be best for you to eat. No meal plan could possibly accommodate all of your needs for all of your life. 
 
The Perfect Diet Requires a Sniper Rifle
 
 
This process of improvement isn’t always going to be peaceful because change isn’t always peaceful. Life isn’t always peaceful. And the struggle to overcome adversity definitely isn’t peaceful. But it makes us better -- especially when we are the source of our own adversity.
 
So the first step in getting to a place where you’re shifting toward continual improvement is deciding what you’re going to fight against. What’s going to be the first vice in your crosshairs? 
 
Zero in on what you know needs to change. What is the thing you’ve been making excuses about? What is the weakness you’ve been trying to get rid of that keeps rearing its ugly head? Is it overeating at night? Too many indulgences throughout the day? Mindless splurges in front of the TV? Weekend bingeing? These are conquerable, but you’ll have to pick them off one at a time, and then you’ll have to prevent them from coming back. Ask yourself what’s making you do them in the first place, and what you can do instead the next time they tempt you. And remember, improvement doesn’t have to mean halting a behavior cold turkey, but rather lessening it a little day by day. Easing off. Stepping back. Or even just becoming more cognizant about why it’s happening.
 
 
Preventing these vices may mean having healthy food around you at all times so that you can eat it when you’re tempted by junk. It may mean eating more early on in the day so that you’re not physically tempted to overindulge at night. It may mean skipping wine if it makes you uninhibited around snacks. Or it may mean turning the TV off if you know it puts you in a free-for-all food trans. Focus on improving and eventually preventing that one thing from happening, adopt the healthier alternative, and then zero in on another way to improve.
 
The Perfect Diet Includes Pleasure
 
 
There are always going to be ways to improve your diet because the perfect one isn’t about forgoing enjoyment, it’s about getting as many benefits as you can out of your food. Enjoyment is one of those benefits.
 
Food is a sensory experience. From it we get flavors, textures, scents, memories; and, more importantly, we get energy, sustenance, and the building blocks that make bodies powerful and minds sharp. It’s meant for nourishment and it allows for pleasure. So improving a diet doesn’t mean becoming more like a monk, it means getting the most nourishment and the most pleasure, and weighing these things so that eventually you have maximum amounts of each on top of a high performing, great looking physique.
 
Dietary problems arise when 1. people forfeit their long term happiness for the momentary thrill of food that doesn’t continue to serve them, and 2. people forfeit their enjoyment of life by trying and adhere to a militaristic set of food rules that aren’t appropriate for their stage of progression. 
 
The best kind of diet is what the Greeks thought it should be: A way of life. And getting the perfect one is up to you.