“Should I try paleo? Am I more of a slow-carb kind of guy? What do you think of Atkins? But I heard high-fat is bad for you?”
These are typical questions people ask me about nutrition and diet. We love to identify ourselves with that one thing. Black and white. Yin and Yang. Low-Carb and High-fat.
Over the years I’ve learned that being extreme in one direction always comes with a price and should be avoided, especially when it comes to diet.
For one, I don’t believe in diets, I believe in lifestyles. If you change your lifestyle, you can change how you look, how you perform and whether you’re productive or not. Eating a specific (strict) diet won’t do that for you. Especially if you’re stressed out about it.
And when you change your lifestyle, you can’t be just one thing. As humans, we’re multi-faceted, but everybody thinks we’re this or that, never in between. We love to put labels on things and people.
Run experiments and don’t think too much
Today I’d like to show you a simple solution to a problem, especially our generation faces a lot (80s and maybe parts of the 90s as well): Having way too many options.
These days we all think too much. Should I wear this white shirt? What do I eat for breakfast? Train or car? Walk or run? Promotion or change jobs? Ask or don’t ask?
In earlier times, when you didn’t have options, people were complaining that they didn’t have options, yet made the best out of it. I feel like constraints can encourage creativity even more.
Now when it comes to lifestyle in terms of nutrition, we all are scared of the immediate results our food can have on us. That’s why when people argue about food/diet it gets more controversial than any kind of religious discussions you can imagine.
Me personally, I stay out of it. When people ask me for help, either through the blog, through email or in person, I try to help them as best as I can. But I try not to take part in emotional discussions, when it comes to diets. A big part of that is the foundation we talk about and then some individualization is needed in almost any case.
Which brings me to running experiments.
See, your body is the result of your genes, your experiences, your environment and so on. No other person in this world has the same combination as you. You are unique. So start acting like an individual, when it comes to lifestyle.
Start running experiments with your body.
Let me explain: Nobody knows your body better than you do. Not even your doctor (which might come as a shock to a lot of people, but doctors are making assumptions to help you). So start by experimenting with certain ideas for 3-4 weeks, look at the results and then draw your conclusion and start the next experiment.
ABI – Always Be Improving (Yourself)
Every part of your life should be an experiment, where you’re actually trying to improve yourself.
An example for this would be: You feel sluggish in the morning, your head doesn’t really start to work before you’ve had your coffee.
Now you could brush this off and tell yourself, that’s just the way you’re wired OR you can start thinking about the causes for this problem.
When did you go to sleep last night? What did you do before going to sleep? How was your sleep? How much did you sleep? Do you drink enough water? Did you try bulletproof coffee?
Your body gets better at what you do, or don’t do!
If you’re running an experiment, you can answer these questions easily by trying out different solutions and trying them for a while. Then you can adjust and improve.
This will help with your daily focus and productivity, which in turn helps you have better energy throughout the day.
Now food and movement are two very big variables, which is why I’m focused on this blog to help you increase your productivity, by improving your health. And don’t tell me, you don’t have enough time. I can show you how you can save time with some easy tips here.
How to experiment with diets
Again, don’t change diets, change your lifestyle!
Start off by looking at your goals. What is the end goal here? Have more focus? Lose some weight? Have more energy?
These are all important variables you have to consider when changing your lifestyle.
Let’s say you want to have a bit more focus and lose some weight around the belly. This is our goal.
Now, the first thing is the assessment: Where are you currently? What are you eating? Drinking?
Take a pen and paper (yes, I’ll wait) and write down all the foods you’ve eaten in the last 5-7 days. It should be for a few days, in order for you to see a pattern.
Now judge your diet as a whole and then think about the individual foods. Do you have a lot of carbs in your diet? Do you eat a lot of snacks? How many? You get the point.
Now in the beginning this can be a daunting task and I’ve compiled a resource to help you with this: Check out Productivity Foods to learn about your ideal lifestyle for more focus and less fat in your life 🙂
Alternatively, you can contact me for coaching and we can walk through your results together. I can show you the do’s and don’ts of food and movement.
The next important point is to take something away and see how it goes.
A lot of people make the mistake of adding stuff, versus just removing parts and seeing how the machine runs without it.
This can be: Removing sugar, gluten, snacks, sodas or similar ingredients that you already know can be a problem (because you’ve read about it in the media) or you know you personally have problems with it (e.g. you’re a sugar addict or you don’t feel good after drinking milk etc.).
“Everything Should Be Made as Simple as Possible, But Not Simpler” – Albert Einstein
As soon as you’ve removed all the problematic parts, you can start by re-introducing new stuff. This concept goes hand in hand with what I wrote in Essential Foods You Need in Your Kitchen. Remove the bad stuff from the kitchen, so you don’t eat it, buy the healthy fundamentals and build from there.
Some of this stuff is trickier of course, you could be allergic to some foods or won’t digest certain foods as good as other people (e.g. Asian people digest rice way better than Americans and in turn digest potatoes worse than Americans), which it why it makes sense to consider getting coaching.
But I’d say that a majority of the people can very well self-experiment and improve their lifestyles.
For how long should you run your experiments?
When it comes to food, I like to keep it between 3 and 4 weeks. That’s just enough of a period to help you judge as objectively as possible, whether it was helpful or not.
During that time, make sure to keep track on the important variables, which are also related to your goals. So if you want to be more focused, look at all the tasks and todo’s for the day and judge whether your food has had any influence on your productivity. When it comes to losing fat, the variables are even easier: Check the scale or look at the mirror to judge whether your experiment was successful or not.
Why 3 to 4 weeks and not less or more? Well it does take a while for your body to adjust to different nutrients and habits, and 3 to 4 weeks seems to be just the right amount of time that my clients and I had a success with.
If you do it for just one week, you won’t be able to judge it objectively, because you might have had a few bad days in a row or be stressed at work. Things like this can alter your results immensely.
Now longer experiments might make sense, but I think there is always room for improvement and you should always adjust as you go and not after a long period of time. Because you’re still building habits and not really manifesting anything (yet), before being absolutely sure.
As you can see, it doesn’t make sense to label yourself or your lifestyle with a certain diet. We’re all individuals, who do need individual attention when it comes to changing the variables like food and movement.
Even if people ask you, why you eat a certain why, you can tell them in a relaxed fashion, that it isn’t for a certain time period, but it’s a lifestyle for you. People respect it way more than just accepting the fact that you’re trying out a new (and potentially, fad) diet.
As mentioned above, I’ll try not to get into discussions about specific diets, mostly because I don’t know all of them. I just know that eating healthy 90% of the time and doing whatever 10% of the time, can work wonders.
“I never allow myself to have an opinion on anything that I don’t know the other side’s argument better than they do.”
— Charlie Munger
We all think we know everything about a certain topic as soon as we read a bit about it, but it’s almost never enough to have really thoughtful discussions around a topic. So make sure to change your lifestyle, don’t follow any fad diets and improve yourself as you go!