My daughter left for her first year of college an omnivore and came home for the summer a vegetarian for reasons she “did not want to get into with me.”
So, I challenged her to get into it with me. I asked her some tough questions and she gave me all sorts of answers. I asked more questions and she finally said to me, “I just feel good not eating meat.” Well now we are getting somewhere. That I get.
I am fortunate to work with all different kinds of people. Some people are vegetarians, some don’t eat gluten, some are vegan, some eat a lot of processed foods — there’s no right or wrong.
I’m finding we all have our own “diet soup” so to speak. The most fun part about working with my clients on nutrition is honing in on what they feel they could do to improve the overall quality of their diet for great sports, performance, recovery and overall health and wellness. Rather than tell them to buy into a nutrition pyramid scheme or other product or supplement or torch more calories, eat xyz, etc., I look at what they are currently doing. Together, we work to make their diet the best possible version of what they feel good on both physically and spiritually. After all, this is the fuel for their life.
There is an abundance of information out there from researchers, doctors, nutritionists, dietitians and coaches. What makes it more complicated is keeping this information in context.
The other piece is how to apply dietary advice within the context of the individual and their activity, life and preferences.
When I see an article like “Potatoes Tied to High Blood Pressure Risk,” I just cringe. Even though this is a large cohort study, there’s a huge difference between association and causation. Haven’t we learned from our history with fats? Here’s an article from Harvard (“Diet in the News — What to Believe?”) that serves as a reminder of how to go about looking at the research and resulting headlines when it comes to nutrition.
If you ask the tough questions of yourself and reflect on your choices, you will learn that you have your own diet that simply makes you feel good. You know you are on the right track when:
- You feel good about yourself and your choices most of the time.
- You have blood tests that show improvements or that maintain numbers within a range that is healthy for you.
- You have consistently good energy day to day.
- You are at a weight that you can maintain with a reasonable amount of exercise and allowances for life’s little pleasures.
- You are nourishing yourself as well as you can for safe and enjoyable physical activity.
The coolest thing about all of this is that it is a moving target. When you train and race and recover and transition into the next cycle, you are practicing periodization. Your dietary needs will change across training periods as well as life stages. The United States Olympic Committee has a great representation of this in its athlete’s plates. This visual representation can be applied day to day and training period to training period.
Keep open to how you feel and what your body is telling you. Challenge yourself and others with the tough questions. Remember there is no right or wrong choice. Eat what makes you feel good physically and spiritually.
Deanna Pomfret has coached fitness enthusiasts, runners, swimmers and triathletes since 2005. She is a USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach, Road Runners Club of America Certified Running Coach, Certified Functional Strength Coach and Owner and Swim Technique Analyst with Athletic Pursuits LLC. Deanna presents at clubs and symposiums on various fitness and motivational topics.The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.