Diet. The word is enough to make people shudder, and is unanimously one of the most common questions I get asked when I tell people I do triathlon. “Are you on a diet”, “are you really careful with what you eat?”.
Having moved through the sports from a 60kg young ballet dancer to a 94kg rower and back to a 78kg triathlete I’ve experienced a vast range of nutritional techniques supporting and detracting from sport at a variety of different levels.
Well for a start, what actually is a diet?
I’ve got friends that are lactose intolerant, so they avoid foods that are going to flair up their symptoms, is that a diet?
I’ve got friends that are power lifters, so eat everything they see to gain weight and power. That’s a diet too right?
I know people that don’t do sport but have a diet rich in vitamins and minerals to stay healthy, also a diet no?
As well as people that just don’t eat to stay as small as possible, they’d also argue they’re dieting.
And I have friends that are trying to lose weight like myself and they regularly ask me what they should eat, a topic I’ll be covering in my next blog. But this is the most stereotypical form of diet, weight loss.
So right now I know what you’re thinking…. and yes I actually have friends.
But what ticks the box for a healthy diet? Arguably the most healthy of the above options is the natural diet that gives the body optimum sustenance with none of the sometimes damaging effects of sport. Avoiding illness and keeping your body well looked after, giving it everything it needs to function.
A very narrow minded Google defines diet as specifically weight loss, however controlled weight gain is also a very popular form of diet.
Stating the obvious for one to lose weight calories in < calories out. Fact. Therefore to lose weight you’re starving your body of the nutrients it needs to function, encouraging it to adapt to perform using less calories and burn the fat that already exists in your body, and naturally some of the muscle too.
But starving your body to encourage the depletion of healthy stores that your body has saved up doesn’t sound very healthy to me? Although it is dieting.
A lot of people that know me will know I love a nice meal out with friends and have a heavy soft spot for sugar, but having lost 11kg in 10 weeks for Ironman Wales I’m no stranger to the diet world. A slow sustained weight management diet can prove healthy and beneficial however it takes time, resilience and patiences and won’t happen over night. It can also be hard, harder than going to the gym or exercising, because the will to say no and resist temptation can be almost impossible when your body is running deficits.
So a diet is just eating specific foods, but a healthy diet? Be it losing weight or gaining weight I would define careful nutritional management for constant benefit as a healthy diet. Eliminating harmful substances and not using the radical tactics some people take to punish their body hoping for imminent effect. Careful control over the nutrients supplied to body should be what a diet is. This way it is also most effective and can actually be defined as healthy.
So to answer the original question, what is a healthy diet?
A healthy diet is not harmful. It is careful nutrition, self discipline and time.