Why Food and Diet Comparisons Shouldn't Exist

  Jan 28, 2016  |  #Healthy Living

Hello, Thursday! You seem like a nice day to let thoughts wander and think out loud. This is almost an extension to yesterday’s post about mindful eating not always providing the answer.

The coming of a new year often brings the intention to begin anew; often setting out to do more of healthy things, and less of unhealthy things, right? Work out more, eat more fruits/vegetables, eat less sweets, less carbs, less fat, drink more water, etc. etc.

With all the “fad” diets and nutrition advice floating around, each of you can probably name 5-10 people that come to mind who are trying a new diet pattern or lifestyle this year. Becoming “healthy” is all the rage, but diets themselves will not inherently make you healthy, nor keep off that weight – lifestyle changes and creating new habits around food will.

fad diets, diet comparisons

Why Diet Comparisons Shouldn’t Exist

That being said, it’s so easy to fall into the comparison trap of wondering why what worked for someone else hasn’t worked for you. What’s wrong with you that you can’t lose weight the way that other person lost weight. Your energy levels aren’t better. Your skin isn’t clearing up. You’re not loving your life the way he/she seems to be. It’s too easy to fall into the negative act of comparison. Food comparison and food shaming is becoming so inherent and we need to understand why these comparison thoughts are futile, and instead, turn around our mindsets.

BLT, why food and diet comparisons shouldn't exist


It’s no wonder people have varying degrees of results while following different diets. Think about it. Not only are we all different in terms of height/weight and distribution, but consider genetics, physical activity, resting metabolic rates, medications, muscle levels, appetites and how often we eat, speed (and ease) of digestion, hormones, stress levels, how much we sleep, how much we fidget, and even the prevalence of bacteria (aka gut microbiome). With so many different factors, it’s nearly impossibly that two people will have the same success/failure rate within a diet. Even if two women of the same age and BMI ate the same amount of calories each day, I can guarantee that the way they metabolize those calories is different for each woman.

Some people in the health and nutrition world can be quick to judge when it comes to following different “diets” or ways of eating.  Others will take it upon themselves to provide you with all the evidence in the world against your diet choices, or to better support their view. But there’s always another side, always results from people that haven’t had the same success. Because people are inherently different – we don’t need research studies to prove this. There is, and will never be, a one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition.

salad, why food and diet comparisons shouldn't exist

Who’s to say that Whole30, vegan, or a low-carb diet doesn’t work best for one person over another? You can’t translate how other people react to foods and compare it to yourself. Some people truly feel and perform better eating certain foods, and that makes sense. And it’s ok. Why should we criticize them or frown upon that? We should all play around with different foods and ways of eating. Otherwise, we won’t know what works and doesn’t work for us, what makes us feel better or feel like crap.

pear dessert

Maybe you do better with a high carb snack before bed. Maybe you feel better with less meat in your diet. Maybe you actually hate chia seeds or hemp seeds or other trendy foods that people glorify. Maybe you feel your best with 6-8 small meals a day. Or maybe, you can eat a bowl or two of ice cream every night and not gain a single pound. How you do it doesn’t really matter – just find what works for you and what makes you feel your best. You don’t have to practice mindful eating every meal of the day, or seek “healthy, nutrient-rich” calories for every choice you make. Rather than counting calories, think of food as energy to help you go about your day. Sometimes that means mid-day donuts, a second lunch with a friend, or a glass of wine you weren’t planning on having.

donuts, why food and diet comparisons shouldn't exist

The thing is – when you’re constantly comparing yourself to others, or what others eat, you’re at the mercy of others’ lives. You can’t concentrate on what really makes YOU happy, what fuels your mind and body, or what foods your body needs at that exact moment for nourishment, recovery, or happiness. I can guarantee it’s different for each of us.

We should stop trying to fit into a narrow box with certain “rules,” because that’s not what our bodies were meant to do. We know the framework for healthy foods and choices for a lifestyle that leads to longevity, but we have so much wiggle room to personalize it how we see best. Let’s spend less time comparing our meals and food choices to the person next to us, and more time figuring out what foods make us feel best, and using that knowledge to create the best lifestyle we can. Life is too short to stress about food choices. I’ll do me. And YOU DO YOU.

Cheers! Linking up as part of Fitness, Health and Happiness – 3 of my favorite things 🙂

[Tweet “Life is too short to stress about food choices via @BucketListTummy”]

Are there certain foods or lifestyles that work best for you?

Do you have any opinions on the different fad diets?



33 responses to “Why Food and Diet Comparisons Shouldn't Exist

  1. OMG I LOVE this post! While training, I definitely feel and perform best when I add more complex carbs at each meal–so oatmeal for breakfast, Ezekiel bread sandwich for lunch (love that stuff), sweet potatoes or quinoa with dinner….at first I’d try to restrict carbs but it really affected me, even if I wasn’t training. I typically feel better with three meals plus two small snacks during the day, and limiting my alcohol (at least while training).

  2. Thanks for this. I often find that I don’t only compare my own diet with what others are eating; I often try to compare my own diet with what I myself have eaten previously in the week or at previous times in my life. Which is also dumb. Great thoughts!

  3. I think one of the most interesting points here is, like you said, we often don’t do the work of being aware of our own bodies. I think many people simply don’t know how, have never considered it, or don’t try to actually tune in to their bodies and listen to what they are saying (not judging here at all – its so hard and I’m completely a part of it). It is much easier to just “do as we are told” (by media or others). Mindfulness and yoga types of practice can be really good for this. Its amazing what we can hear when we actually listen – and one of these things could be learning when one “diet” or food actually sits well with us, or whether we are just doing it because its what “everyone else is doing.” Great post.

    1. I completely agree that actually finding what works for us is the total challenge and mystery. It may not be what we think, but if we aren’t completely in tune with our bodies, or listening to ourselves rather than others, we won’t know.

  4. YES!! Amen, sista. I can’t tell you how many endurance athletes I’ve worked with that are feeling drained because they are trying to eat low carb or paleo because that’s what they’ve seen in the media. Gotta refuel that glycogen, baby!

  5. Love this post! Very important to recognize that we are all different people and each individual requires different things. For me, I cant do the low-fat diets or low=carb diets: carbs and fats keep me energized! Also couldn’t give up dariy… I need my greek yogurt and ice cream! And cheese lol. Hope you are having a great week!

  6. It would be so fun to do a ‘One Size Does Not Fit All’ book that shares this exact concept. I love going through different blogger’s blogs, because it reminds me of the beauty of individuality in body, health, diet, fitness, and food. It’s such a mixed bag, and you do have to do what works best for the body that God has given you. For me, high protein just doesn’t quite keep me satisfied. I know … That sounds crazy, but I’ve discovered that more carbs and fat are better for my system. 🙂

  7. Great post once again Sarah – definitely hits on the point that we as people are all unique and different in a multitude of ways. Being self aware and in tune with what makes YOU feel best is probably the most challenging thing to do. I’m still learning but you are a great role model !!

  8. I love this post Sarah! Not only does this philosophy tie to food/nutrition but also to every area of life. We love the bandwagon, and hope that it will bring us the hope, freedom & happiness that we’ve been seeking. But in nutrition (& life) there isn’t a quick fix – we are all way too different, in the best way, for that to be the case. Food shaming is the worst & comparison is such a thief. Preach, girl! You are the sweetest.

    1. Aww thanks Bekah. So true about it carrying over to every other aspect of life as well. Comradery is great, but we often have to look deep within our souls for our own searching sometime 🙂

  9. This is such a great post!! I love what you said about the “one size fits all” thing. Why are people convinced that if it works for them it’ll automatically work for EVERYONE? People are different! Our bodies respond different based off its needs, actvity level, fitness level, etc and trying to squeeze square pegs into a round hole doesn’t help ANYONE. Great post about finding what works for you and not a diet that someone tells you to try!

  10. Amen! I’m a huge proponent of experimenting with your diet to find out what works for you, as long as you’re willing to admit that something ISN’T working for you, even if it seems to be working for other people. Sometimes I find that people get stuck on something because they WANT it to work, when it really might not be the best thing for them. I don;t do well on a Paleo-style diet, for example. My body thrives on carbs and grains, and too much protein or fat makes me feel lethargic and sickly. But I know a tonne of people who do really well on Paleo, so it’s all about finding what works.

  11. Loving your blog, lady! Also, loved your post from yesterday too, but my work computer wouldn’t let me comment! *cue tears*

    I completely agree with your points. Something that I’ve noticed recently is people starting to throw about “balance” as a way to avoid judgment or shame from others. I think that having a balance approach between healthy foods and treats, but I find in some conversations with friends or some clients, that they use “balance” almost like it’s a guard to protect them from shame from others. It breaks my heart when someone is food shamed or is in fear of judgment from others. And that’s when it goes back to “just do you.”

    Have a great day! 🙂

  12. Great post- I personally hate fad diets or diet labels in general but I know certain things work better for other people and etc. Also loved yesterdays post 🙂

  13. Like I shared yesterday, I tend to eat ~6 times a day and not just grazing. My professor jokes that you can point a nutrition student out b/c they always have food with them. Haha.
    Of course, I have a ton of thoughts on this topic. I think we need to get together just so we can chat about it. Fad diets rarely work long-term and I think it’s sad to be told you can never eat real bread again. I think some of the diets, like Weight Watchers, have positive aspects. Sadly to often things become a competition.

    1. Sometimes competition (in a friendly manner) can be good in terms of motivation but I agree with you about fad diets. They don’t teach how to maintain a lifestyle once the diet ends.

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