Everyone agrees that a healthy diet includes plenty of vegetables, is low in added sugar, and cuts out artificial trans fats. Beyond that, it's punctuated by advice to find "what works for you," which is unhelpful unless you know what to look for. Here's how to tell if your diet is on the right track.
Good nutrition can show up in various, less noticeable ways than the number on the scale. Precision Nutrition outlines these key indicators to pay close attention to:
- You feel satisfied after meals. Feeling satisfied means you eat just the right amount of food and breakdown of carbs, fats, and protein. You'd be surprised by how many people intentionally deprive themselves, peck and graze on little things here and there throughout the day, and then wonder why they're not losing weight.
- You have more energy. This is a big one, but is easily ignored. When we're tired, we just guzzle caffeine and power through. But if you're eating well, you have good, steady energy throughout the day, rather than experiencing caffeine-fuelled buzzes and crashes.
- You sleep better. Notice your sleep pattern: are you falling and staying asleep more easily? If wake up actually feeling awake, it's a good sign you need to keep doing what you're doing.
- Your clothes fit just a little looser (or tighter if you're trying to gain). How your clothes fit is a better indicator of progress toward your goal than the scale generally is.
- You're in a better mood. Beyond feeling hangry, a better mood is being able to think or say something like, "I feel more confident in my choices" which, admittedly, is also a result of seeing your hard work pay off.
- You're stronger and have more endurance. You're eating right if you feel like you can pump out a few extra reps, run a faster mile, and continuously get better over the long term.
- You don't feel like you're on a diet. There's no denying, the only diet that works is one that you can keep doing for life.
If you looked at this list and cried "No, duh!" keep in mind that many of us have been conditioned to ignore these signals and focus on the scale instead. What's more, these signals need to be consistent over many months. Fad diets might make you feel awesome at first, but beyond the first couple of weeks one or more of these will go down the tubes.
So see if something is working by keeping a food journal, writing down how you feel, and comparing it against the list here.
When the scale sucks: 7 better ways to know if your nutrition plan is working [Precision Nutrition] Image by NikBoiv.