I use the term "diet" to mean what you eat, we all adhere to a "diet" of some sort, it may not be a restricted calorie diet, but whatever you eat can be referred to as your "diet".
Here are a couple definitions of diet:
1. the foods eaten, as by a particular person or group: The native diet consists of fish and fruit.
2. food or feed habitually eaten or provided: The rabbits were fed a diet of carrots and lettuce.
So, if you want to maintain a healthy weight and heart and also look damn good, you really should be aware of your diet and make sure that you are choosing the right foods and the correct portions. This all starts with either hiring a nutritionist or dietitian; or doing a good deal of research on your own. I have done both.
I first worked with Kim Porterfield from The Institute of Eating Management and Relapse Prevention Center, in Houston, Texas about a year and a half ago. Kim reviewed my goals, my current diet, my lifestyle, and more importantly, my commitment level to help me to come up with a diet I could live with and enjoy. I went from 13% bodyfat to 8% in three weeks. And I was never hungry.
I still work with Kim every couple of months when I need some advise or tweaking, she always sets me on the correct course. Everything is over the phone, we have yet to meet each other (although we chat on face book occasionally).
I have also developed some "diets" for others who want to lose weight and they have been very successful and happy with the plan. You can do that too.
First, I have found that it is best to start in the exact opposite starting point than most books will tell you. I do not believe that you should sit down and all of a sudden start eating certain foods, foods that you would never think of eating, to lose weight. You certainly could do this, but how long do you think you would stick to this? How long do you think you would be happy?
Instead, start looking at what you enjoy doing right now, and then evaluating how you can make small changes to create a diet you still enjoy, that is healthier for you.
Take one week out of your life and record everything you eat or drink and the times. Be honest, this is for you only. You will need to record the food, and the amount. It's OK to estimate. Food is a very emotional issue so it is helpful if you can remember to write down moods too, and when you feel hungry or particularly "starving"
Now, ideally you would create a spreadsheet and record the macro nutrients, but I won't go into that here, it is a bit complicated for one post.
Look at the daily foods and determine if you are getting a lean protein, a complex carbohydrate and healthy fats at each meal. If it seems out of balance, adjust it.
Now I am not saying it is easy, it takes a lot of work in the beginning, but eventually it becomes habit (hopefully).
For instance, if you enjoy pasta, there is no reason you need to eliminate it (unless you are pre-competition); however, most people eat a far larger portion than they should. Go pick up a box of dried pasta from your cupboard and check out the nutritional facts. A 1 pound box of penne says it serves 8 people. Now, honestly, when was the last time you cooked 1 pound of pasta for 8 people? Never!
But that small suggested serving size gives you 41 grams of carbohydrates, far more than I ever eat in any one meal. It also has 200 calories, and that is just plain pasta.
So, you can certainly enjoy some pasta, but stick to the serving size. This means you cannot fill up on a bowl of pasta, you need to have other things with it. You will need a lean source of protein (fish, chicken or turkey breast) and a vegetable.
A good rule of thumb is your protein source should be about the size of your open palm (that's the palm only, no fingers). Your carbohydrate source should be about the size of your closed fist and you can have as many vegetables as your healthy heart desires! Skip the butter and oil though.
You can enjoy a glass of wine occasionally, but not everyday, and certainly not a bottle every Friday night.
If you eat cereal, look at the serving size and stick to that. Most granola's suggest 1/4 cup! That's not much is it? So you will need something else to fill you up won't you? Egg whites can be purchased in cartons and used in place of whole eggs, or you can mix one whole egg with egg whites to measure a cup, and then scramble that or make an omelet. Use low fat cheese.
We all know that candy bars, chips, any fried foods, butter, oil and fatty meats, none of it is good for you. Avoid those and save them for a special occasion.
Your main drink should be plain water. No soda and not coffee all day long. Get to love water.
Avoid packaged prepared foods, they tend to be loaded with fats and excessive carbohydrates.
Learn to cook, eat what is in season.
Experiment with cooking, it is an art not a science, there are no hard fast rules (except in baking, that IS a science).
Read labels. If you cannot pronounce it, why would you eat it?