We all have off days.
Just because you are feeling off for a day or two, this is not a reason to make extreme or strict changes in your diet because you hear that _____ diet fixes every potential problem in your body.
But considering the timing of this post in the holiday season, if you have been eating lots of sugary foods for the past two weeks, you probably aren't feeling too good and because you have been feeling off, you will want to change how you are eating in order to feel/look better.
So, what's going to change?
Will you stop eating the cookies, cakes, brownies, pies and other sweets that were heavily consumed around the holidays and go back to your normal "healthy" eating habits OR are you going to seek a more restrictive, extreme and drastic style of eating, eliminating a massive amount of calories and healthy foods, to ensure that you will never feel "off" again and to make-up for all of the holiday overindulging?
As a board certified sport RD, this is a common area for discussion as we have two types of athletes - those who have been feeling off for a long while (not just around the holidays) and are need of a dietary intervention to improve health and performance and then the athletes who experience the occasional "off" day and want to feel better immediately with a quick fix.
The athletes who do not fit into either of these categories probably indulge on occasion, enjoy those treats and then move on. There are no physical or emotional struggles with eating.
In our quick-fix world, one of the main reasons why people start a new diet is to instantly feel better or to kick-start a lifestyle change. This often happens around the holidays as it's very easy to overindulge.
Perhaps a change is needed in order to improve health if eating has not be healthy for several months (or years) but how many times have you felt "off" (not just around the holidays) and found yourself making a drastic change in the diet like eliminating carbohydrates from a meal, avoiding a certain foods in order to "be good" or cutting back in calories to a specific very low number because you want to feel better immediately?
A concern with the occasional "off" feeling is the rapid changes that athletes make in order to fix the "off" feeling. There is a cycle of good and bad eating where an athlete feels she/he is eating really good, then eats something "off limit", feels bad/off and then tries to eat even stricter to be good again. This is a vicious cycle and does not have a place in an athlete's life.
There is a big difference between changing your eating style in order to feel better for the rest of your life versus changing your eating to feel better because yesterday you felt off.
There's nothing wrong with making a dietary change to improve your health or performance but the change should be sustainable, healthy and of course, supportive of your active lifestyle.
Don't assume that by eliminating carbohydrates, skipping meals and snacks, restricting food or following any other dietary advice from extremist nutrition experts is going to make you feel better all the time AND will ensure that you will never have an off day for the rest of your life.
Can we please stop putting candy bars, ice cream, cookies and sugary snacks and cereals together with whole grains, starches, organic milk, lentils, beans and fruits and label all of these as "bad" foods and all must be eliminated to ensure that you never have a bad/off day for the rest of your life.
Come on people - we are smarter than that. Where's the common sense???
Stop giving healthy foods a bad reputation just because they contain carbohydrates.
We all know that's what you should prioritize in the diet.
And we all know what foods are NOT helping our society (and athletes) improve health.
Fast food, added sugars and heavily processed food.
Perhaps, with a better relationship with food, you won't feel like you need a drastic change with your eating and body every time you have an off day.
Because, you know what?
Lean people can still get bloated and have gas.
Athletes on gluten-free diets can still get inflammation.
Athletes on low carb diets can still get injured and struggle with energy during long workouts.
Vegetarians can still get sick.
There are many people who can follow diet plan to a T and still struggle with weight, health and performance.
Because you are allowed to have off-days and we can't blame everything on the diet.
You should have a typical style of eating that works for your goals.
Your diet should work for you, not against you.
No diet is going to make you feel amazing every day for the rest of your life.
Your body has a lot of work to do in order to keep up with all that you do.
You are allowed an off day every now and then
Give your body the credit it deserves and don't assume that an extreme dietary change is the only way for you to feel better quickly.
(If you do feel like something is off with your body, before trying a drastic diet or restrictive style of eating, consult with your doctor or a sport RD to discuss any symptoms/issues that you are having that may require further testing or a dietary intervention).