The Beginners Guide to DIET

Updated: Jan 4

This is not, and will never be a page for a one stop, cure all approach to diet. Because guess, what? That doesn’t work and it will never work. Here at HeyLife, I believe that learning and application is the key to health. Finding a diet that works well AND that you enjoy is an ever-changing series of trial and error while you discover what works and what doesn’t for your own body because everybody is different.

Diet. It can be such a nasty word. Can also be controversial, opinionated, and greatly misunderstood.

First, let’s define what diet is NOT. Diet is not a temporary eating pattern that limits and adds certain foods for a period of time. However, this is what society has grown to define diet as: temporary, while, in fact, diet is quite the opposite.

Now, let’s define Diet.

Diet: Food and drink regularly provided or consumed. (noun)

Here's a fun fact from

The word diet first appeared in English in the 13th century. Its original meaning was the same as in modern English, “habitually taken food and drink.” But diet was used in another sense too in the Middle and early modern English periods to mean “way of living.” This is, in fact, the original meaning of diet’s Greek ancestor diaita, which is derived from the verb diaitasthan, meaning “to lead one’s life.” In Greek, diaita, had already come to be used more specifically for a way of living prescribed by a physician, a diet, or other regimen.

How to approach a "diet."

A diet is the food you eat, therefore, everyone who eats, has a diet. The phrase "on a diet" is an unhealthy way of approaching healthy eating. A diet does not end when you decide to eat that pint of ice cream, and a diet doesn't begin when decide to ditch the junk food. No, you are always consuming food, therefore, every single food you consume ,ice cream and all, is a part of your diet. A diet can be changed and modified, but using the term "on a diet" usually is a cop out that allows you to make excuses for bad food decisions. You owe it to yourself to not use the term diet in a misleading way. That's the first step to healthy living because a diet is a way of living.

How to make changes:

Change your diet to make changes. No, I did not say go on a diet; I said change your diet. Every change you make to your diet should be a change that is realistic and can be consistent for years. Limiting foods and adjusting types of foods within your diet is important. However, completely eliminating and banning foods is a recipe for disaster. Why? Banning foods in the long run (usually) is not realistic and will lead to binging on said food after a certain period of time. Take cookies for example. Cookies are not healthy, so to be healthy, you must get rid of cookies. However, there is a psychological effect of wanting what you cannot have. Can't have cookies? That makes you really want cookies. However, if you limit your cookie intake, the same psychological effect occurs: you want what you cannot have, if you can have cookies, you don't feel the burning need for them. Now, everyone is very different, and I'll go into moderation and elimination differences another day, but in the grand scheme of things, the pop culture approach to "a diet" usually consists of getting rid of foods. If you find yourself hating every second of that diet and find yourself wanting those cookies even more, you are going to find yourself in a viscous, viscous circle. Instead, think of it as this. Cookies can be a part of your diet (not "a diet"), in moderation. You are going to eat cookies eventually, so accept the fact that they are part of your diet (of course, not a huge part of your diet) but they are allowed to be in there in moderation. We must be thinking in the long term when it comes to diet.

Why is Diet such a hot topic?

Sometimes, we just like to be told what to do because in our every day life, we have so many decisions to make, problems to face, and opportunities to embrace. Especially when it comes to diet, we just want to be told what to do because we don’t need yet another thing to think about. Therefore, "a diet" sounds really, really great. A set of rules, a list of foods to eat, a list of foods not to eat, and all without having to put a lot of thought or energy into it. I'm in!

Next thing we know, we are giving into marketing ploys, believing the false advertising, feeling crappy, and getting frustrated. We’ve all been there. What we need to realize is there is no one size fits all diet. It’s simply impossible to follow all the rules of any given diet and expect lasting results. The missing piece that our society is missing is UNDERSTANDING diet. As much as we don’t have time, we have other things to worry about, etc. we must learn to put our diet higher on the priority list. Truly learning about food and what our body needs is what we need to create a successful and lasting diet.

So what do we do?

Now we know not to give into the ideality of a generic diet plan, we understand the importance of learning about our food, and what works for our bodies and lifestyles. But how do we do it? This is the hard part and this is where the WORK comes in. Yeah, it’s one more thing you have to add to your busy schedule. Your body and your diet is just as important as that work deadline, best friends birthday party, doctors appointment, oil change and the hot date on Friday night. Yes, you have a lot going on, so do I, and so does everyone else. However, if you aren’t healthy, nothing else really matters.

Choose a path and use a guide

I just said, ditch the diet but it’s okay to use a diet as a guideline. Every diet out there, no matter the approach, has one thing in common: reduce processed foods and eat real, whole foods. There is no right or wrong answer. Every diet works, and every diet doesn’t work. It’s all about finding something that you enjoy and makes you feel good. In the end, we all know that fruits and vegetables are a better choice then anything that comes in a plastic wrapper.

My advice, choose a diet plan that resonates with you. There are so many spin offs on so many diets it can be terribly overwhelming.

Here’s a good first step: Do you like the idea of reducing animal products? Research a plant based diet. Do you like an ancestral approach to eating? Give the Paleo diet a try. Once you choose one of these approaches, there are a million ways to go. Do your research, start at the top and make decisions to dig a little deeper. For example, if you choose plant based, going vegan right out of the shoot can be a horrible idea. There are so many intermediate steps between a general plant based diet (including a balance of animal products) and a vegan diet. You will most likely find a happy place somewhere in between; so don’t jump to any decisions to quickly. Likewise, if you like the ancestral approach, jumping straight into a ketogenic diet (which is all the rage these days) may be a bad idea. Ketogenic is an extreme and the average person, again, will probably find their happy place somewhere in between a general ancestral diet and a ketogenic diet.

Understand that this will take time, trial and error, and a little bit of soul searching. There is no right or wrong answer- one path is no better then another, in the end, it’s whatever works for you that will be the best path. I’m not here to tell you that one diet is better then the other or tell you that you should eat the way I eat. There are a lot of people out there who will tell you how you should eat, listen to them, hear what they have to say, maybe try it for a little bit, then make your own decision. That’s how our diets become our way of living, and living WELL!

In many studies, a high carbohydrate diet (more plant based) and a high fat diet (ancestral/paleo) influenced diet) both yield results and both do not. What does that mean? It means there is no right answer. Nutrition is not simple, but it all comes down to how you make it your lifestyle. If eating a certain way doesn't vibe well with you, ditch it. Don't let someone convince you that eating a high fat and low carb diet is any better then eating a high carb diet. It may be for that person, but you are the only person that can make that decision for yourself. As long as you are eating good quality foods, with minimal sugar and reduce processed foods, that is a really really good. How you choose those good quality foods is up to you and yes, it does take work.

Here are some good places to start:

  • Buy some recipe books and search pinterest:

The best way to learn about diet is to try it all. Find what you like and stick to it. You don’t know what you like till you try it!

  • Research authors, nutritionists, and bloggers

I have my favorite go to resources that I have learned so much from. Find people who resonate with you by doing a simple Google search, or even browsing the health and wellness shelves at your local bookstore or library. There are so many people who have great information, just remember, the information they share is what worked for them. Take it in and then make your own decisions. Your diet approach should be a mix of all sorts of resources, don’t limit yourself to just one.

Keep following along with HeyLife for great recipes, inspiration and healthy living tips :)

#functionalnutrition #diet #habits #lifestyle #life


My name is Kelli and I am a NASM-certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and nutrition and functional medicine graduate student (2020).  I help individuals build a strong foundation in wellness through functional nutrition and functional fitness.  


Every health journey is different because every BODY is different.  I recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to nutrition and fitness.  My goal is to provide you with the knowledge to take control of your health, reach your goals and live your very best life. 

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