Choosing the best healthy diet in midlife

Tomorrow I’m going to start a diet. I think we all decide this at some point in our lives. But then we wonder: What diet should I follow? The Paleo diet, the Atkins or South Beach diet, a vegetarian diet?

Tips for choosing the best healthy diet in midlife

It’s not easy choosing a diet—much less changing our current eating behavior. Especially if we grew up with unhealthy dietary habits, or simply let go of a healthy routine sometime after getting married and the arrival of babies. It happens to most of us. We slow down, eat more, gain weight … and have a hard time getting back on track.

One of the problems with following a trendy diet like South Beach or Paleo, is that it requires strict changes and rigid discipline. And that’s just not me. I enjoy meat, rice, bacon and Oreo cookies—not necessarily in that order. So how can I maintain a healthy diet while eating some of the foods I love?

Also read: Shaping up after 50 when you’ve never exercised

Practice moderation
My mother, a medical doctor, always said: everything in moderation. Sure, but who can eat potato chips or donuts in moderation?

If you’re planning on going on a diet it is better to approach it as a lifestyle—or permanent—change than to look at it as an end in itself. What I mean is, don’t sprint to lose weight. Instead, jog, go the distance: slow and steady. Change your diet slowly and get used to it. And keep some of the things you enjoy so the diet does not feel like a horrible chore.

Tips for choosing the best healthy diet in midlifeCustomize a trendy diet
If you’re going to follow one of the trendy diets, why not modify it to fit your taste and style? Say for example: fruit for breakfast three days week, eggs and bacon three days a week, and whatever you want on the seventh day. Veggie lunch three days a week, anything you want for lunch three days a week. And for dinner do the same, mix it up. Keep Sundays as a free day where you can eat anything you like. Have dessert only after one meal, lunch or dinner but not both. And be moderate about it.

Most importantly, try not to eat processed foods or packaged meals. Try and cook from scratch.  Cut out fast food. It can’t be that hard, right?

If you don’t jump into a strict diet all the way, you will most likely be able to keep it up for longer. And that’s the point, right? You need to look at the changes as something permanent and not as something temporary. I couldn’t imagine a diet that would not allow me a little indulgence here and there. I wasn’t put on this earth to suffer. A life without Oreos is not a life.

Implement dietary changes gradually
The changes in your diet can also be incremental. Once you get comfortable with some of the changes, you can add or subtract to your diet. The whole point is that you’re going the distance. And if you are adamant about losing weight, remember that some people are predisposed to a certain body type. Also, with age our metabolism changes. Diet and exercise will help you feel and look better. But even good things need to be taken in moderation.

Who wants to become a slave to an extreme diet or strict exercise routine at the gym. My two cents: instead, ease into a healthy lifestyle that fits you and get on with enjoying life.

Phillippe Diederich

Phillippe Diederich is a bilingual author and photographer born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Mexico City and Miami. His photography has appeared in The New York Times, Time magazine, U.S. News and World Report and other national publications. Phillippe's novels Sofrito and Playing for the Devil's Fire are both published by Cinco Puntos Press. He is the recipient of a PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship and the Editor-in-Chief of Viva Fifty!