Dieting isn’t for everyone. Many people struggle with a diet’s restrictions and are looking to try something else. Others have success with a diet, but after a while, they, too, want a more flexible approach to what they can eat and when. If you find yourself in one of these groups, there’s good news: You can eat healthy without dieting, no matter what your body type is.
The key is to find an approach to eating that gives your body what it needs and is something you can sustain. Fortunately, this strategy doesn’t have to involve a lengthy set of do’s and don’ts.
“Good health is not a long list of rigid rules,” says Gold’s Gym Wellness Director Connie Cheng. “It comes from improvements like a handful of nuts on a salad or an evening walk with a friend. It’s small steps that pay off positively rather than restricting a food group or demonizing certain foods.”
When you restrict foods — especially the high-energy ones that you may be craving — your brain signals a stress response that can make you feel panicked and deprived. This strain, which can eventually lead to guilty feelings, isn’t beneficial to your mental health. That’s why those big, transformative plans don’t work for everyone. Even some people who have been able to stick to a regulated eating regimen find that they miss the taste of certain foods and want to move beyond dieting. But where to begin?
Start by thinking simple
The first step is thinking about the other meaning of “diet” — the way that you eat and what that looks like overall. Your goal is not to be on a diet, but to have a healthy one.
But if there isn’t a specific plan, how do you know what to eat?
It’s critical to eat the types of foods that are best for your body type. Because different physiques have different metabolic responses to carbs, proteins and fats — three nutrients known as macronutrients, or macros — Cheng says that focusing on the macros that are best for your body type can help you maintain a healthy body.
There are three general body types: thin, muscular and curvy. The goal is to match the following ratio of macros to what’s recommended for the category that fits you — if you can do that, you can maintain a healthy weight for your type of body. Remember, you should consult your doctor before making any changes to the way you eat.
Thin body type (ectomorphs)
Ectomorphs are smaller-framed, thin or lean and have very little fat. They have a hard time gaining weight and muscle and tend to have a higher metabolism and be very active. Recommended ratio: High-carb, low-fat. Proportions: 55 percent carbs, 25 percent protein, 20 percent fat.
Muscular body type (mesomorphs)
Mesomorphs are athletic or have a medium build, with solid muscles and frame. They are able to gain muscle with some effort, and their fitness is more flexible than the other two types. Recommended ratio: A more even distribution of macros. Proportions: 40 percent carbs, 30 percent protein, 30 percent fat.
Curvy body type (endomorphs)
Endomorphs have a rounder physique or are full-figured. They struggle to lose fat. They also put on weight easily and tend to have a sluggish metabolism. Recommended ratio: Low-carb, high-fat and high-protein. Proportions: 25 percent carbs, 35 percent protein, 40 percent fat.
Tips for applying macros
Don’t forget the big picture. Remember, the biggest goal is simply eating healthy — giving your body what it needs, and not giving your body more of what it doesn’t need. If you do that, your body will be rewarded.
Don’t obsess about the numbers. Although the breakdown above uses percentages, these are rough guidelines. They also apply to your whole diet, not just one meal, so Cheng says not to get hung up on hitting those numbers precisely. “It’s not about exact percentages or calories,” she says. “Just set up your plate so you come to roughly that ratio.”
Consider an app to help guide you. There are many fitness apps you can use to track macros, such as MyFitnessPal. The ratios are based on the number of calories your particular body frame needs to maintain your weight.
If you’re recovering from the stress of a diet, just take it easy and think about small changes. “Try to be 1 percent better,” Cheng says. “What’s going to matter is consistency. Go meal by meal. Improvement comes with small steps that are consistent every day, so the changes compound like interest.”
If you can do that — and stay consistent — you’ll see results. Sounds less stressful, doesn’t it?