There’s No Such Thing as a Perfect Diet

you are what you eatToday I was sitting in the spin studio, getting ready to start class and I struck up a conversation with the woman to my right who had great tattoos on her arms and back.

Ann told me that she got her work at a time in her life when she was really into tattoo subculture, but that some of the ink covered by her clothes was stuff she didn’t care for as much anymore. She said that even though she didn’t regret the bad tattoos, she wouldn’t get them now.

It got me thinking about the different ways we develop our identities, and that those forays into different subcultures leave marks that shape who we become.

Tattoos, hairstyles, fashion – and diets.

How we practice food is just as personal as religion, as our style, as our choice in pets.

While getting rid of extra pounds does wonderful things for our long-term health, I am positive that the journey we go on to get there is even more important than the end goal.

Full immersion in a Diet will give you great information about your body, new food ideas and help you develop who you are, but taking it too seriously for too long can be limiting – and detrimental to your health.

What troubles me about “diets as identities” isn’t the good foods that many of them include, it’s the good foods they EXCLUDE.

Each diet has a particular set of parameters that eliminate or restricts specific foods – some of them healthy, whole foods. Some of the foods that get eliminated contain nutrients you can’t live without for an extended period of time without suffering some consequences in how you feel or function.

For example, quinoa – a seed-like grain – is just bursting with manganese, a nutrient that plays a key role in carbohydrate and fat metabolism, bone health and enzyme function.

Manganese is also found in spelt, brown rice, garbanzo beans, rye, soybeans, oats – and spinach, pineapple and pumpkin seeds.

Imagine if you started following a diet that eliminated all grains and legumes, and you weren’t eating enough, or any other dietary sources of manganese. You might find yourself craving chocolate (which also contains manganese) and wondering why.

Manganese is just one simple example, but the bottom line is this: if you are restricting your consumption of specific whole foods for an extended period of time because your diet says they will make you fat, or they’re somehow bad for you, you might miss the signs your body is sending you that it NEEDS those nutrients.Nutrients it’s not getting from the foods your diet does include.


While the long term effects of nutrient deficiency might not be as visible as a bad tattoo, they can certainly impact your life in a big way.

While I get letters about all kinds of side effects from different diets, one of the most common complaints I hear from people is about their sugar (and sometimes chocolate) cravings.

They tell me that their diet is super clean – that they’ve been counting calories diligently, or following something like  paleo, vegan, vegetarian, etc religiously – but they’re struggling with control around sweet stuff.  They blame themselves, suffer from negative self-talk, and obsess over every bite, every calorie taken in to the point where food stops becoming a fun, joyful experience and starts to feels like work.

cartoon courtesy of
cartoon courtesy of

This is not to disparage any of the diets out there. This is a cautionary tale to remind you to listen to your body over listening to a book/show/person.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that I post recipes that fall into a variety of diets like vegan, paleo, vegetarian and raw, and/or are gluten and dairy free.

I LOVE FOOD, and I love looking into different diets for cooking inspiration.

I want you to think of diets as paint colors on a palatte; take a little from each to create great art – and don’t get stuck on one color.

In the “color spectrum” of recipes and foods from the different eating styles I enjoy, there is one common thread that ties them all together that you should consider when it comes to optimal health. That is the NUTRIENT COMBINATION in your meals. Not calories – nutrients.

These tips will help keep your blood sugar stable, your muscles fueled, your body in fat-burn mode, and your brain happy:

  • Be sure to eat enough variety of simple and complex carbohydrates from whole food sources (not refined) throughout the day, and that your whole grains have been either soaked, sprouted or fermented to ensure some enzymatic breakdown, and optimal absorption and digestion.
  • Eat complete protein with every meal.
  • Include healthy fats and a variety of greens throughout the day and week.
  • Bake your own goodies and treats using recipes that are based on whole foods, not refined or processed ingredients.
  • Treat yourself on occasions of your choosing – and notice how much easier it is to enjoy the experience when you don’t feel deprived.

Forget about what diet it comes from and seek out recipes that include the nutrients your body actually needs to function like the high-performance machine it is.

Now, back to those food cravings, because I want to address the many questions I get about them: the body craves sugar and other sweet things for many reasons.

It may be because it needs energy and nutrients that it’s not getting enough of from any of the other foods in your daily intake.

Sugar cravings can also be associated with comfort or emotion, and are often triggered by stress. If you’re trying to follow a specific diet and restricting yourself endlessly, that in itself is a kind of stress.

If you’re eliminating specific foods and not replacing those nutrients in other ways, how can you be sure your body isn’t having cravings to meet that nutrient need?

Photo Feb 24, 10 07 17This is something you NEED to know: your body self-regulates when you eat to tell you it’s full either by volume or by nutrient density.

That’s why what you feed yourself matters so much.

We all know what volume-full feels like – that’s when you’re stuffed.  Refined sugar, flour and processed and packaged foods made from them are stripped of many nutrients.

You will struggle to stop eating when you eat that kind of “food” because your body won’t hit the nutrient density meter.

But switch to whole foods in combinations that include the nutrients mentioned above, and you will notice how satisfied you feel after a meal – and throughout the day.

No diet guarantees you’re healthy. No number on the scale, no pant size and nothing your mom says define it either. You’re healthy when you feel awesome every day and are the Master of what you take in – not the other way around.

I’m not telling you to stop your diet.

I’m asking you to increase your honest awareness of how the food you eat is making you feel on a regular basis.

Is it working? Do you have stable energy, get hungry a few times a day, enjoy dessert or cocktails occasionally without needing them daily, crush your workouts, have regular B.M.’s (bowel movements), have clear eyes, good-smelling breath and rarely get sick?

Or do you often feel bloated, have gas, get headaches, have bad breath, have irregular B.M.’s, skin breakouts, weight fluctuation, hormone fluctuation, erratic energy and consistent sugar cravings?

You got this amazingly complex machine of a body at birth, and it is its own animal.

You’re subject to things beyond your control like gender, your age at this moment, race, and unique genetic composition that makes you tall, short, big boned, small framed and everything in between.

What you are in control of are the experiments you apply to yourself to determine the optimal fuel for you. Just because a particular diet helped you lose 10 pounds a year ago doesn’t mean you should keep following it if your body is talking to you with any of those signs I mentioned above.

If something isn’t working or doesn’t feel right: adjust, change, keep seeking, keep learning, keep trying.

You can’t get it wrong  when you’re eating whole foods and are willing to try a variety of them.

I like to change things up and check back in with my body every few years to see if it tolerates a food that it used to react poorly to.

Don’t limit yourself, and don’t be afraid to mix things up. Taking out common inflammatory foods, even for a short time can make a big difference in your body’s ability to process nutrients.

Many of my personal recipes are gluten and dairy free, but I go back and forth with those foods in my life because they’re not bad foods – it’s just that eating them constantly and all the time can stress out the body’s processing center.

“The main “difference” I noticed immediately after starting the Body Fuel System was that I stopped craving sugar all the time. I still would feel a craving every now and then (especially during emotional moments) but because my body was finally “adequately fueled” with complex carbs and proteins and veggies on a regular basis I didn’t feel that desperation for sugar like I used to. I read the Body Fuel System from cover to cover and what I appreciated most was not just the incredible amount of information and advice, but the positive message of self-love and acceptance that Betty Rocker was spreading.

Through her incredible guidance I have learned to love myself and not punish/reward myself with food. Food is my fuel, nothing more, nothing less. Thanks to the nutritional philosophies in the Fuel System I feel as though I finally get it. I don’t feel like I’m on a “diet”. In fact, I feel amazingly nourished all the time! The difference is that since I’m prepping my meals at the beginning of each week/day and actually paying attention to everything that goes into my body, I feel happier and more in control with my life. It has even made me a better friend, team player, sister and teacher. “
-Ashley G.

Like Ashley says, I practice healthy eating as a system – that’s the Body Fuel System – to get a variety of whole foods in my body every day and every week in the most efficient way I can without feeling restricted.  Don’t define yourself by your Diet – define your diet as an ever-evolving SYSTEM based on the results you get through self-experimentation, adventurous cooking, and the enjoyment of real, whole food.

“I am not teaching you anything. I just help you to explore yourself.”

-Bruce Lee


  • Sonia

    I agree. It is so true that you have to listen to your body and make sure you are fueling it properly and some restrictive diets may do the complete opposite. While you may lose pounds, you may be stressing your body unnecessarily. Great post! You always have great info!

    • BettyRocker

      Yes!! Exactly Sonia. It’s that unnecessary stress that really worries me….it’s not just the weight loss that matters, it’s your long term health.

  • Vicente Bolisig

    Your article could not have said it better! My sweetheart @shannondee76 made me aware of it on Instagram after I was feeling bad for having a simple fiber bar here at my firehouse. I had felt like I let her down and felt guilty since I could have had her prepared meal which was Wild Salmon, Broccolini and Sweet potato!
    She reminded me I still worry too much about my intake and forget we workout religiously almost everyday of the week. She really has a nurturing,loving and caring way and I am so lucky to finally have that in my life. I’m working the second half of a 48 hour shift and she packed me 3 healthy balanced meals plus what I need for 3 green smoothies per day! I’m the envy of the fellas here and she joins me here for a kettlebell workout when we can.
    We both have a mission to eat clean and live a healthy life for as long as we possibly can. And as you said, we can only control what we put in our mouths so we should make the right choices. When asked what “diet” we’re on, Shannon reminds me to say it isn’t a diet but “clean eating” and I like to add “clean living”! So many temptations here at the firehouse like cookies,donuts and ice cream. I’ve trained myself to eat my healthier choices and have a green smoothie instead.
    I am looking forward and excited as she and I together with our Instagram friends and other motivational and knowledgeable sources share foods, thoughts and ideas as we all strive towards our goal,
    Thank you for all you do..


    • BettyRocker

      Wow, you guys sound like an amazing team!!!! Thanks for being a firefighter, you are so appreciated!!!
      Couldn’t agree with you more, it’s a lifestyle, not a diet. It’s really hard to avoid those processed foods – they’re always around. I guess it’s kind of like being around anything that used to be a big part of your life – you develop a different mindset once you know how bad it was for you.
      -Betty Rocker

  • Shannon Chandler

    Just to add to what my sweetheart said: he failed to mention that he’s 46 years and BEAUTIFUL! 10% BF and the sexiest firefighter I’ve seen. But he tends to over think things at times. Even forgets what mission he’s on. But the mission is to live to be 100, a healthy 100. And I/we believe eating clean and working out to build lean muscle will help us do so.

    Our convo this morning was in short telling him to just relax!! Let me love and take care of him! Stop obsessing with food. It’s our way of life not just a phase. Your blog nailed it perfectly. There isn’t a perfect “diet”. Truthfully they prolly all “work” but leave very us unsatisfied. I think he is sorta stuck in the “diet” mindset. Meaning he beats hisself up for anything resembling a “cheat meal” but that’s what dieting can do to you. Such a mind trip really.

    On a side note, I’m no where near your fitness level but might someday get there. Or might not. And that’s ok to me. I’ve learned to just enjoy the journey. The transformation I see weekly is good enough for me! We can strive to be better but must feel good with what we have to work with! And thanks to @jojobombero I do. Life can be good at 30% BF or 5% as long as you’re working towards your goal.

    PS… I’m an “all in” kinda girl. So clean eating means just that to me. What’s your take on processed whey protein powders? Everyone uses them and it seems not to hinder but I do worry about the long term side affects the chemicals involved in the making might be causing us. I have limited his supplements drastically. But just wondered what you might think?

    • BettyRocker

      Hey Shannon,
      Thanks for writing. Your mindset is exactly what I would describe as HEALTHY – and it’s so great to hear that you share it with your man. I used to be a lot like him, had a really hard time getting out of that diet mentality, but the more I studied food and kept experimenting the more I understood how valuable those diets had been in my self experimental journey. One of the reasons I’m an equal opportunities recipes poster (lol) with so many different kinds of eating styles is because I really find great things in all of them.
      As for the whey protein powder question, that’s a good one. First, if you tolerate dairy they work fine. I personally do not, so I opt for the plant-based protein powders like the Raw by Garden of Life, or Vega. When it comes to whey, you want to look for the better quality whey, which will be labeled ‘Whey protein isolate’ or ‘pure whey protein isolate’, which has very low carbs and minimal fat.
      Avoid brands that have excess sugar added in the form of fructose, dextrose and maltadextrin.
      Look for the word ‘hydrolysis.’ Whey protein hydrolysates undergo an expensive process that creates the smallest molecular structure and the most easily digested protein.
      Additionally, nutritional and brewer’s yeast are good sources of protein that also contain selenium, chromium and B-complex vitamins that most people need.
      Hope you have a great day!
      -Betty Rocker

  • Mara

    I really agree with this article. In sept at 23% bf I started clean eating and training. I wanted results so badly and I wanted them fast. So I made the decision to cut out all carbs ( minus fruit) and keep my calories around 1300. I got down to 17% . But I was always hungry and craving sweets. I would make clean treats for my cravings, but couldn’t make eat them in moderation. I batch of clean brownies would last only several days. And worst my body refused to go below 17% it was desperately hanging on to fat. My muscles also seemed to stop responding. I would lift heavy, feel the soreness, but stopped seeing a change in definition.
    Several weeks ago I decided to sign up for the npc bikini comp and started working with a nutritionist. Although the plan that I am on is very strict and takes a lot will power, I am eating almost twice as much as before, and incorporating complex carbs and healthy fats as an addition to my protein in every meal. I still get most of my nutrients from raw whole food sources , but incorporate protein powder. It has been a very short time but I feel such a difference! I’m not starving all the time, of course I still have my sweet tooth, but my cravings are satisfied with the fruit I have after working out or even a sweet potato. Best of all, I can see my body changing , although I eat so much more , I wake up with a flatter stomach. I can’t wait to see how my muscles respond , and the next 6 months preparing for my comp.

    • BettyRocker

      Mara!!! Thank you SO much for sharing your story. It is so much like what I have heard from so many of the people who write me. Our bodies are so smart, they are protecting us by holding onto that fat when they think we’re starving it of the healthy, energy dense nutrients it needs.
      The last time I got horrible sugar cravings and couldn’t lose my belly fat was when I went Paleo for 6 weeks. I absolutely love so many things about the paleo diet, but I strongly disagree with their elimination of grains. Grains are an important source of nutrients and energy – the problem is that in our modern fast food world, we don’t prepare them right. To fully absorb their nutrients, we need to soak, sprout or ferment them so that enzymatic breakdown starts and we can absorb the nutrients they contain – rather than suffering the ill effects they can cause when their protective outer coating stays intact and actually binds with other nutrients in our intestines, stripping them from our bodies (whew that was a long-ass sentence lol).
      Your current eating style sounds like a Fuel System. More power to you, and wishing you best of luck in your competition!!!!

  • Mara

    I’m so glad to hear you say all that! I tried to cut carbs in order TO help reveal my stomach muscles! It was so frustrating to be so close but still see a layer of fat! Im glad to hear you say that you had the same problem when you went paleo.
    He is having me eat oats, quinoa, sweet potato and and brown rice as of now. It’s still a little scary, but it’s mostly all in my head. Thank you so much for posting this article and being an inspiration!