Define Your Diet

The word diet has 2 different meanings.

By one definition, seemingly most followed by today’s culture, diet is “a special course of food to which one restricts oneself.” When it comes to this definition of diet, the words on the street are endless: “Drink this!” “Take that!” “Don’t eat this!” “Complete this challenge!” The list goes on…

Here are the facts: 95% of diets fail, and most will regain their lost weight (or more) in 1-5 years. Dieting, A.K.A. the pursuit of weight loss, is ironically one of the top predictors of future weight gain. If you were given a prescription with a 95% failure rate, would you take that medication? Yet the diet industry tops $60 billion dollars per year, thriving from promising more than it can deliver in terms of weight loss or management. Instead, the diet industry thrives on doing just enough to keep people coming back again and again.

Sure, dieting may lead to temporary weight loss. It also leads to increased risk of poor body image, overeating, binging, and eating disorders. Dieting slows metabolism, causing the body to become more efficient with less food. Additionally, any form of restriction can have emotional and physical consequences not limited to depression, fatigue, weakness, social withdrawal, and irritability. As the Snickers commercials say, “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” So why pay big bucks for temporary weight loss with awful side effects?

Many people feel completely overwhelmed and thoroughly confused by all of the mixed messages and misinformation about nutrition. Sadly, the diet industry tricks people into overriding their body’s internal regulation system leading to disconnect and distrust in their natural ability to eat nutritious food when hungry and stop when full. Feeling as though they’ve tried and failed at it all, they hit diet rock bottom.

Fortunately, there’s a pleasant alternative to that first definition of diet. Diet can also mean “the kinds of foods that a person habitually eats.” A diet doesn’t need to be something a person goes on and off of. There need not be a start and endpoint. Intuitive Eating, a process-based approach to developing a healthy relationship with food, mind, and body, aligns with this definition and has over 70 studies to date citing positive outcomes including greater sense of wellbeing, better glycemic control, decreased BMI, lower risk of chronic disease, and decreased overeating. Intuitive Eating allows people to make food choices that honor their health and taste buds. All foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle provided individuals eat with attunement, noticing the various aspects of how one feels before, during, after eating.

We all have a diet. How is yours best defined? Does your definition require manipulation, elimination, deprivation, and rules or does it allow mindfulness, pleasure, variety, freedom, and attunement when eating? It’s never too late to abandon diets consisting of rigid rules about which foods to restrict and to begin viewing diet as a collection of healthy, whole, and satisfying foods.


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How do you “eat an elephant”, enjoy a burger, and achieve a healthy lifestyle?

National Nutrition Month, How to Eat an elephant, enjoy a burger, and achieve a healthy lifestyle Imagine looking at a juicy hamburger that is piled high with cheese, avocado, veggies, and all the fixin’s. While thinking about how delicious the burger looks, you approach it with one major reservation and ask yourself the tough question: “How in the world am I going to wrap my mouth around that first bite?” You may have a similar feeling when it comes to achieving a healthy lifestyle.

March is National Nutrition Month. I wrote an article last year for Good Health magazine to support the 2015 theme: “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle.” I thought I would repost the article here although this year’s theme is “Savor the flavor of eating right.”

When it comes to nutrition, it is difficult to know how to begin the journey toward healthier eating habits and it’s easy to “miss the forest for the trees” as the proverbial saying goes, especially when we are overwhelmed with mixed or distorted messages about nutrition and overall health.

You wouldn’t give up your hopes of eating that delicious burger just because it seemed too big, would you? Don’t give up on a healthier lifestyle either! While it’s easy to get bogged down wondering about all the details, take a step back and focus on the big picture in order to determine what’s most important and where to set your first goals when it comes to nutrition.

Focus on real food.

Memphis Nutrition Group defines real food as “anything that can be grown or killed.” You can’t get much more straightforward than that definition!  (Thanks, Leslie Schilling!) Are you eating primarily real food or processed food products? Sometimes a healthy lifestyle can be as simple as getting back to the basics when it comes to food selection.

Find a balance.

A healthy lifestyle does not mean thinking in terms of absolutes: all or nothing, good or bad, and “should” or “shouldn’t.” Rather than only having two options, there are many more choices that fall somewhere within the spectrum and provide balance. Finding balance means choosing nutrient-rich, real foods most of the time and sometimes selecting and savoring foods you enjoy regardless of nutrient quality too.

Foster progress, not perfection.

How do you define progress? Progress toward a healthy lifestyle is not always related to the number of pounds lost or the amount of willpower exhibited. No one’s diet or lifestyle will ever be perfect, so try not to judge or be too hard on yourself.

Remember: Habits take time to form and sometimes even longer to break; therefore, the journey to a healthy lifestyle requires patience and acceptance of where you are in the process. How do you “eat an elephant”, enjoy a burger, or achieve a healthy lifestyle? Take one bite at a time, setting realistic goals in order to yield satisfying, lasting results in the end.


 

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Fight the Good Fight: Health Heroes vs. Diet Industry Villains

What makes a hero?

A hero could be someone who saves lives or protects society from evil (like Superman), and a hero could also take the form of the person you strive to be. Either way, a hero is someone who departs from society’s norms to accomplish a greater goal.

Diet Industry & Nutrition Misinformation “Villains”

We live in a fast-paced world where – sadly – diets have become the norm, and the focus has shifted to appearance and numbers (weight, BMI, calorie-counting, etc.) rather than overall health. We are accustomed to obtaining answers to our questions in a single Google search or a quick click on the Internet. Let’s face it…our society prefers simple answers and fast results. Americans have spent billions of dollars supporting the diet industry that emphasizes quick weight loss rather than long-term health. The marketing of diets is alluring, but research suggests the diet industry promises way more than it can deliver in terms of lasting weight management and health.

In addition to easy answers and immediate results, our society takes great interest in food and nutrition; however, nutrition misinformation runs rampant in our culture. Since we’re still going with the “hero” metaphor, you could say the diet industry and nutrition misinformation serve as “villains.” They perpetuate the destructive diet mentality. It seems most nutrition-related messages come from the media, friends, and family, but how often do they come from Registered Dietitians? Furthermore, how many nutrition messages come from nutrition experts who reject diets, instead advocating a real food, non-diet approach?

What would life look like if we became our own heroes, fighting and conquering these “villains” who shamelessly promote the diet mentality?

What if we moved away from focusing on numbers as measures of success and instead focused on health, self-care, and fueling well?

Sharaze Colley, a client, blogger at “Passing Pinwheels”, and certainly a hero in my book writes about her experiences in moving toward health and diet freedom. She states, “I haven’t had to count calories or drastically change my diet. I don’t stress. There’s almost no real limits to what I am ‘allowed’ to eat. It’s nice. And freeing.”

Rejecting diet industry villains does not have to be complicated. In fact, diets usually end up being more complicated than a real food, non-diet approach. Though this approach often takes longer and requires perseverance, it ultimately leads to a lifetime of better health, stronger metabolism, and peace with food.

Colley states, “And that’s the amazing thing. I’m eating more. I’m not starving all the time. Fad dieting tells me the opposite should be happening, that the answer is always ‘eat less, exercise more.’ But that’s not always the case…I’m starting to think it generally isn’t that simple… something I know, but hard to actually live by because of all the messages I get all the time about food being the enemy.”

During the process of rejecting the diet mentality, remember…even Superman had his kryptonite. Likewise, sometimes the number on the scale or the nutrition label can become our kryptonite, blinding us to our progress toward health and peace with food.

Heroes are not immune to doubt, fears, and trials, but they ARE willing to face the things that scare them like moving away from diets and numbers in order to reach a greater goal. Don’t fall victim to the diet mentality another day! Become the hero who stands up to this villain and fights for overall health and peace with food.


*Note* This article was originally written for Good Health Magazine. I made some minor changes before posting here. Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, you may also like: