For almost all of my adult life, I’ve been on one diet or another. From Atkins to Alkaline, No-Fat Food to No Food, I’ve pretty much done them all…along with some crazy creations I came up with myself. The two dominating emotions I feel during dieting are misery (if I am “good”) and guilt (if I am “bad”).
Right now, I’m lean and happy and give in to my cravings. So what diet am I on? None. I don’t do diets anymore and I never will. I don’t think diets work in the long-term. They have a long list of things we can’t eat, and we–as is human nature–tend to focus on what we don’t or can’t have. The diet may go well for a while and the results get us excited. But then there’s that dark side to will-power involving the foods we love. There comes that time when we let down our guard or even say “to hell with this, I deserve it!” and we give in to the forbidden fruit…or rather, glazed donuts, Häagen-Dazs ice cream, sour cream and onion potato chips, cheesy fries, whatever favorite comfort food gets us salivating.
If we didn’t see those forbidden foods as “bad,” we might not feel the unrelenting gravitational pull to them. We might only have had a little bit because “no big deal, I can always have more another day.” But because these foods are a “no-no,” we tell ourselves “it’s just this once” and swear to “be good tomorrow.” So we end up eating the whole thing…perhaps even additional “naughty” food until we feel sick to our stomachs and disgusted with ourselves. A couple of these binges in a short period of time and we end up right back where we started on the scale. Or worse.
It’s not the diets, per se, that are the problem. It’s what goes on between our ears that messes everything up. The incessant chatter, negative messages, and empty promises we tell ourselves beat us up psychologically. Most people who follow diets have the mentality that food is evil, fats should be avoided, and deprivation equals weight loss. These thoughts are draining, self-sabotaging, untrue, and set us up for a lifetime of food misery! Here’s the thing about the four-letter word FOOD: It’s not like other addictions or vices…we can’t eliminate it altogether. We need food to live, so the only way to get recovery is to change our way of thinking about it and rebuild our relationship.
Food is a very important aspect of life because it gives us the energy to live and thrive, but it should not be the obsessive focus of life. Food should enhance life’s experiences, not be looked upon as the devil in yummy clothing. It’s essential to find a way of eating we can live with…not just for a week, a month, or half a year, but for a lifetime.
Since we are all unique and our bodies have different needs, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Trusting ourselves to find the right foods can be terrifying since most are accustomed to following what someone else has deemed the “correct” eating plan. However, learning and experimenting and discovering foods on which you thrive is a very liberating and empowering experience.
Judging foods as “bad” or “good” is unproductive; the better perspective is knowing one food will nourish us more than another because of it’s ingredients, nutrients, and how it was grown or made. When we eat well 80% of the time, choosing less nutritious food is OK. It doesn’t signify failure. We have to live our lives and sometimes that not-so-nourishing food is the only thing to satisfy us or is the only option available. And that’s no big deal because we get right back to eating the way that supports our bodies and minds.
I encourage us to stop playing the role of life-time prisoners in the confines of a diet, and instead, become free citizens enjoying food as a part of life and reaping its rewards. Doesn’t that sound like a great way to live?