Instead of lecturing about how unhealthy and harmful the effects of following a restrictive diet can be, I think it is better to understand why we are unhappy with our eating habits to begin with. This will allow us to make changes a lot easier and painlessly.
Think of the reason you are struggling with your eating habits and/ or weight. Individuals eat unhealthily and can be overweight for a variety of reasons, falling into any one, or a combination, of the following categories:
Lack of Time
Lack of Knowledge about Nutrition
Social, Travel, and Work
You can see there are many reasons we are overweight or eating unhealthy, yet not one of them can be solved with a “diet”.
What Works and What Doesn’t
The difference between dieting and aiming for a lifestyle change is that when dieting we are trying to fix the cause (the cause being overeating). When we approach our eating habits from a lifestyle perspective we are aiming to fix the underlying reason. We can do this by forming different eating habits and facing our shortcomings while making an effort to change for the better.
Diets do not work because they do not function as a part of your routine, once you are finished with a diet. Because you haven’t learned any real day-to-day way of eating, you will resort back to what you do know, unhealthy eating habits.
Understandably, diets can work if you’re looking for a temporary fix. But it is also important to note that while you trick and confuse your body, eventually it will revert to its old ways, with vengeance. Weight loss will become harder, your body will be mad, your metabolism will be confused, and your brain will be livid because the mental energy and emotional effort it takes to even start a diet is downright draining. Ultimately, lifestyle change is where it’s at.
Forming Healthy Habits, Slowly
Form habits, small at first, notice changes and always work to improve yourself in small ways. Losing weight does not have to be difficult. If you’re ready then it shouldn’t be hard because you’re willing and excited, you aren’t starving yourself or depriving yourself of delicious food. The only exception to the difficulty rule is when it comes to change; we all resist change and find it difficult at some time or another. So when you feel the pain of “I cant do this, I cant make this change”, remember it’s your mind trying to trick you, telling you change its hard. Positively and kindly remind that part of your brain to just shhhhhh. Before you know it, the overwhelming thoughts will pass.
If your goal is weight loss you should be trying to find a regular way of eating that benefits your body and mind. This can take a lot of trial and error, but I can guarantee it will take less time to complete than any diet you’ve tried before, and it will last. When considering other diets you usually hem and haw for a period before you start it. With a balanced lifestyle method, you can start right away, and it is not nearly as painful as a restrictive diet. For example, you can start right now by replacing one glass of sugary or even diet pop with a glass of water, just ONE. Do that for a week and see how you feel, it might help adjust your attitude towards what a pain drinking water can be, even if only by a small amount. Before you know it, the results add up. Seriously, think about how much time and emotional energy we use dieting to lose weight only to put it back on. After that, we feel bad about ourselves AGAIN… long enough to think hmm maybe I’ll try that diet again, and repeat the lose and gain cycle, it can go on for years at a time.
When we set small goals it truly makes the whole process much easier and less overwhelming. Another small goal you can set yourself (non-food related) is to stop the negative self-talk; this can really bring you down and set you up for failure. It leads to depression and feelings of self-worthlessness, both can lead to eating the wrong foods and overeating. When you start making small lifestyle changes, be prepared for serious long-term success. Everyone leads a different life, has different pasts, different ways of dealing with their issues, and move at different paces, so you must also prepare to be patient. It doesn’t have to be painful, take it slow, and keep the positive thoughts flowing.
Speaking personally, I have reached a few milestones following these mantras I have just described to you. I was an overweight adolescent; around 14 I began to take accountability for my eating and achieved a normal weight. This however slowly turned into an obsession and I developed body image issues. Fast forward another few years and I regained a healthier image of myself, began eating normally, quit smoking after 9 years and finished my first half marathon. Your mind is a powerful place; start there and the rest will follow. Be realistic, know if your goals are healthy, and always strive for happiness.
Make It A Lifestyle
We all are at our best when we are feeding our bodies the right things. Healthy living is more than your pant size; it makes its way into our thinking, our choices, and everyday actions. We all thrive on a balanced diet with food from different food groups. MAKE THIS YOUR LIFESTYLE. Eat well, make small changes, and another important point I have not yet touched on… EXERCISE. Even if its 2 days a week for 30 minutes to start out with. Everything adds up and one day it will all come together, easily and effortlessly. Here are a few final reasons why we should be choosing the lifestyle route, and how we can get there:
What Happens When We Choose Diet Over Lifestyle?
- Starvation as a diet method doesn’t work because your body becomes unsure of when it will get food next and starts storing your fat instead of burning it
- Other restrictive diets (carbs, protein) can result in nutrient deficiencies, and cause cravings for other unhealthy foods
- Plenty of wasted time by losing and gaining weight
- Setting a poor example for others
Healthy Lifestyle Tips
- Become more in touch with your body’s natural hunger and satiety cues to achieve a healthy weight by eating slower than you usually do (not necessarily slowly, just slower).
- Drink more water while eating – this will help you realize whether you’re actually hungry or just thirsty, something that took me a long time to figure out and even have a hard time keeping track of now
- Get enough sleep to reduce stress and the likelihood of overeating
- Learn what a healthy portion is, stick to it!
In my last post I discussed regular dieting, it is important to make sure you’re receiving proper nutrients if you plan on changing your diet and especially if you’re eliminating a food group. Build a relationship with your doctor and talk about your concerns.