South Beach. Vegan. Atkins. Ideal Protein. Keto. Paleo. Whole30. Plant Based. Vegetarian. Blood Type. Raw. Fasting. Juice Cleanses. The list goes on!! And yet, there’s still no definitive answer out there that can tell you which one of these diets is best. Want to know why that is? Because every single human body is wired differently, so what might work for one person, may not work at all for another person. But more importantly…
Who actually wants to be on a diet? Pretty much no one. No one really wants to put foods on a ‘no fly list,’ because food is awesome! Food is delicious. Food feeds us physiologically and emotionally. Food brings people together. And, more obviously, we need food to survive. Without it, we’ll die.
If it isn’t obvious yet, you won’t be getting a green light from me to start your next fad diet. What I will provide you with, though, is some knowledge about why I am so anti-dieting.
Have you ever heard of the phrase diet mentality? How about boundary setting?
So what is a diet mentality, you ask? Some researchers have said that a diet mentality is actually created by the act of dieting itself, and can be described as a self-destructive pattern of thinking and behaving. A couple of examples:
‘I’m going to treat myself because I earned it during my workout’
‘I’m going to have XYZ, because tomorrow, I start my diet’
‘I’m not allowed to have *sugar, alcohol, carbs, caffeine, fun, a life* so I can lose weight’
All of these have something in common, restrictive behavior. In addition to that, this type of behavior is one that typically cannot be maintained, which can [and usually does] lead to a vicious cycle of shame, guilt and more restriction, deprivation and will-power issues. Know what doesn't do that? Adding more healthy and nutritious things to your life, and your plate. Imagine that, a life where you are encouraged to eat more!
Now, let me be clear that there are definitely situations where restriction or abstaining is necessary – for example food allergies [not to be confused with food intolerances], medical situations, etc. But for your average person who does not have to worry about those things, there is actually a way to reduce or even abstain from certain types of foods in a healthy way – and this – is called boundary setting.
I will point out the key factor in boundary setting. Verbiage. You know, the way that you say something. You may be asking yourself how describing something could possibly help you lose weight… So here are two major tidbits of information for you to chew over.
1. Morality of food – the way that we describe food can be summed up by many of us into “good foods” and “bad foods.” The “good foods” are those things that are healthy for us, and the “bad foods” are those other things that are not so healthy for us. Why are we so keen on labeling foods as good and bad, anyway? The more we can get away from using ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and replacing it with descriptions on a spectrum from ‘unhealthy’ or ‘less-nutritious’ to ‘healthy’ or ‘nutritious,’ will take us all one step closer to taking morality out of food. A cookie is neither good, nor bad; a cookie is plain and simply, a cookie. It’s a type of food. It’s made up of macronutrients just like every other food on the planet. So eating a cookie does not make you a better person or a worse person, you are still going to be a person after you eat it; so let’s get away from berating ourselves for breaking some invisible moral code if we choose to eat something that is less healthy for us. A great way to do that is…
2. Empowering Statements – can be defined as making statements to increase the degree of autonomy in order to enable one to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way; acting on one’s own authority. In summary, actions [and statements] that can be reflected in ways that represent self-nourishment and self-empowerment. This means changing the language from “I can’t have…” to “I'm choosing .. for my health…” or “I’m choosing not to have this because it doesn’t nourish me” – by putting the power back into yourself and less into the food. This always gives you a choice in what is going to feel the most supporting/respectful/nourishing [for your body] in any given moment. These type of statements help rid the concept of ‘will-power weaklings’ while encouraging conscious choices, along with truly owning your decisions. *The same goes for choosing an unhealthier food - just acknowledge what you are doing in an affirming statement such as "I'm choosing to have this ice-cream" without trying to validate why.*
While we are at it, let’s take the concept of empowering statements and apply it to the reason you’ve put yourself on a diet to begin with. Go ahead, make a list of the reasons why you are on a diet – and be honest. Get down and deep into the nitty gritty, and then take a look at your list and circle which reasons come from a place of life-affirming intentions rather than life-depleting intentions. If your list is predominantly life-depleting, it may be time to reevaluate some things.
Also, before we wrap up here, diets were intended to be a short term thing. So for those of you who have been an on/off dieter for your whole life, you have missed the point entirely (and this is because the diet industry has done a fantastic job of convincing you that you aren't perfect just the way you are and this next diet is the answer).
And lastly a little bit of my two cents - diets are freaking miserable. The only thing I can say with certainty is that life is not nearly as enjoyable when food restrictions are in place. Unless a medical professional has placed you on one, diets really don't need to be a thing, because making informed choices can actually be enough.
Okay, I lied, this is the last thing. If you are choosing to eat a certain way for the sake of your health, you can just call it your lifestyle, you don't need to explain or validate it or try and put a label on it. It doesn't make you any cooler or more relatable to say "I'm vegetarian" or "I'm Paleo" - pick the appropriate foods, enjoy eating them and call it a day because no one should really give an eff about how you identify as an eater.
I teach a no-diet-diet method in my Beyond Eating course, which really dives into the why behind your food habits and motivations. Check it out here.
* If you have a few minutes, watch this funny video about diets. Head to your Facebook account, and search ‘bachelor diet.’ Look for a video shared by Eat To Perform, by Leann and Michelle *