As a dietitian, for as long as I can remember, I can recall the world being inundated with advertisements for diets, weight loss gimmicks, MLM "miracle" companies, dietary supplement fads...you name it, it's probably been pushed, or been called the "it" thing at one point or another. So many of my clients, friends, coworkers, even myself at times, have bought into these habits, only to find that these plans or schemes really weren't sustainable and those who tried them, undoubtably, gained more weight in the end. Ugh.
For years, we've yo-yo-ed up and down. Starting a super restrictive diet, going gung-ho for a few weeks, then, when it becomes unsustainable for the long-term, we inevitably fail, get down on ourselves, often binge, re-gain the weight super fast from our slowed-down diet-inflicted metabolism, get sad, desire to again lose weight, decide to go on a new diet, rinse and repeat. Double UGH.
Where does it end? Do we need to "diet"? The answer to me is...unless you're on a specific monitored plan to meet your goals or needing to really manage a medical diagnosis with diet, the answer is No. Nope. Nada. Not Gonna Work.
This vicious dieting cycle is killing us. For some reason, we Americans are very "all or nothing"; the most polar of societies. We are either: on a massively strict diet or balls-to-the-wall eating all of the foods. Why can't we find that middle line? The concept of moderation, finding the balance, sounds so simple, yet it's near impossible for most. Why?
The truth is that counting calories, weighing foods, adding up our almonds...that behaviour isn't sustainable. And...isn't sustainable what we really need? It's known that going on calorie-restricting plans can cause the body to go into a "storing mode" of sorts. One that holds on to what it's got in order to maximize the chance of survival. In essence, your metabolism ultimately slows down with strict dieting. This is the opposite of what we want, and yet, it's all that we Americans seem to know how to do. There must be a better way, no?
Crazily enough, the answer seems to be this: instead of treating our bodies like they aren't good enough so we go to extremes, maybe we should instead focus on the potential that our bodies actually have; to blow our minds with how good we can feel. Feeding our bodies with the goal to nourish. Moving our limbs, our core with the goal to feel strength and movement and awe in what we can accomplish. Hydrate our cells to make them feel alive with possibility. The power is in us to choose how to treat our bodies. If we, just for a second, can forget about the way that we look and just focus on what we can potentially DO. We have the opportunity to SHATTER the glass ceiling that only-dieting creates for us. We really do. YOU do.
Focus your energy on feeding your body what it is meant to consume for nourishment. Not 100% of the time; that's not sustainable. There needs to be time for hot dogs and french fries, ice cream and cakes. Those foods are a huge part of certain social interactions; fun. We need it. Our mental health, our sanity is worth a lot. So much. Think of a loose 80/20 ratio. 80% of the time, focus on eating to nourish you body for what it NEEDS, instead of eating to lose weight. 20% of the time, DO IT UP. On the average day, the normal grind type of day - eat to nourish. Don't know what that looks like or means? Find me. I'll help you. On the special and exciting days, like Friday night pizza night or a friend's BBQ or a holiday party, have SO MUCH FUN and join in! Our time on this world is more important than moping in the corner at these events, trying hard to pretend that your celery stick is a calzone.
Life is too short to aim for perfection. Most diets sort of demand this of us, but the brutal truth is that...we're human. Humans are imperfect. We cannot maintain so-called perfection. Perfect eating, perfect exercise, perfect jobs, perfect motherhood. No, No, No. We can't. To expect this of ourselves only leads to feelings of failure and poor feelings of self. Those probably won't do us any good, now will they?
So...go. Eat to nourish. Focus on whole, real foods, colors, textures, flavors. Look for them. Savor them. Enjoy them. Try new things and delight in flavors unknown. The world is an explosion of delicious, nourishing foods, ripe for your picking!
And, go, move your body. Take a walk and stare at the trees, chase after your children in play, build and grow muscles, take a class, join a fun gym, enjoy the energy and stamina that you'll gain. Hike to a high peak and stare at the world. Your body is utterly amazing. Take one class or read one book on cellular biology and you'll be blown away by what lies inside. Take good care of you. Follow your dreams, not your desired waistline. Do these things and you'll be surprised at the side effects of your efforts. You may find that you'll end up just where you always wanted to be...but this time, instead of defeated, you'll have a pocketful of life, love and eye-opening experiences that you've gathered along the way. Love. Love yourself. You're the only "you" that we've got.
You. Are. Amazing.