We’ve all been there before. The constant yo-yoing of jumping on a diet. You lose some weight. You realize it’s not sustainable (usually when your cravings get so intense you go waaaaaay overboard). You gain back the weight – and then some.
It’s a vicious cycle and often portrayed as normal or even necessary across many magazines and weight loss websites. IT’S NOT.
Diet is a four-letter word
We even learn it as children – but it’s not fun to say. It’s a source of anxiety, pressure, guilt, and stress for many.
How often are we faced with these ‘sneaky negatives’?
“Fat burning foods to help you drop weight fast!”
“Lose 10 pounds in 10 days!”
“Try this diet for a flat belly!”
These seemingly harmless, simple statements subconsciously make you think you need to eat less, or follow some crazy restrictive plan to become healthy.
Who remembers the Cabbage Soup Diet or Master Lemonade Cleanse popular just a few years ago? And who even wanted to eat cabbage soup or drink peppered lemonade for days on end? Yuck.
The icing on the diet cake (literally) is the prevalence of pre-packaged processed foods. I get the allure – they’re fast, easy, and convenient. Who wants to chop and cook grass-fed ground beef, Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes when you can throw a meal in the microwave and – BAM! – be eating and ready to go in 3 minutes? Why make an organic egg sandwich when you can hit the drive-through for a McGriddle?
Eating healthy, organic, whole foods is expensive and time-consuming…right?
Instead of looking at healthy eating and exercise as an expense, you need to view it as an investment. The average cost of medications that many older adults use for managing high blood pressure, diabetes, and other chronic issues is increasing rapidly – in fact, a report by AARP showed a 6.4% increase in 2015.
“Ok, but I’m young, I’m not worried about medications when I’m elderly!”
I know it’s tempting to think that…but what you do today is the foundation for your wellness as you age. Your wellness is like your retirement savings. Imagine if you save 10 cents each day versus $10 a day for the next 20 years – which one will leave you in a better position when it comes time for you to retire?
When you focus on long-term wellness with your nutrition and exercise, the results will leave you in a much better place as you age. More mobility, more ability, less illness, less pain.
Breaking the diet mental chains
You know that less-than-stellar feeling waking up after a late night out? Your brain feels foggy, doing anything – even reaching for that glass of water on your nightstand – feels like an insurmountable task?
A lack of proper nutrition and poor food choices does the same thing, except it happens slowly that your body adapts and you don’t even notice you feel awful because you always feel that way – it becomes normal to you.
Most people don’t even realize they feel terrible until they clean up their eating habits and begin to feel the energy and vitality that true health and wellness brings you!
You know the saying ‘you are what you eat’? It’s literally true. The food you choose becomes the building blocks for everything in your body – bones, muscle, skin, even brain cells. How imaginative and creative do you think a brain built on chips and cookies will be? What about one created from whole egg, spinach, and grass-fed beef?
Eating nutritious foods isn’t just about being a good-looking physique, it’s about building a healthy body, down to each and every cell. That time and money seems a little more well invested, doesn’t it?
If you don’t feel your best, you can’t perform your best, and you can’t give your best. So how can you stop dieting and start finding your health?
Change your mindset
Get off the scale
A number on the scale does not define your health. Instead of focusing on weight as the indicator to health, here are some things that are much more important:
Satiety: If you are starving right after you eat, it could be a sign you are missing key nutrients. A solid meal should leave you feeling comfortably satisfied (key word here is comfortably – you don’t want to be in discomfort or pain from overeating).
Mood: Do you feel crabby, groggy, and ready for a nap after lunch? Or do you feel satisfied and ready to take on the next thing that comes your way? How are you feeling throughout the day? Does your mood stay consistent, or do you have a lot of ups and downs?
Energy: Do you get huge waves and crashes of energy? Do you often feel lethargic and foggy? Your food should provide you with good energy that gradually decreases throughout the day, without leaving you gasping for caffeine like a fish out of water.
Sleep: Our bodies function on a circadian rhythm (awake during the day, and asleep at night), managed by the hormones cortisol and melatonin. Cortisol – the body’s stress hormone, should be active during the day, controlling our energy production and triggering many of our body’s functions. Melatonin – the body’s relaxation hormone – helps regulate your sleep. Consuming too little or too much of some nutrients can intensify or diminish the production of either hormone. This great podcast goes into more detail on how sleep is imperative to our health.
Pain levels: Are you constantly bloated and uncomfortable after a meal? Did you know that some of the foods you are eating could be causing that nagging knee pain or those frequent headaches? Certain foods, or excessive quantities of them, can cause inflammation in your body.
How you feel after eating? Throughout the day? Download the workbook and take a few days to keep track of these things and see how your diet is affecting you.
Get off the damn wagon
“I’m starting my diet on Monday!…again.”
“I fell off the wagon…I just can’t say no to sweets this time of year!”
How many of us have heard or said something like this? This all-or-nothing mentality when it comes to diet is one of the biggest reasons it’s become a four-letter word.
Instead of the on- or off-the-wagon mindset, think of it more as a journey down a path. Sometimes you trip over a cookie or there’s a hill of overeating a little on vacation, but that doesn’t mean you turn around and start from the very beginning! You pick yourself up, dust off the sugar, and keep going down that path to health.
Many of us have a donut for breakfast, think we’ve ruined everything and decide we might as well eat whatever other unhealthy foods we want the rest of the day.
Remember – one bad meal, one bad day, heck even one bad week of less than great food choices isn’t going to kill you (although at a week you might be feeling quite bloated and tired!).
Make nutritious decisions most the time, and you don’t have to worry about the slice of cake or cookie here and there.
Side note: It’s also important to remember that sometimes food isn’t about fueling our bodies – it’s about sharing and enjoying time with those we love and care about. So, eat that pie that grandma makes just for the holidays (just maybe not the whole thing!).
Snowball your habits
Many people try to do a complete 180 when they decide to get healthy. They go from fast food and Netflix every night to a salad and 2 hours at the gym.
And most of these people fail or burn out within a few weeks. Why?
Humans are creatures of habit. Our bodies and minds like routine. They like being stable. When you throw the entire toolbox at it, it quickly tries to get back to where it was before.
You don’t have to go from drive through to meal prep queen overnight. People see the most success when they make small changes that become new habits. Once that small change becomes the norm, add another small change. Then another (the snowball effect).
So where do you even start with these small changes?
Add more veggies: Most people are not eating enough vegetables, which means they’re not getting enough of the important vitamins and minerals that are essential to many of our bodily functions and processes. Deficiencies in these can lead to fatigue, muscle cramps or soreness, feelings of weakness – all things that will significantly impact your quality of life!
Drink more water: Sometimes hunger is just thirst in disguise. Start by swapping one can of soda or one cup of coffee for a cup of water. Generally, you want to consume half your bodyweight (pounds) in ounces daily (ex: a 175-pound person should aim to get 88 ounces of water daily), more if you are extremely active or if it’s extremely hot out. A great way to start is to drink a full glass first thing in the morning – it will help to flush out all the waste and toxins that have built up in your body overnight.
Portion sizes: Yes, a slice of lasagna the size of your head sounds phenomenal, but that doesn’t mean you should do it. And that sad pile of four spinach leaves isn’t doing much for you either. Getting adequate amounts of different food sources ensures your body receives the key nutrients it needs. This great infographic shows how to use your hand as a guide for portion sizes so you don’t have to keep a measuring cup in your purse.
Slow down: How often do you multitask while eating? Whether it’s at our work desk or on the couch, most of us eat while we do something else…which often leads to overeating. Slow down, eat mindfully, enjoy the taste of the food, and chew it completely (near liquid state, not just swallowing your bites whole). This not only helps you digest your food better, but you will also enjoy your meal much more.
Make healthy options readily available: When you reach for a snack, you don’t want to have to spend 20 minutes putting it together. You don’t have to spend your entire Sunday meal prepping, but take a little time to make sure you’ve washed your veggies and fruits, and pre-chop anything you can (like peppers, squash, carrots, or strawberries). You can also portion out servings of things like nuts or granola into small containers or baggies. Now grabbing some berries and almonds is as easy as reaching for a bag of chips and dip.
A journey with no destination
There really is no arrival at optimal health. We are human, so not only do we make mistakes occasionally, but our bodies are constantly changing. What works for us today won’t necessarily work for us in five years, or even next year. Health is a journey and we are always making micro-adjustments. How you choose to eat and exercise should be sustainable over the long-term (hint: if what you’re doing is soooo restrictive and difficult, you couldn’t last the rest of your life doing it, it’s not sustainable).
With small habit changes and an adjustment in your mindset on how you view ‘dieting’, you can set yourself up for a successful lifetime of health.
Download the workbook to learn how your diet is affecting you!