Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, vegan, juice cleanses, raw food, gluten-free…there are a lot of diets out there. Every one of them markets itself as the “right” one for you, and does so brilliantly. You’re unhealthy because you eat carbs (Atkins). No, because you eat the wrong kind of carbs (South Beach). Actually, you don’t eat enough meat/animal fat (Paleo). Whoa, you shouldn’t be eating anything from an animal ever (vegan)! Time to “detox” (juice cleanses) and make sure your body has enough “living” enzymes (raw food). And wheat is definitely ruining your digestive system (time to go gluten-free)!
I don’t believe in defining any food as inherently bad – REAL food, that is. Allergies and sensitivities are one thing, but food itself is not bad. In fact, real food is delicious, energizing and satisfying. More to come on food vs. not food; right now we need to reclaim the four-letter D-word.
Did you know that the word “diet” comes from the Greek root “diaita” meaning “way of living”? A diet is not what you don’t eat, not a fad, and not something you “go on” to lose weight. The way we currently use the word doesn’t work for me, and TRAINER NEWSFLASH: it doesn’t work for anyone. “Diets” fail almost 100% of the time. Weight is re-gained, and you have “failed”. But a “diet” was never the answer, failure was inevitable, and it’s not your fault. You’ve been set up. Most people do not realize this. The diet and weight loss industry is worth over 20 BILLION dollars for a reason, and that’s because a lot of people buy the hype. We buy it because we need an answer to this problem of how to eat, enjoy our food, and stay healthy in the age of technology. How on earth are we supposed to do all three at once?
Conventionally, “diets” are a temporary solution to an ongoing problem, so first we’ve got to re-define what a diet is.
Diet (n.) : what you eat.
Everything is permissible to eat, but not everything is beneficial to eat.
Some things, especially in large amounts, can cause metabolic harm (soda, beer, and refined sugar come to mind). Does that mean you need to limit those things? Absolutely. Does it mean you can never enjoy those things? Absolutely not.
I want eating to be a pleasurable experience and I believe it should be. As a trainer, I often fine-tune how my clients are eating. Recommendations always depend on lifestyle and goals, and eating is mindful and balanced with physical activity to derive maximum enjoyment. It’s so much better than any depressing “diet” of deprivation, and all it takes is curiosity and a few simple guidelines.
The best news of all: it’s sustainable forever.
There’s no “going off the diet” and re-gaining what you’ve worked so hard to lose. No “failing” and feeling badly about yourself. Just simplicity and balance. Savoring and splurging. Feeding your body and mind what you need to function at your best.
So no more “diets”! Eat mindfully, and be happy.
[Photo: Lyon Street; San Francisco, CA]