Raise your hand if you’ve ever been on a diet. It’s likely most of us have, given that we live in an image-obsessed, diet-crazed society and that the quick fix weight loss business is a multibillion-dollar industry. More importantly, did dieting work for you? If it did, were you able to meet your goal and keep the weight off?
Dieting is a hard row to hoe. It’s not conducive to having a social life nor is it uncomplicated for those who prepare meals for others. When we diet, the journey is not as rewarding as the destination. It’s an experiment in deprivation that we subject ourselves to with determination and resolve to “do it this time.” But the percentage of people who achieve their goal via denial and sheer willpower and who maintain this newfound image is very small.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For every strict diet, there is a sense of needing to reward ourselves for our hard work, to pat ourselves on the back with a previously shunned treat. For many who have gotten into their skinny jeans via rigorous restriction, there is a sense of, “Hey, now that I’m at the weight that I want to be, I can eat anything I want.” These scenarios, which are not only understandable, but also natural, cause for many folks a domino effect of reversion to the old ways of eating, and the pounds return, making the dieter feel like a failure.
A Broken System
Diets don’t work. If they did, diet gurus and authors touting “the way” wouldn’t tumble from their podiums and fade into obscurity as most do. According to Sally E. Smith, author of USA Today’s The Great Diet Deception (an oldie but goodie), “In listening to diet and weight loss promoters hawking their programs and products, one would think that permanent thinness is just a phone call or purchase away. If consumers believe the commercial weight loss industry, as most dieters do, a person need only to take a pill, wear a body suit, buy a pre-packaged food plan, or go to weekly meetings to look like a fashion model.”
Assuming that diets work supports the false claim that each of us is identical, that each of us has the same ancestry, body type, activity level, metabolic type, and personal preferences. These factors all shape our matchless bio-individuality and make it impossible for any diet to be all things to all people. According to Joshua Rosenthal, author of Integrative Nutrition, “Nature created us as unique human beings who, while sharing many similarities, are more remarkable for the ways we differ than for the ways we are alike.”
Dieting puts us at war with our natural selves, at war with our desires, our bodies and whatever foods we have labeled as being “bad.” This war is consuming, draining, and separates us from the natural order of living. Marc David, visionary health and nutrition consultant and author of The Slow Down Diet and Nourishing Wisdom states, “Often, in our attempts to rid ourselves of negative food habits, we adopt strategies that make the conflict about having the habit more damaging that the habit itself.”
By assigning foods moral values, we set ourselves up for perpetual anxiety and struggle. In labeling ice cream bad, we invariably desire like mad, making it nearly impossible to resist. We then label ourselves bad for cheating, and the deprivation-guilt-punishment cycle perpetuates.
Hone Your Intuition
In this busy, busy world we live in, it’s so easy to eat on the run and mindlessly consume food to keep the hunger pangs at bay. Intuitive eating involves paying attention to what your body is communicating and eating only when hungry, eating slowly and attentively, and stopping when full.
According to Dr. Andrew Weil, Founder and Director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at the College of Medicine, University of Arizona, “Intuitive eating is akin to the concept of mindful eating, which involves teaching the basic tenets of mindfulness meditation. Eating mindfully simply means slowing down, expressing gratitude for the food you are eating, and paying attention to feelings of fullness. Focusing on why you eat instead of what you eat may turn out to be the best route to healthy and permanent weight control.”
Forget About Quick Fixes
According to Pilar Gerasimo, editor in chief of Experience Life Magazine and author of Experience Life’s Manifesto For Thriving in a Mixed Up World, “In less than two decades, more than 85% of our population will be overweight or obese. No magic diet, powder, pill, or elixir is going to solve the problems we’re wrestling with now. And forking over cash for quick fixes only lines the pockets of the quick-fix hucksters who helped get us into this mess. So instead of squandering your valuable time and money on miracle cures, invest in making healthy life changes for the long haul.”
There is no divinely ordained way to eat. The truth is that you can lose weight and be at optimum health enjoying all of the foods you love. This is not an invitation to adopt an all-cheese diet, but rather an appeal to spend time experimenting with what whole, natural foods make you radiate with energy and vitality. It’s a call to incorporate as many fruits, vegetables, and quality proteins into your meals as you can and then to have a little ice cream. It’s a request to find new and interesting ways to prepare these foods so that you don’t find yourself in a food rut and so that you look forward to spending time in your kitchen. It’s a chance to take cooking classes or invest in some new cookbooks that excite you and get you out of your comfort zone. It’s an opportunity to honor yourself and take control of your health. Make it an adventure. You owe it to yourself.
Jill Grunewald is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Counselor, health writer, and passionate advocate for sustainable agriculture. Her practice, Healthful Elements, focuses on bio-individual health and whole-foods therapy, with specialization in the endocrine system and hormones, particularly thyroid and adrenal health. Jill's last post for Simple, Good, and Tasty was Healthful Holiday Goodies: Delicious Gluten-Free Options, Sugar Substitutes, and More.