I dislike the word “diet”. I still use it, but it is a word that seems to have taken on a negative connotation courtesy of weight loss entities and media conglomerates. It went from simply meaning the foods you eat to symbolizing an act that most associate with starving and being deprived of chocolate and ice cream.
When you come across the word “diet”, I bet it elicits thoughts and feelings of sacrifice, giving up, failure, impossible to maintain, restriction, unhappiness, willpower, cravings, short-term, and discouraging. That is because most of us are still confusing lifestyle with diet.
I came across a blog post the other day where the author was suggesting that veganism and vegetarianism are considered “lifestyles” whereas the paleo movement is a “diet”. As you can imagine, this created quite an uproar in the village. Anytime you start debating food choices, culture, animal welfare, and ethics you might as well wave your white flag because you don’t have a shot in hell in swaying anyone off their throne.
As I scrolled through the warfare and read words that defended positions of diet versus lifestyle, all I could think about was that ANY food choice you make is part of a lifestyle choice.
If you eat mostly junk food, your lifestyle includes processed foods. If you avoid meat for religious or cultural purposes, you are leading a plant-based lifestyle. If you eat a certain way to heal a health condition, you are making a lifestyle choice. Your lifestyle encompasses your beliefs, attitudes, values, and plethora of other activities totally unrelated to food.
So where am I going with this? In order to stick to a “diet” and create lasting changes for yourself, you need to start thinking in terms of lifestyle.
Here is what you need to do:
1. Stop with the scarcity thinking. Focus on the gazillion things you CAN eat versus those few items that you believe if you give up will send you leaping over the edge of insanity. Take it from someone who gave up sugar. There are tons of recipes out there for brownies made with healthy, natural, non blood-sugar-spiking sweeteners out there. Not once I have ever felt deprived of my chocolate because there are plenty of alternatives. But if I obsessed about the “can’t have sugar”, I would be one depressed bunny.
2. Know what you want and WHY. If you think going on a diet to make you thin will all of a sudden bring you joy and happiness topped with a rainbow of sprinkles and lots of hot dates, you are kidding yourself. It may help, but confidence, happiness, and beauty radiates from the inside out. There are plenty of thin girls that are just downright ugly on the inside and unhappy. Your “why” needs to be something you truly want for yourself and no one else. Feel it down to your core.
3. Sort through your emotional baggage associated with food. Emotional eating, childhood messages about cleaning your plate, eating disorders, growing up in poverty and always being hungry, or believing that through restriction you will be thin and will finally find true happiness. If you don’t suck it up and deal with these issues, you won’t maintain much of anything for very long.
4. Find other like-minded individuals to support you. Some people in your life are going to try to derail you. Not really to be consciously malicious, but mostly because if you change for the better, then that must mean they are now somehow “bad” or not good enough anymore. Find people who will fit into your new lifestyle. You may have to give up your monthly book and booze social club. Again, change is not easy.
5. And finally, create a lifestyle that suits your body’s needs. Here is the reality, some of us thrive on a plant-based diet. Others of us absolutely need to eat protein to be healthy and to avoid sickness. If you have thyroid problems, there are certain foods that will exacerbate your condition. Same with cancer, PCOS, Diabetes, and the list goes on. I never tell my clients to become vegan, vegetarian, or paleo. Rather, I teach them how to create a lifestyle that will lead to healing based on their specific needs.
Please note that making lifestyle changes are not easy. There is no magic pill or fairy dust. If you want easy, this isn’t for you, and I am guessing you don’t really want whatever-it-is that bad anyway, which it totally ok. Change takes practice and a willingness to incorporate the new activity or behavior into your routine consistently.