I’ve seen a lot of posts lately from people overwhelmed by their health goals. I totally understand it because everywhere you look there’s a new thing to try that could potentially be better than before. Keto. Low Carb. South Beach. Atkins. They all seem remarkably similar.
What do you choose?
I’ve discovered that for me it was abandoning all of it. Diet is a dirty word with a limited time connotation. You do it “for a while” then when you try to just live your life after the “diet” is over you’ve likely gained the weight back and more.
There’s a lot of power in words like “diet” and even “cheat meal” carries some weight. This meal that you can take advantage of for another limited time that usually brings you only emotional relief and no real nutritional value.
Now, let’s look at “junk” foods. You know what they are: chocolate, sugar, high fats, and usually quite delicious. They are also the first things you remove when you’re on a “diet.” “Healthy” foods are usually things like vegetables and kale and often carry the weight of a necessary evil in a diet.
Are you seeing the power of these words? Have you noticed when you eat “junk” you feel like junk? Or a “cheat” meal makes you feel like you’re getting away with something? Don’t you always want most what you cannot have and it almost seems sweeter when you “get away with it?”
Imagine there are no “good” or “bad” foods. Is it possible that food is food? Can a cinnamon roll drenched in gooey icing have the same word as kale? Food really is food BUT cinnamon rolls are less nutrient dense than kale. Ultimately, that’s the difference.
We strive so hard to be “perfect” on our “diets”‘and we often are; yet during that window of time, we’re miserable. We count down the moments to chocolate and bread and we can’t enjoy where we are or what we’re doing.
When I speak at the hospital the most frequent question I get about food is: “Does this mean I can never have (insert what you love here) ever again?” I’m not the Food Police for adults. When I opted for surgical weight loss it was because my weight was completely out of control and I couldn’t manage on my own without outside help. When I took that step I also realized that moderation is not a strength of mine. With RNY Gastric Bypass could I eat chocolate again? I choose every second of every day what goes in my mouth. Will my stomach tolerate it? Most likely not. Could I eat it? Yes. Should I? No. What just happened there?
I took the item I wanted – chocolate – and I ran it through a couple of gates before the gateway of my mouth.
- Do I want it? Absolutely!
- Is it nutrient dense? Not at all.
- Am I helping to maintain my fitness goals with this? No.
- Is wanting it NOW more important than my long-term goals? No.
- Why do I want the chocolate? Usually, an emotional response to something troubling me or it just looks darn good.
- Do I eat it? No.
There is no diet, or cheat meal, or junk food. They are all opportunities. An opportunity to eat nutrient-dense foods that work toward reaching your health goals and less nutrient-dense foods that may hold you back from your goals especially if these decisions continue to outweigh your nutrient dense decisions.
There’s one other interesting caveat to the power of words and your food choices. Calories. I hear a lot of this as well: “I eat good, healthy foods and I continue to gain weight!”
A calorie (kcal) is the amount of heat energy it takes to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius (Wikipedia). By this logic, 10,000 calories of ice cream and 10,000 calories of kale are equal. How your body uses the kale and the ice cream will certainly vary and there’s an entire degree program for Bioenergetics that I do NOT have. The groundbreaking thought process here is that you can still have too much of a “good” thing because if you aren’t burning those calories then weight gain is inevitable.
So what do you do?
Try to find a way to make peace with your food. Don’t give it names of good or bad or junk that will subconsciously assign an emotion to what you’re eating. Pass your options through several gates and ultimately decide if it’s worth it for you. My experiences with bingeing food made me very aware that food felt great…. until it didn’t. Find a way to live your life well and if you get a moment of indulgent, less nutrient-dense food then let that be what it is – an option you made. Not a failure, mistake, or any other negative connotation. If it was a decision you wished you didn’t make, acknowledge it and remember the next time your making decisions.
Stop dieting and start living!
Also see: Take Ten Seconds.