When I talk about diets here on SIY (and when I do it will likely be disparagingly) I’m talking about the thing we mean when we say “I need to go on a diet.” The word has two basic meanings concerning food: It can mean the kind of food a person usually eats. “He exists on a vegetarian diet.” When I say “never go on a diet,” I am talking about “a special course of food.”
No one can not be on the first type of diet – everyone has some sort of tendancy to eat a particular way. We all have a diet. My caution is against going on a diet.
Diets seem to always be thought of as temporary. Sometimes this is by design, sometimes this is as intended by the author of the diet scheme, and almost always the dieter adds some sort of ending to the diet consciously or subconsciously.
When I changed my eating I changed it to the program or routine I am following today, two years later, and I anticipate no problems following this routine the rest of my life. This isn’t only something I can live with, it is what I want to live with.
Whether you change the way you eat all at once or a little bit at a time I feel that only changes you plan to live with forever can be productive and healthy.
Another problem I have with diets is they help us lie to ourselves. When I ate junk each and every day and then decided to go on a diet until I met some goal I was essentially saying to myself “the way I’ve been eating is normal and ok – once the goal is met I can go back to “normal.”
People go on diets to lose weight for a vacation, a class reunion, or they just want to reach a certain goal weight. This goal based dieting adds an ending point to any changes made. The implication is the old way of eating will become the routine again.
The way I was eating was not ok. I didn’t need an interruption to the insanity I needed to realize my way of eating was not making me happy and was harming me. A diet is just an interruption of bad behavior and an affirmation that unwise behavior is the standard.
Diets usually fail. That’s another reason to stay away from them. The reason diets fail (or we fail at them) is they either aren’t designed to be lived with or we perceive them as not being possible or desirable for living with permanently. They are disposable.
When the disposable becomes uncomfortable it is easy to abandon. When the goal is superficial and external like fitting into some clothes or being thinner for an event the urge to abandon them and return to “normal” is greater than the perceived reward.
If you are going to go on a diet you may as well just get out a calendar and put a big red X on the day your diet ends and write “begin regaining the weight” on the next day’s box. “I’m going to go on a diet and lose twenty pounds!” Great. Now finish the sentence: “I’m going to go on a diet and lose twenty pounds, end the diet, and gain it all back.”
The trick to getting out of this diet mentality is changing what is normal rather than interrupting what is normal. By doing this you make the normal way of eating the reward and the solution. This means changing what you like, and yes, changing what you like is possible. Do that and you erase the need for diets.
How do you change what you like? For me there were two parts. I had to stop liking the stuff that I knew was bad for me and begin liking what is good for me. This was accomplished by getting very honest about what my former food choices and eating habits were doing to me. I inventoried what they did to me physically, emotionally, and mentally. I don’t just mean the foods, I also mean the way I ate – the irregularity, the amounts, etc.
Learning to like the good stuff – the nutritionally dense foods, eating regularly, and in consistent amounts happened with practice and being mindful of the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of healthful food. For a while my brain and taste receptors disagreed about how good raw vegetables at two meals a day tasted. Before long my tastes caught up with my heart and brain which knew those were better for me than a bag of chips. For that first month of eating a pound of raw vegetables a day (as a part of my meals) it usually felt like work but a small part of me inside felt proud of doing well for myself and my brain knew the fiber and nutrients were good for my body. I fanned that flame and waited until the complainer in me gave up. Now those fresh veggies are an enjoyable part of my meals.
That process worked in reverse on the unhealthful foods. The complainer in me nagged for a while about not having the junk but my brain knew doing without it was good for me and I felt relief each minute, hour, and day I chose healthful food in place of the crud. Today the foods I wholeheartedly believed I could not go without literally have no appeal to me whatsoever. None.
Real change from the inside out was the answer for me and the end of countless failed diets. Temporary changes to my food or amount of exercise never worked. Diet pills never worked. Looking inside and tapping into the power of intention continues to keep me eating well and more importantly, it keeps me happy.