Today I am talking about having a diet free lifestyle without talking about food all that much. Is that possible?
You may have been hoping for a step by step guideline that said at breakfast you eat eggs and veggies or a carb or protein source but today we are going about this in the complete opposite way.
In essence diets are simply the kinds of food that a person eats. In fact, people all over the world eat differently (different diets) and maintain a healthy and fit lifestyle. Except in modern society diets are referred to more in terms of restrictions of certain foods, food groups in attempts to lose weight or change the body.
And restriction itself is the farthest thing from the answer to sustainable weight/fat loss or body change.Yet so many people are tempted by meal plans, the newest diet, cleanses, food rules and detoxes even when the reality is that they just do not work.
The perfect way of eating is very grey but as humans we really, really want it to be black and white. Like if someone could just tell us what to do, we would follow it. We all do it. I have done it.
We blame being lazy, having no time, needing to be told what to do, and having no self control as the reasons why we just can’t stay on track. Here in itself is where the problem starts. The mindset behind eating. The perception of what you should and shouldn’t do and the reasons you tell yourself you can’t do it.
Our culture has engrained this all or nothing approach as if there is no middle ground, as if there is no other way.
You are either all in on a diet that allows certain foods and bans others or you just give up and eat with abandon because it won’t really matter anyways.
I like to look at it this way. Our culture is responsible for putting out this type of information 100% and we each have 100% responsibility to do something about it. I took this equal responsibility concept from a recent read The Big Leap.
To put it simply, it all begins with the way your perception and how you choose to react in any given situation.
So let’s start with a refresh on your perspective.
Meal plans, rules and restrictions create dependency and don’t even give us the opportunity to fend for ourselves when diet foods are not within arms reach. Office parties, social gatherings, nights out with friends. What are you really suppose to do if you show up and there is only chips and dip and you are starving?
- white knuckle your way through the party
- eat ALL the chips and dip
- eat a few chips and call it a day
Most people rarely ever choose #3. It is usually a, followed by 1, a binge later on, or 2, followed by a period of guilt, remorse and shame and then back to your strict ways the next day because you already screwed yourself for the day anyways so why bother making good choices for dinner? Even worse if it is a Saturday night, you might just as well wait until Monday.
It creates a viscous cycle that keeps us tight on plan for a time, and then inevitably we will fall off, experience guilt and then get back on the same plan.
It’s tempting though, I get it. It feels organized, it feels in control, it feel like you are disciplined enough to achieve success. I will start by breaking down 4 steps to help to break the diet cycle.
Step 1: Consider the sustainability factor
The success of a diet does not only depend on results, it depends on lasting results. So often I have people tell me things like this.
“The Whole30 really makes me crave sugar less.”
“Weight Watchers works when I do it.”
“I feel great when I go gluten free.”
The question always remains, “How long did that last?”
Because short term results are all good and well but what is the point if you can not make it last. Whenever I get tempted by the latest diet or food trend or seeing some fit chicks meal plan I ask myself, “Am I willing to eat like this forever?” If the answer is no, I know I check myself and turn back to trusting myself and my process.
Step 2: Habit awareness is more important than you think.
What does this look like? First off eating is highly automatic and in order to break poor habits you have to plan, prepare, and actually stop, think and contemplate about the foods you are choosing to consume and why.
It could be as simple as swapping out your morning donut for greek yogurt and fruit or as complicated as working to intentionally fight the stressed out binge in the moment. The more you start to pay attention, the better chance you have at learning where you are most likely to give in and have the power to actually do something about it.
In the book The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, he has a habit loop theory that suggests that you can’t simply get rid of bad habits you can only replace them.
The human brain likes effortless and most people have been wrapped up in bad habits for so long they no longer realize they are doing them. In essence the key is to be aware and learn to change your routine.
If coming home from work is leaves you immediately in a stressed out binge at the fridge door, the idea is that you occupy your time with something else the moment you walk in the door.
This takes time, patience and lots of trial and error before you find success.
Step 3: Nutrients and portions.
What if you said goodbye to all the food rules you have tried or been taught and focused on just two concepts? Eating foods high in nutrients and portion control. What if you started to pay attention to how you felt eating by navigating the space between deprived and an all out binge?
You know this. More veggies, less pop tarts, stop at 2 pieces of pizza.
I am completely aware it is not this simple but unless you have a uber specific physique or endurance goal or just want to get in the best shape of your entire life you don’t need to make it so complicated on yourself.
This does take a little bit of introspection and work and while it might feel more difficult in the beginning than someone telling you to have chicken breast and broccoli for lunch it provides you with the tools that you can take wherever, whenever.
Step 4: Practice The Self Trust Solution
The ability to stop turning to meal plans and food restrictions begins with the ability to turn inward and learn the tools and insights to trust yourself any time, any place, with any food.
The best way to trust yourself is to trust yourself and see what happens because “How-to’s don’t work if you don’t talk about gets in the way.” This is a quote from Brene Brown.
Diets don’t give you the tools you need to move forward. They don’t address things like willpower, habits, stressful/emotional eating, moralizing food or finding way to eat moderately and mindfully. They try to give you a complete life overhaul in week 1 and give hope that you can make a lifetime of change without addressing other obstacles.
You get blasted with changes and information and then are left hanging on how to implement anything.
The reality is this cycle will continue unless you are given the tools to break it. It all begins with your mindset and the willingness to make that the focus and let go of food rules and find what I like to call food freedom.
Here’s a quick recap.
- When tempted by a diet ask yourself, “Is this a way I can eat forever”
- Focus on changing one habit that you feel is most detrimental to your health by replacing the routine.
- Focus on nutrients in your diet and portion control.
- Practice trusting yourself around food without being on a diet.