Why ditching the diet may be the best decision you EVER made

I firmly believe in ditching the diet – that living life in a healthy way is the best decision you will ever make.

As we come into the holiday season, and people discuss ”cheat days” and dieting over the holidays, I am more convinced than ever that we need to adopt healthy lifestyles, rather than following the latest diet fad!

If you look up the definition of diet, you will find it expressed as:

“A special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons”

“The kind and amount of food prescribed for a person for a special reason”

Take your pick of online dictionaries to look up

But who does the prescribing of what course of food your will restrict yourself to?

Who holds the power? Not you – the person prescribing or limiting what you can eat.

And whether you are following a particular diet or counting calories, the restrictions are always external measurements.

Never internal.

And, in most cases, the diet is always time bound. We’re looking for that “end date” — as soon as I finish this diet I’ll be able to go back to eating whatever I want.

But what happens when we finish the diet is that we go back to the same choices we were making before. We haven’t actually learned the skills of healthy eating. And we haven’t truly dealt with the cause, only some of the symptoms.

Diets over the past 50 years

If I have a look back to the 70s, I see we were already into fad dieting then. I admit, I didn’t bother going back before the 70s!

The fad diets of the 70’s

Who would have guessed that some of the diets that we see around today were around in the 70’s?

  • The Master Cleanse – also known as the Lemonade Diet
  • Cookie diet (I really want to know what this was!)
  • Total Starvation (seriously… not looking this one up!)
  • Diet pills
  • The grapefruit diet (seems to show up every decade)
  • The Sexy Pineapple diet (yum! And it’s sexy!)
  • Israeli Army diet (which apparently has nothing to do with the Israeli army!)
  • Last Chance Diet
  • 7-day Milk Diet (I’m guessing that the milk industry was behind this!)
  • The Sugar diet (wow! When they considered sugar to be an appetite suppressant)
  • And my personal favorite – the Wine & Egg diet. Seriously. Wine. Eggs. Coffee. What more does a girl require?

And then we get to the fads of the 80’s

  • The Cabbage Soup diet
  • Cottage Cheese diet
  • Beverly Hills diet
  • Elizabeth Taylor diet
  • Oh… hello Jenny Craig!
  • Fit for Life diet
  • Liquid diets (protein shakes)

What do we see happening in the 90’s?

  • Low-fat foods diet
  • Ornish diet (whoever he was)
  • Atkins diet
  • South Beach diet (wonder how that was different to the Beverly Hills diet?)
  • Blood types diet
  • Natural hygiene diet (basically prolonged fasting, different from intermittent fasting and at least not the starvation diet!)
  • Fen-Phen pills
  • The Zone diet
  • The Sugar Busters diet (at least they weren’t using sugar any more as an appetite suppressant)
  • Liquid diets
  • Hello … nice to see you back again Cabbage Soup diet

I don’t think I really need to continue – you are probably starting to see the trends!

Everyone has a solution. Restrict this. Eat that.

Pay me, and I’ll tell you how to lose 20-pounds before Christmas so that you can look great at that family gathering.

What happens to the diet over the holidays

We spend all this time, money and energy to lose weight and look good for the holidays, to impress people that we possibly can’t really stand their opinions!

Do you really care what Uncle Frank thinks of how you look in that dress?

And we put all this stress and strain on ourselves with the restrictions, without ever really facing the triggers of why we eat.

Restricting the food does not address the underlying emotional issues of why you are eating more than what your body requires.

So, we arrive at the holidays and we work ourselves into an emotional mess of how to handle those days when you simply forget the diet.

  • Is it a cheat day?
  • Perhaps you’re making a plan for how to stick to your diet with all of the family and work gatherings that you have.
  • Just say no to all those invitations, because you didn’t really want to see them anyways?
  • Perhaps you should just take your own food and make everyone else feel bad while you eat healthy and they gorge themselves.
  • Or why not just partake of a liquid diet from the liquor cabinet – it probably has less calories…

Let’s be honest – the holidays often are the make and break of the diet!

And when it’s over, you beat yourself up, because you should have just ditched the diet and truly taken care of yourself! Rather than try to keep up to some external standard of good food / bad food – why not start to take the opportunity to get in touch with yourself and make your own rules about how to live your life and rewrite your relationship with food?

Ditching the diet – and feeling good about yourself

What if there was no diet – no restrictions and no rules?

Could you handle it?

Could you handle being completely responsible for your health and wellbeing? Where the guidance was your internal cues, rather than external rules?

For example – how does this food make me feel?

  • Does it give you energy or make you lethargic?
  • Do you feel light after eating it, or was it too heavy?
  • Does it make you bloated or gassy? How does your digestive system respond to it?
  • Can you think better after eating this or do you get brain fog?

But ditching the diet is more than just an internal mindfulness about how your body digests and responds to the food. There is also the aspect of being present with:

  • Why am I eating?
  • Do I enjoy eating here, like this? The setting and environment? The people I am with? The presentation of the food?
  • Your thoughts and emotions – not just about the food, but the whole eating experience.

Taking back your power

I encourage you to consider the possibility of reclaiming your power over your relationship with food.

In the short term, this is harder than any diet! But, the rewards in the long term are priceless!

Ditching the diet allows you to ditch all the external control factors:

  • Counting calories
  • Excluding one food group
  • External numbers such as size or weight
  • Labeling of food as “good” or “bad”

This gives you the opportunity to adopt a new relationship with your body.

Tips for getting mindful and learning to exercise your power

Notice both your internal and external environment before you eat. What are the factors and motivation for eating and to stop eating?

  • Why am I eating?
    • Because I’m hungry
    • It’s time to eat (external)
    • I’m tired and need energy (do you need to eat or do something else to get your energy levels up?)
    • I’m bored or upset (does eating actually resolve the core issue, or simply stuff it away?)
    • Peer pressure and social (external)
  • How and I eating?
    • Relaxed
    • Tense
    • In a hurry or on the run
    • Pressured
  • What am I eating?
    • Is this what I want?
      • Do I enjoy it?
      • Does it taste good?
      • How does it make me feel as I digest it?
    • Does my body need it?
      • Am I hungry?
      • Is this what my stomach wants?
  • How much am I eating?
    • Who decides?
      • My eyes?
      • My tongue and taste buds – pleasure sensors?
      • My stomach and digestive tract?
  • When do I stop?
    • When I’ve had enough?
    • When I ran out of time?
    • Because I got interrupted?

How you do anything is how you do everything

They say that if you fix your relationship with money, most other things in life will fall into place for you. I would say that the same is true for your relationship with food.

If you can get really honest with yourself about your relationship with food, and how you are using food to swallow your emotions, or numb a pain, or pad some feelings — then you will be mindful of all the other areas of life where you are making similar choices.

Ditching the diet may be the best decision you EVER made – because you start to get real! Rather than having someone else call the shots for you, you take back your power.

How are you planning to spend the holidays? Who is going to call the shots for you?

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