The word ‘diet’ is often associated with the idea of deprivation or restriction. In reality, the actual word ‘diet’ simply refers to an eating style. Nowadays the phrase ‘it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle’ has become really popular because health and fitness advocates have come to realize that there is too much of a negative connotation with the word diet. When people hear ‘healthy lifestyle’ it becomes a bit more relatable and desirable. I mean, who really doesn’t want to live a healthy life? That being said, I’ve come to see many people now rolling their eyes when they hear ‘healthy lifestyle’ – as if it was some sort of trend.
If you eat food, then you have a diet. Your diet may consist of lean proteins and vegetables; it may be a completely vegan diet. It may be that you eat whatever it is you feel like eating with no real parameters or guidelines. Regardless, you have a diet. When you think about the word that universally, hopefully it will remove the negativity that is often linked to the term. When people say that they are on a diet, however, it’s a bit different. Going on a diet means that they are choosing to follow a particular diet – a particular set of guidelines and parameters about the food they eat. This still does not have to be linked to deprivation. It just has to do with set parameters and personal choice.
I think this last concept is really important. You need to remember that in the end, it is up to you to decide how you want to eat. Unless someone is force-feeding you every single meal of the day, you are able to choose what you eat. This means that you can dictate your diet. The trick is to be sensible and to really listen to your body.
There’s a wealth of information available about food and nutrition. There are so many types of eating styles out there – from people who eat lots of animal protein to those who eat only vegetables to those who have dairy everyday and others who are completely against any animal protein. There are diets out there that allow chocolate, wine, and cheese while others call for a complete elimination of sugar, dairy, and alcohol. It’s all out there and trying to figure out what plan/eating style/diet you should follow can feel overwhelming and confusing. So here are a few thoughts I’d like to share with you:
- You are in complete control of what you eat, when you eat it, and how much of it you eat.
- You can eat whatever you want — but you must accept the consequences of your choices.
- Listen to your body – if the diet you choose to follow allows whole grains, but you feel ill when you feel whole grains – STOP eating them! Just because something is ‘allowed’ by the diet plan you follow doesn’t mean that you HAVE to eat it. If it makes you feel bad, stop eating it.
- If, however, your diet calls for a total elimination of dairy, but you want to have 1/2 a cup of Greek yogurt in the morning for breakfast and it doesn’t make you feel ill in any way, then go ahead and eat the yogurt! Be logical and honest with yourself.
- Take some time to learn about nutrition and calories and how our bodies conserve and expend energy. It’s fascinating. I think the more you learn about your own health and your body, the more motivated you’ll be to take care of yourself.
More than anything, once you’ve chosen a way of eating that works for you — provides you with energy, allows you to live the lifestyle you want, makes you feel healthy and happy — then you’ve got to stick with the program.
I’ve given up fast food and sodas – that was the easy part. The challenging part came when I realized that there were foods that were ‘healthy’ but still didn’t work for me. I learned that I can’t eat quinoa or beans because they make me feel ill. I’ve learned that some dairy products don’t sit well with me. Eating white starches affect me negatively as well. The list goes on, and as the list of foods I can’t eat grows (can’t because I have decided they are not good for me, not because somebody else has dictated my choice), it feels like the list of foods I ‘can’ eat becomes shorter … but that’s not true. It’s all about developing a different perspective about the foods you eat. When I focus on what I CAN eat, and totally ignore what I can’t, then I realize that I still have many, many delicious options. It makes me realize that the ‘diet’ I’m following is the one that is perfect for me.