“I can’t have that that, I’m on a diet”
How many times have you either heard or said that exact sentence yourself over the course of your life?
If you’re trying to eat healthfully then it’s obvious that you can’t have a little bit of the food you love. Right? Doing so would mean you’ve “cheated” on your diet... you’ve failed... may as well throw in the towel; give up and eat whatever the heck you want and forget about that stupid, restrictive diet... you were miserable anyway. Right?
Either follow your diet 100% Perfectly, or don’t bother!
Don't listen to the gurus
There are a lot of self-proclaimed gurus and pseudo-nutritionists out there that will use statements like:
- You CAN'T eat “X” or you’ll get sick
- You HAVE TO consume “Y” to be healthy
- This is the ONLY WAY to... blah, blah, blah
Take my advice: Avoid these “Extremists” like the plague.
Most of these guru’s want you to think that in order to be healthy and/or lose weight there are certain foods that you simply “MUST” eat and other foods that you “HAVE TO” avoid. Any deviance from this set plan means you have a bad diet and you can’t possibly be healthy... according to the gurus.
The way these “diets” get interpreted is that people think that they have to completely eliminate a lot of the foods they love and start eating some foods that they absolutely hate.
This is how diets have come to be associated with a certain degree of suffering. To diet successfully you have to endure the desire for the foods you want.
You often encounter this with “Diet Snobs”; people who consider themselves superior to others because of their strict adherence to their diets. These are the d!cks who will say things like: “Well, I haven’t eaten dairy in over 5 years”, “I never consume any refined sugar”, “Processed food gives you cancer” or “The secret to good health is a Spirulina smoothie for breakfast every day”. (If you’ve never had a spirulina smoothie before, I can promise you that it’s the secret to testing your gag-reflex every morning).
The diet snobs rejoice in their unflinching strictness with their diet (they wear it almost like a badge of honor) and consider any dietary deviance from their idea of “healthy” to be close to a death wish.
This, the prevailing “Diet Mentality” as it exists today needs to come to an end.
It’s what you eat most of the time that counts
I want you to know, right now and forever, that a diet that makes you suffer (by the foods you have to eat or can’t eat) is a waste of your time. It’s unsustainable and worst of all it creates a bad relationship with food, where you categorize some foods as inherently bad which means that if you every eat them, you feel guilty.
Let me make this clear, if you’re overweight then, yes, you need to make changes to your diet and you will no longer be able to eat as much as you like of everything you want to eat, whenever you want to it. That’s probably how you became overweight in the first place. You will need to change your diet and you will need to exercise control over your diet... BUT THAT DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE TO SUFFER UNDULY!
While some foods should definitely form a larger part of your diet than others (such as wholefoods like vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes, lean meats etc.), that doesn’t mean that you have to completely eliminate other “less than healthy” foods (processed foods like ice cream, chocolate, pizza etc.). Your health depends on your diet and exercise habits and your diet is made up of a huge range of different foods. Just like you don’t need to exercise every hour of every day to be healthy, everything you eat doesn’t need to be nutritionally perfect.
A Healthy Diet that keeps you Happy
My own concept of a nutritionally sound diet is one that covers all your macronutrient (protein, carbs & fats) and micronutrient (vitamins & minerals etc.) bases through mostly whole-foods while still allowing you to enjoy other foods that don’t serve any real nutritional purpose other than to fill your calories for the day (and add some extra fun to your diet). That way you stay nutritionally healthy and maintain a healthy weight (if that’s your goal) but don’t feel restricted by not being allowed certain foods. This is actually one of the concepts I find most difficult to educate my clients about:
Most have been indoctrinated to believe that they can’t enjoy their favorite foods, lose weight and be healthy at the same time. It’s a true revelation for them when they find out they can.
Similarly, you shouldn’t feel that you have to eat specific foods that you hate just because some guru says they’re essential to health. For example, if you hate broccoli, don’t eat it just because people say it’s good for you. Find an alternative like cabbage, cauliflower, spinach or whatever veg you do like. Don’t go around drinking a flaxseed and celery smoothie if it makes you gag; there are other, more pleasant ways to incorporate healthy foods into your diet.
Now, if you're the kind of person that loves those foods, by all means, continue eating and enjoying them. You’re not suffering from having to eat them (good for you), so this piece of advice doesn’t specifically apply to you.
Suffering for your diet does not make you special. It doesn’t make you a better person. It just sabotages your long-term success (and enjoyment of life) (and it also makes you a bit of a d!ck if you like to brag about it).
If your diet (whatever it may be) is overly restrictive and makes you unhappy, then that diet (as it is) is probably not for you. Restrictive diets, while successful in the short term, often lead to one thing, cravings for the foods you can’t have and cravings ultimately lead to discontent and food binging.
How do you avoid those cravings? Don’t be so strict. As the great Irish writer, Oscar Wilde once said “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it”. Allow yourself to enjoy some of the foods you love, in moderation. As long as you’re following an otherwise healthy diet, it won’t cause a problem. In fact, allowing yourself to eat whatever you want (in moderation) may very well be the secret to long-term dietary success.
Eat Well Folks.
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