"Once you have to start counting calories, it takes away from the joy of eating." - Mireille Guiliano
Gone are the days of fad diets. Or yo-yo diets. Or any diet plan in general. Dieting, which by definition means to restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight, is a big no-no. Why?Because diets aren't sustainable if they are too restrictive, are frustrating when you are constantly depriving yourself, and they don't actually teach you how to have a healthy relationship with food. And some diets, like the cayenne pepper lemon juice detox diet that Hollywood was touting as a quick fix to losing pounds quick, are just down right dangerous. Trust me, I've tried them all.
I went on my first diet to looe weight when I was 14 years old. My parents and I choose the Atkins diet, also known as low carb or high protein diet. Under this diet, you basically cut out all starch and sugar - potatoes, pasta, bread, baked goods, and fruit - and replace it with protein - poultry, red meat, and seafood. During the first few weeks, we only had 30 carbs each day, and once you entered "maintenance mode" you were upped to 50 carbs each day. Just to give you some perspective, if you eat a 2,000-calorie diet, it is recommended that you shoot for 225 to 325 grams of carbs per day. So this thing had us really restricted. For starters, this diet didn't help me develop a healthy relationship with food. Instead, I learned quite the opposite. An average eating day for me on the low carb diet was a slice of low-carb toast with bacon for breakfast (7 carbs), processed luncheon meat, cheese squares, and a diet coke for lunch (2 carbs), and lemon baked chicken and broccoli and cheese for dinner (2 carbs). I had only spent 11 carbs for the day, so I would use the remaining 19 and have a 1/2 cup of vanilla ice cream every night. This diet wasn't about being healthy, it was about tricking the system to figure out how I could squeeze as many bad foods into my allotted carbs as possible. I may have been losing weight, but I was far from healthy.
So just say no to diets. All diets. Anything that makes you count points, count calories, or restrict entire food groups is simply unproductive. I know, I know. This sounds like crazy talk. For so many years, low-carb, low-fat, low-calorie was the way to go. But given the difficulty that so many people have with losing weight, it should be an indication that these methods are not working. So given that I reject diets, how do I eat? I eat clean. At its simplest, clean eating is about eating whole foods, or "real" foods — those that are un- or minimally processed, refined, and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible. And I eat as much of this stuff as I want. Like I eat a LOT!
Here are a few quick tips if you are making the transition from being a serial dieter:
- Ingredients not Calories - I don't care about nutrition labels, I care about ingredients. I don't care how many calories or grams of fat that I am eating. It is liberating. Just eat real food, nature has the rest covered. If you are buying things that are packaged, make sure that you can pronounce all the ingredients and they are made with real foods. A rule of thumb, is that clean food should generally have less than 5 ingredients, but this isn't always the case. For example, I buy a tomato sauce that only has 7 clean ingredients - tomatoes, onions, garlic, basil, salt, and pepper. Although this has more than 5 , it is still clean according to my definition. I encourage you to go in your refrigerator and read the ingredients of your foods. Do you know what you are eating? Do you see foods with ingredients that you can't pronounce? Are you eating chemicals?
- Health not Weight - Change your language, words have power. It's not about weight, it's about health. If you focus on your health and not on the scale, you can start to make some of the mental and emotional changes that are going to be necessary to make this journey. When I first started my health journey, I am not going to lie, it was mostly about weight. It was all about weight, and looking good in a swimsuit. But somewhere along my journey it became about health and wellness. It wasn't until my mindset changed, that I really started making sustainable changes.
- Drink Water - Your body needs water. You have to drink water. If you change no other habits, but increase your water intake, you will see visible differences in your energy, skin, and yes, your weight. Drink water, and put down the diet soda.
- No Diet Food - That brings me to my next point. No diet food. Don't eat things that are labeled as "low-fat" or "low-calorie" or "diet" food. I don't want you to eat things that are labeled at all. Generally speaking, in order for food to maintain the same taste and be a so-called diet food, it has to be overly processed with all types of chemicals to mimic the sweetness or saltiness that we are craving. Just say no. Your body will thank you. You need to get out of the center aisles of the grocery store. This stuff is terribly processed. Remember, your body will thank you later.
Everything you put in your body needs to be serving a purpose. It should be nourishing you in same way - whether it's beets that are full of vitamin K, or collard greens that are brimming with Vitamins K and C, folate, and beta-carotene, or Asparagus that is full of folate - everything you eat or drink should be good for your body. It's not about counting points or calories, it's about being good to your body. Being good to yourself. We are making sustainable real lifestyle changes.
Let me know if you have any questions!