I propose a challenge.
It’s 2015. A new year. One of the most popular resolutions – if not THE most popular – is to lose weight. According to Time.com, this is also one of the most commonly broken resolutions. It’s not so hard to understand why, because losing weight requires a lifestyle change, which takes time, and people often get fed up and give up.
New Year’s resolutions used to be a regular weekday for me. At least once a week, I would vow to cut out dessert or bread and “eat clean.” Much like the typical New Year’s resolution, this failed, but unlike the annual resolution, due to my frequent attempts at resolve, I experienced this failure on the reg.
These types of changes can’t be cold turkey, black and white resolutions. They take time, patience, practice, and – this is a big one – balance.
Diets that offer immediate results have been popular for a long time. But a newer trend is eating plans that promise not only super-amazing, lean bodies, but also optimal health. Think, clean eating, juicing, dairy-free, gluten-free (the latter two of which are perfectly appropriate for medical reasons), and other eating plans that, different as they are, all have one thing in common: they’re too extreme.
And I am here to challenge all of this.
In a series of several blog posts, I want to share with you certain steps (the 1st one in this post) that, in my opinion, might enable you to stop vowing to cut out carbs, dairy, sweets (who would DO such things?!), or whatever your vice is, and allow you to feel good in your body while simultaneously eating what you’d like – without feeling guilty. As I am not yet a licensed RD, I want to point out that this is my soon-to-be-but-not-yet professional opinion, based both on research (like the DASH diet mentioned below) and my own very eye-opening experiences.
Read on, my friends.
Number 1: Don’t diet.
Diets usually include rules and restrictions. Unless it’s a diet based on a body of research that shows benefits in a large population, it’s usually a fad that delineates unnecessary restrictions that are loosely (very loosely) based on science, or even solely on untested theory. If you look at a diet approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, like the DASH diet, you’ll notice that nothing is excluded. It recommends whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, fish, healthy oils, nuts, beans & legumes, low-fat dairy, and limited (not NO) saturated fats and sweets. Foods linked to healthy body weight and low disease risk are recommended, and others, associated with just the opposite (overweight and chronic disease) are suggested in lower amounts.
I can’t tell you how much it kills me when I hear people say they’ve cut something out of their diet. Pains. Me. If you’ve read my blog before, you’ve heard much of what I have to say about the repercussions of swearing off a food: you just want it more, and usually, that feeling wins.
This may sound familiar to you. How often have you heard, “I tried to diet but I wanted potato chips so bad, that on the 3rd day I lost it and ate half the bag.” Welcome to the vicious cycle of dieting.
But the thing is, this isn’t just about dieting anymore. It’s about the way that people view healthy eating and a balanced diet, which seems to have gotten lost in translation. There is so much talk about what people shouldn’t eat that everyone is confused!
“Bread causes belly fat. Dairy is bad for you. Wheat is bad for everyone (don’t EVEN get me started on that one). Eating sweets leads to sugar addiction.” And so on and so on.
There is a lot of nutrition noise, as I like to call it, out there, and it’s getting in the way. So enough about what you supposedly shouldn’t eat. What should you eat?
Well, mostly good-for-you stuff. This includes everything I mentioned above, in the DASH diet eating plan. Depending on food allergies, preferences, etc., make sure your diet consists primarily of the following:
- whole grain carbohydrates: like whole wheat bread, quinoa, brown rice
- fruits and vegetables: fresh, frozen, or if canned, without added sugar for fruits, and unsalted for veggies
- low-fat dairy: part-skim string cheese, low-fat/fat-free Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and other light cheeses
- fish, seafood, and lean animal proteins
- nuts, legumes, beans, mono- and polyunsaturated fats/oils
Although the food pyramid doesn’t exist anymore (myplate is more current), remember that little bitty triangle at the top for your sweets and treats? That wasn’t so far off. I am a HUGE proponent of allowing yourself a daily dessert. And if burgers or pizza is your thing, find a way to incorporate them healthfully into your diet. For example, half a cheeseburger or a slice of pizza (or that beautiful whole wheat personal pie pictured above, divided over several meals), with salad on the side once a week. If you need something like this to keep you sane, consider it, because it will lead you to crave them less, and when you do eat them, you’ll be able to eat less in one sitting because they’re no longer forbidden. Furthermore, if the majority of your diet is balanced, as described above, then your overall diet quality – despite the minimal inclusion of desserts and pizza – is still POSITIVE.
To sum up rule number 1, avoid dieting. It usually involves extreme eating behavior that cuts out food groups unnecessarily, leading to a greater desire for these foods, and often resulting in a failure of the diet and feelings of discouragement. And although this isn’t a quick fix (as in, you won’t lose 5 pounds in 5 days), that’s exactly the point. This is an investment in long-lasting behavior change to work towards a long-lasting healthy weight.
Oh if I may opine about dessert – I don’t mean light ice cream or “one square of dark chocolate” (if that square works for you, then all the power to you). I mean a couple of Oreos. A chocolate chip cookie (but no, not a monstrous one from Starbucks). A couple of Baked by Melissa cupcakes. But these are just my recommendations 😉.