It seems like there’s a new fad diet or food “discovery” nearly every day that promises to help us lose weight and be healthier. But is eating right and maintaining a healthy weight so complicated that we must drown ourselves in new techniques and data, searching for the ever-elusive answer to our body issues?
Thankfully, no. Eating right is a practice, and there are some pretty straightforward ways to get and stay on track. But perhaps what’s equally important is understanding why these “diets” don’t work—so you can ditch them once and for all. Here’s why you should forget about the “promising” eating programs—plus tips for how to live a healthy life, the right way.
1. There’s No “One-Size-Fits-All” Approach
Each person has unique nutritional requirements, so when experts say “eat whole wheat” or “dairy is good for you,” it’s a generalization—one person’s food may be another’s poison. It takes great personal attention to determine what type of lifestyle changes and diet regimen is best for you, and it’ll be based on your age, activity level, genetic heritage, and personal preferences.
So instead of trying to fit into a cookie-cutter eating plan, remember to be true to yourself. Learn how to eat a well-balanced diet—and one that’s based on your specific needs.
2. Diets Come Between You and Your Body
Think about it—you’ll never come across an overweight deer or a bird that’s had too many seeds. Animals in the wild know when, what, and how much to eat—and it’s not because they read the latest diet books, it’s because they trust their inner needs.
If you depend on external sources to tell you what to eat, it becomes impossible to trust your body. Try replacing advice and opinions from others on what feels right to you. Tune in closely to your body before, during, and after every meal, snack, or beverage. You’ll begin to recognize how certain foods change the way you feel, and you’ll learn that your body already knows exactly what it needs to thrive.
3. Diets Cause Cravings
Many diet plans significantly reduce—or even eliminate—foods high in nutritional value. Whether it’s low-carb, low-fat, or low-calorie, a diet lacking essential nutrients can cause your body to crave non-nutritional forms of energy. Plus, your body’s ideal state is balance, so eating too much or not enough of a food will cause you to crave its opposite. For example, eating too much meat can cause cravings for sugar or alcohol.
In order to form healthy, life-long eating habits without the cravings produced by diets, it’s important to couple listening to what’s right for your body with a well-balanced diet of whole foods.
4. Diets Turn Into Rebellions
Diet plans sound promising at first: Eat this, not that, and you’ll lose weight and feel great. Problem is, no one likes to be told what to do—and that includes your body. You’ll always want more of whatever it is you “can’t” have.
That’s why it’s critical to learn practical tools for making healthy food choices without the strict guidelines of a diet. You’ll avoid the feelings of deprivation and submission, plus you’ll prepare yourself for a lifetime of nutritious eating.
5. Diets are Stressful
Worrying about what you can and can’t eat puts your body in a constant state of stress. And, since your body can’t distinguish real danger (an attacker) from that which you’ve created (“I shouldn’t have eaten that!”), your brain produces the same “flight or flight” survival response.
This causes the brain to trigger the stress hormone cortisol, which boosts insulin, a hormone that signals the body to stop building muscle and store more fat. So even if you follow a diet perfectly, stressing about food can create a metabolic environment within your body that actually prohibits you from losing weight.
On the other hand, by learning how to be mindful of and happy with the food you consume, you’re creating a more relaxed body, one that’s conducive to maintaining a healthy weight.
6. Food is Never the Real Problem
Diets promise to help you lose weight, be healthy, and find happiness. However, eating isn’t always just about food—it’s often used as a substitute for entertainment or to fill a void we feel in other areas of life. Dissatisfaction with a relationship or job, a poor exercise regimen (too much, too little, or the wrong type), boredom, or stress may all cause you to make poor nutritional choices.
So, take a step back and think about whether there are other aspects of your life worth paying attention to. You might find that there are ways to nourish your body, mind, and soul that will help you live a healthier life much more quickly than dieting.
Diets might mean well by trying to get us to think about our health, but in the long run, they only delay learning good eating patterns. The real solution to maintaining a healthy weight—for good—is to lose the diet mindset and adopt wellness as a way of life.
Want to learn how to change your relationship with food? If you’re in NYC, join Lisa’s free seminar, Feed Yourself to Better Health, on February 7.
Photo courtesy of Malias.