Dieting may be the furthest thing from your mind at this time of year. But you may start thinking about how to shed all those holiday pounds come January 1st, or be toying with the idea of a new diet as part of your New Year’s Resolutions. If you want to lose weight next year, we think that’s great – but dieting is not the way to make it happen for the long term. Here’s why you should think twice about New Atkins, Weight Watchers or whichever other diet you’re thinking of taking on next year.
You may think dieting is innocent enough, but if you think critically about what a diet actually is, and what it means, you’ll notice there is an inherent problem in the concept of dieting: there is an “off” and “on”. If you go “on” something, inevitably there will come a time when you will go “off” it. Going “on” and “off” a diet are two sides of the same coin: one cannot exist without the other.
When people think about dieting, they are really thinking about the short term. And many of the diets out there are nearly impossible to sustain over a long stretch of time. Really, can anyone adhere to a diet that requires you to eat only fruit, soups and smoothies forever? Or does a diet that restricts or bans carbs really make sense if your absolute favorite food is pizza?
The point is that no matter how long you manage to stay “on” your diet, the weight will eventually come back when you can’t take it anymore and need to get “off”. To fix this problem, we need to change the way we think about dieting. If you want to make a long-term improvement to your health, think long-term. How can you adjust your diet in the long term to stay healthy and keep weight off? A compartmentalized diet, where you have to follow a strict eating regime,is not the answer.
Because of the inherent problem mentioned above, your diet will eventually fail. And, each time it does, your spirit will be crushed. You may reach a point where you’ve failed so many times that you believe the situation is hopeless. This may cause you to give up dieting forever (which is good) and not care at all about your health or what you eat (which is not good). It might be in your best interests to skip the diet altogether and instead think long term. Your goal should be finding a realistic long-term change to your diet today.
When you start a new diet, you may feel like you’re coasting the first month or two. It can be easy to follow the structured plan of a diet, and you may even be thrilled to see that you’re losing weight. Then as two months turns to six, the cracks in the seams of your diet regime start showing. Dieting gets harder as time progresses. That’s because diets require you to follow a strict and inflexible regime. When you diet, you’re likely cutting out many foods that you love. If you enjoy ice cream, are you really never going to eat it again? The rigid mentality encouraged by dieting is not realistic. So in addition to thinking long term about how you can eat healthier, avoid following a rigid diet regime. Instead, give yourself a day or two a week when you can enjoy whichever foods you feel like, and if you have a week where you eat unhealthy most days, don’t take it so hard. Remember, you are only human (just like the rest of us), so you’re allowed to fail. And if you do, get back up, dust yourself off and try again.
You can have the healthiest diet on the planet, but that won’t prevent you from overeating. What will, however, is being able to listen to your body and know when you’re full. So instead of trying to follow a diet that some company tells you is healthy, why not start listening your body and seeing how the foods you eat affect you? Try paying attention to how you feel after a meal. Did the food you ate energize you and make you feel ready to take on the world? Or did it drag you down and make you want to unbutton your pants and fall asleep on the couch? Use your feelings as a gauge to learn which foods you should eat more of and which to avoid, and you’ll start noticing a difference in your health and your waistline.