What Dieting Means to Me
I remember thinking I needed to go on a diet when I was about nine years old. I had a little tummy, and grew breasts at a pretty young age. Skipped right over that training bra phase. To me, going on a diet meant I didn’t eat very often, or in really small amounts. It also meant eating things like celery, and avoiding carbs, fat and God only knows what else.
Diet, to me, meant deprivation, hunger and being skinny and accepted. What the HECK???
Where on Earth did I get the idea that I needed to starve myself? I’m not going to say that I never heard the women in my family talk about diet and exercise, but I don’t think that was all of it. I’m not even going to blame the little kids that told me I was fat. I grew up before a lot of them, and while it was mean and bullying, it can’t be the only reason. Was it the magazines and media? Well, unfortunately that’s nothing new…and it still continues today. Body shaming in all its many forms is alive and well in all the media forms. I’m guessing it was a combination of all things. But when did the word “diet” become a dirty word?
What is a Diet?
The word diet is defined by Merriam-Webster as the following:
“food and drink regularly provided or consumed”
“the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason”
“a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight”
I only included the ones that were food/drink related, and these are the exact words used in the definition. Notice that it just talks about nourishment or habit until the last definition.
And then it doesn’t even talk about healthy eating—just eating less to lose weight. So, technically we all have a diet—we all eat to nourish our bodies, provide energy and satiety.
Good vs. Bad Food
Along with the word “diet,” at some point we started putting food into categories: good and bad. For example, a salad is “good” for me, but pizza is “bad”. Technically, both of these types of food provide energy and nutrients, albeit in very different amounts. FYI, I’m speaking in very general terms here. I’ve seen a wide variety of salads and pizza that provide different levels of nutrition. Just trying to keep it simple.
When you go on a diet, you should only eat the “good” foods and avoid all the “bad.”
That often means you don’t get to eat the foods you really enjoy. No wonder so many of us carry excess body weight, and have an unhealthy relationship with food.
Time to Change our Mindset
For some people, counting calories, macronutrients or following a specific eating regimen works. They enjoy the structure, it helps them live a healthier life and reach their goals. I don’t want to knock that as I know people it does work for—both men and women. However, it doesn’t work for everyone.
So, maybe we should think a different way. I’ve heard the words “intuitive eating” a lot in the past couple years. You can use the link to learn more in-depth about the concept, but here are a few highlights:
“Reject a diet mentality.”
“Honor your hunger.”
“Make peace with food.”
“Respect your body.”
“Respect your fullness.”
“Honor your health.”
Again, I quote directly as I don’t want to misinterpret. For each of their principles, the site goes into a little more detail.
But, in my opinion, it talks about learning to eat properly for our body, stop listening to the outside world/negativity, and respecting ourselves. Love that!
Let’s stop listening to the promises of fast and lasting results. Let’s stop telling ourselves that we can’t have certain foods, and instead learn moderation and avoid overeating. We need to listen to our bodies, and respect food and what it can do for us—not to us.
Making Health a Priority
Now, if your brain is “intuitively” telling you to have cake at every meal, I’m thinking that some re-evaluation is in order (wink, wink). Also, if you have a disease, such as diabetes, you do need to follow the advice of your doctor and monitor your food intake.
But, most of us just need to start making choices that focus on our health, not just appearance.
The World Health Organization advises the following steps for adults in terms of nutrition choices, and it’s nothing new. Focus on consuming fresh fruits and vegetables. Monitor and lower, the amount of sugar and saturated or trans fats that you consume. Note, it doesn’t say avoid it completely, just keep it to a minimum for your health. Also, monitor your sodium intake. Processed foods, canned foods and even frozen foods often have large amounts of sodium, so start reading the labels.
When it comes to carbs and protein choices, choose moderation. Choose lean sources of protein such as chicken, turkey, fish, etc. for all of you meat eaters. Eggs, egg whites, nuts, cheese and yogurt are also viable choices. In terms of carbohydrates, try to choose whole grains, legumes or beans.
Don’t worry about measuring everything, or cleaning your plate at every meal. Instead, eat slowly, enjoy your food, and stop eating before you feel stuffed. Be mindful of what you consume—and sometimes, just enjoy the cake!