Just yesterday, for the umpteenth time, I got a comment about the lunch I was eating,
“That looks really healthy, are you on some sort of special diet?”
“Haha yeh I guess it is pretty healthy, this is just how I eat, I don’t really see it as being ‘on a diet’.”
I don’t even like to use the terms ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ so much. What’s ‘healthy’ for me may not be for another. It’s all about the context.
“Oh but sugar is unhealthy".”
Is it? Is one teaspoon of sugar unhealthy? Is one skittle unhealthy? Is fruit unhealthy? Are carbs unhealthy? After all, doesn’t matter what form of carbs it is, it all becomes glucose in the bloodstream. It’s about context and moderation… but that’s a different topic altogether.
Today we’re talking about the term ‘diet’ and how dieting is setting you up to fail again and again in a vicious cycle of restriction, cheating, guilt and restriction.
Why does someone eating a meal full of veggies and quality foods always come with the assumption that that person must be “on a diet”? Can’t that just be the way you eat? Can’t someone eat ‘healthy’ meals all the time without being on a diet?? The whole mentality around dieting is broken and the term ‘diet’ is so misused and has such a stigma attached to it that it’s doing way more harm than good.
That fact of the matter is, yes, I’m on a diet, and so are you, and everyone else for that matter. Your diet is just what you what, simple as that. It’s just that some diets have labels, labels created and used by marketing companies to sell their products. Sadly, it’s these ‘diets’ that get all the attention, because it’s these diets that have the money behind them and hence the ones you see everywhere in the media and in the stores.
My diet doesn’t really have a label. I guess you could say I’m on the ‘I eat what makes me feel good and happy’ diet. That’s hardly going to sell though is it?
There are some key differences between being ‘on a diet’ and having a diet that you like to follow, between dieting and just eating and living. The diet mentality is a negative mentality. It’s goals focus on negative aspects of eating and achieving change. It’s set up for failure. Trust me, I’ve been there time and time again. I’m all too familiar with this seemingly endless diet cycle:
“I’m going to do xyz diet” > Restriction of foods > Struggle > Cheat > “I’ll get back on the diet tomorrow/next week” > Fall off the diet completely > Guilt > Back to diet (or maybe a different diet this time).
I have been there more times than I can count and man does it suck. Keto, Atkins, Low carb high fat, high protein above all else, if it fits your macros, calorie counting, measuring and weighing every single ingredient… I’ve done it all, and I’ve failed on them all. It’s frustrating AF and I’m sure you have experienced something similar at some point.
So I don’t ‘diet’ anymore. My ‘diet’ is just how I choose to eat day to day. It’s what makes me FEEL GOOD, healthy and happy. It’s what makes me feel energetic, it’s what I can do day in day out because I enjoy it and don’t struggle through it, it’s what keeps me mentally clear and able to take on the day.
Here’s 5 reasons diets suck, and what you should focus on instead:
1 - Diets focus on a restriction of foods. When you’re on a diet the mentality is to avoid certain foods, reduce food intake. There are foods that you can’t eat when you’re ‘on a diet’.
Feel Good Eating - The focus is on eating foods for function, foods that provide fuel. You don’t avoid foods but rather find foods that work for you and that you like. You add foods that make you feel good and that you can eat day to day over the long term because you’re not forcing yourself to eat it because it’s part of the diet you’re on.
2. Diets focus on removing BAD habits. It’s a focus on the negative.
Feel Good Eating - The focus is on adding new, GOOD habits. It’s an important distinction. It may seem trivial but that simple difference in perspective has a big effect on your overall mindset, which keeps you happier :)
3. Diets focus on fixing the things that you don’t like about yourself. Perhaps you don’t like the look of the belly fat, you want to get rid of the fat under your arms, you don’t like how your butt looks, you hate the blemishes/acne on your skin etc. Once again, the focus is all on the negative aspects of yourself.
Feel Good Eating - You strive for the qualities you want for yourself. The focus is on gaining and obtaining, working towards a positive body image. Once again, it’s a subtle difference, but the difference between “I eat xyz because I don’t like my belly fat” and “I eat xyz because it moves me towards my goal of a flatter stomach” can be significant when compounded for each of your qualities, day after day.
4. Being ‘on a diet’ is temporary. This is a massive factor. Think about any diet you’ve been on in the past, or if you’re on one currently, ask yourself, “Can I stay on this diet forever?” Do you want to be on a diet forever? I’ll take a stab and guess you don’t want that. Ok, so what do you do when you inevitably come off this diet or complete it? What’s your plan then? A new diet? Cycle through different diets for life? Back to the old diet, the old habits and old self, losing your progress? I think you see the problem here. No one wants to be ‘on a diet’ and yet they struggle through it and push through, but then when do you stop? When you reach your goal? But then what? How do you maintain without staying on the diet?
Feel Good Eating - You enjoy the way you eat, the foods YOU CHOOSE to eat. There is no timeline, no need for a plan to come off the diet, no need to worry about the results you’re getting in a certain amount of time. You can eat this way day in day out for life if you choose to. There’s no sense of urgency. It’s just how you eat, how you live.
5. There tends to be a focus on the numbers when it comes to dieting. The number on the scale, the number of calories, the body fat %, the number of weeks it’s been, the number on the measuring tape etc. This mentality is not so much about what you are measuring (I do believe in measurements and keeping track), but more about what you aren’t measuring. The numbers should not be your focus.
Feel Good Eating - The numbers cannot measure how you FEEL. Some of the most important results are intangible and no number can ever quantify them for you. The focus should switch from a concern over the numbers, to forming daily habits and behaviours. The numbers will naturally follow as a result of your habits and behaviours. Not only that, other areas of your life will be greatly improved through the formation of these habits. You take action, implement your habits and live in the knowledge that the results will follow. You avoid the stress of a number going against you one week because there’s no urgency now. You know that your habits will provide you with continued long term success, you trust the process.
Next time you think about starting a ‘diet’, think about what you’re really after, and what you’re really going to do on this diet. Are you going to hate it? Are you going to have to struggle through it? When is it considered a success? And what do you do then?
Don’t fall victim to the diet cycle. Adopt a positive mindset and take some time to find a way of eating that pleases you and makes you feel good physically and mentally. It’s 4 Your Health.