If being on a diet sounds like a version of hell, it may be time to rethink how we diet. It's the thought of dieting for the rest of their lives that makes some people give up altogether.
To some people dieting means giving up all the foods they love, and only eating foods they dislike or barely tolerate. What kind of life is that?
Have you ever heard the quote “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”? I think of diets that same way.
"Find a healthy way of eating that you love, and you'll never diet again."
There are a lot of diets circulating the popular culture. When someone asks me if they think a particular diet will work, I always say "Yes, if you do it forever."
The problem with diets is that they end, and when diets are over, any lost weight comes back on (plus more sometimes). It's not the diet; it's the dieter's consistency with it. Going on and off diets is what gets us in trouble. If your diet plan is overly restrictive, it may be harder to stick to it. If your diet has some leniency, it may be more sustainable for long-term success. However, if it's too lenient, you could sabotage your results. If it includes healthy foods that you enjoy, you'll probably want to continue with it. The key is to find the right balance for your lifestyle.
Generally speaking, any diet that restricts calories enough to put you in a calorie deficit, meaning you consume fewer calories than you use in a day, will likely cause weight loss. So if you like the idea of eating low carb, that can be an effective way to restrict calories.
If you eat hamburgers without the bun, tacos with lettuce wraps instead of shells, and spiral vegetables instead of pasta, you will cut unhealthy calories from your diet. A lot of processed foods are high in carbs, so if you avoid carbs, you also are likely avoiding processed foods, which is always a win. If you are cutting a moderate number of calories; combined with regular movement and structured exercise, that is the recipe for a successful diet.
However, if you love fruits, potatoes, oatmeal and rice and couldn't imagine a life without them, there's no reason to avoid carbs if it doesn't fit your lifestyle, goals or preferences. If you exercise for performance, you probably will find that healthy, whole-food carbs give you more energy to perform better in the gym or at your sport. It's a personal choice. Some people find they respond positively to lower carbs and others to higher carbs. There are individual variances to our bodies, and it's up to us to figure out what works best for us long term.
There isn't one magic diet that makes every person lose weight or feel great. It's mostly about the calories and quality of food consumed. It's all about finding a healthy, yet sustainable, way of eating that you enjoy. While I don't follow any particular diet, I try to live by the below guidelines to keep me on track. I sometimes fail, of course. I'm not a robot, but when I mess up, I move on from it as soon as possible.
In my life, I look, feel and perform at my best when I stay on track with these principles. It's not a diet. It's how I live my life, and I can sustain it long term because I enjoy the foods I eat on a regular basis, and it allows the flexibility I need to enjoy occasional indulgences.
1. I eat mostly whole-foods derived from nature from a variety of sources
2. I try to avoid processed foods most of the time
3. I avoid sodas and drinks with added sugar nearly all of the time
4. I allow room for guilt-free occasional treats and indulgences when it enhances the experience with family and friends
5. I limit alcohol
No matter what diet you choose to follow (or no diet at all), if it is in line with the above principles, you'll likely find success. The key is to discover the healthy foods that you enjoy eating. I often make healthier versions of the junk foods I love, so that I can have the best of both worlds. For example, instead of ordering pizza delivery, I'll make a pizza at home using healthier ingredients.
It doesn't feel like a struggle to eat healthy to me because I enjoy the foods that I eat every day, and when there is an occasion to enjoy a piece of cake (German chocolate, please!) or glass (or two) of wine, I know I can celebrate without guilt. It's what I do most of the time that matters, not what I occasionally do. It's a diet-free life.
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