I hope you had a chance to check out the yoga vid I sent ya last week. I'd like to do more of those so let me know if there's anything in particular you want to strengthen, open, or learn about.
This week I want to talk about something ever-present in all our lives: DIETS.
Ooooh diets. They're trendy, and they're the backbone of a $66 billion dollar industry in the U.S.
Personally, the question of what to eat has caused me more than a little frustration. But not because I was ever a perpetual dieter; simply because it can feel really overwhelming to sort through all the info out there, and ultimately get something tasty, fulfilling, and good for you to land on your plate. Every day. Preferably, several times a day.
A few weeks a go my little sis (she's a very curious & passionate 18-year-old) sent me an *urgent* email with a link to this article. Is this legit?? She needed to know. Well, I told her, that's a complicated question...
Legit, in that some doctor somewhere decided these are the most viable "diets" out there today, sure. But, I told her, the most useful statement in there is: no single diet is best for everyone.
Let me say that again...
NO SINGLE DIET IS BEST FOR EVERYONE.
I told her that, if you HAD to throw me into a category, I'm a Mediterranean diet meets flexitarian. I generally stay away from these labels though, because the thing that ANY "diet" does that I don't think is really healthy, is tell you what you can and CAN'T have. I don't really want to spend my life saying "I can't" do anything. I can do whatever I want! So most importantly, get rid of those rules and tap into your intuition.
And no, that doesn't mean you get to eat ice cream and nachos and a bar of chocolate every night. But rather, how would you feel if you ate those things? Not, like, how would you feel about yourself, but how would your body feel? Good? Probably not. So it's not that I can't eat ice cream and nachos and chocolate every night, but I don't want to. That simple language shift can make a whole lot of difference in the way we approach our food, and ultimately, our "diets."
But before we go any further, let's also clarify the word "diet." We think of it as a temporary, restrictive menu, with some end goal in mind, usually losing weight. But, in fact, the term "diet" can refer simply to the way you habitually eat. Eating one way for a short period of time isn't going to really make any difference for you, because if you see it as temporary, you'll go back to your less-than-healthy ways and ultimately back to your less-than-healthy body (and probably your less-than-healthy relationship to it).
A Netflix mini-doc I recently watched summed this up so well by stating:
"Find the diet you can stick to, so it's no longer a diet. It's just HOW YOU EAT."
Diets fail because habit creation fails. Habit creation fails because we set unrealistic expectations, and then give up completely when it doesn't work. So, if you can happily stick to a super clean, restricted diet and not feel like you're depriving yourself - GREAT! That's not for me. I eat vegan most of the time, BECAUSE IT MAKES ME FEEL GOOD, but will be seen guiltlessly chowing down on pizza (like, the whole thing), nachos, or chicken wings with some regularity.
And no, I don't refer to these as my "cheat days" either.
The guilt-free thing is important here. If you're gonna feel really bad about eating something, is it really worth it? And, if you're gonna eat something anyway, why ruin it by beating yourself up? Own your decisions. Enjoy your food. Be mindful about what you're putting into your body and how it makes you feel.
The reason "diets" are as popular as they are is because people are looking for a roadmap. I get that. There's also much more complicated things at play for some, like food addiction and emotional eating and other problems that go deeper than not knowing what to eat. But for most of us, it comes down to doing the work to find what suits us best. Maybe you're allergic to blueberries?? Maybe green beans make you gassy.
I hate bok choy.
Similar to most self-improvement efforts out there, there is no silver bullet, but there are some general guidelines that can help get you started. It's taken me years of paying attention to figure out what makes me feel best, and where I've landed doesn't fit into any "diet" on a top ten list somewhere. But what I told my sis was EAT REAL FOOD. Fruits, veggies, whole grains. Less sugar, less processed stuff.
Happy to see the super smart lady from the Netflix doc agrees:
"Dietary advice is really simple, you eat fruits and veggies, you don't eat too much junk food, and you balance caloric intake with the kind of activity level you have. You try to eat unprocessed foods to the extent that you can."
So while the details might vary from person to person, the science does show that there needs to be a good ratio of calories in and calories out; I mean, that just makes sense. So when it's summer and I'm biking everywhere and teaching a million classes a day, I eat like a teenage boy about to hit 6'4". But in the winter when I'm taking mass transit and generally moving a bit slower, I don't need nearly as much.
If you sit at a desk most days, the diet your personal trainer follows is probably not gonna be well suited for you. If your bestie is a real couch potato but you're on 3 recreational sports leagues, you should probably chip in more for pizza.
Questions? Let me know. I'll be over here eating my nachos.