Why I don’t say ‘diet’ and why you shouldn’t either

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We are constantly surrounded by food information these days! Ever been on the internet?…facebook?…Instagram?  Yes you have, and you probably know what I’m referring to! We are constantly bombarded with ads from health food brands trying to sell their new protein rich ice cream, or almond milk holiday nog. Your friend Kelly just posted on Instagram that she started the keto diet, your co-worker Jim just lost 60 pounds while on the paleo diet and your medical doctor mentioned something about cholesterol and the low fat diet last time you went for a check up.

All of this and you start to wonder… “do I need to go on a diet?”  

Don’t get me wrong healthy eating is GREAT! As a Nutritional Therapist I talk about food a LOT and recommend various ways of eating to all of my clients BUT I try to stay far away from the word DIET.  

Let me tell you a story about how the word ‘diet’ can affect people…

There were a bunch of friends gathered to our house for an event. Everyone brought something to share for supper and, of course, dessert was not forgotten.  I was 15 at the time and I remember standing in a circle of moms who were chatting.  One of the moms grabbed a piece of chocolate cake and started eating it, no one said anything but apparently she felt the need to justify her actions.  Although I don’t remember her exact words they sounded something like this “mmm so yummy, I have absolutely no guilt for eating this piece of cake, I’ve been sticking to my diet lately and I deserve this”.  

That moment impressed me forever.  The mom has no idea what kind of negative thoughts towards food her comment sprouted in my head.  I remember thinking “huh, is she supposed to feel guilty for enjoying cake?”“Should I feel guilty when I eat something I enjoy?”, “maybe I should be more cautious about what I eat.” 

While the word “diet” can simple refer to the type of food you eat everyday, but on the flip side it is also often connected to feelings of depravity and guilt.  This is because diets can easily become strict rules that are impossible to follow for a long period of time and when we finally eat something we enjoy, because we are craving flavor or feel awkward and left out in a social setting, we feel guilty for getting off track.  

Wether you mean to have this mindset or not, it can negatively affect you, and may be communicated to your children in a subconscious way which can destroy their innocent relationship with food.  

I’m all for healthy eating but more importantly I’m for a healthy relationship with food! 

Here’s what I advocate for instead of using the word ‘diet’

  1. Find a lifestyle way of eating that works for you and think of it as such! 

  • If you think of what you eat daily as your longterm health plan you are less likely to view it as a short term deal, where, if you eat that piece of cake you’ve ruined the whole thing and your diet is shot. 

    In lifestyle eating, even if you eat cake that you know is not healthy for you, you know that this is a journey and the next meal is your next chance to make another choice!…More cake, or nutrient dense sweet potatoes topped with vitamin rich butter…it’s your choice! 

2. Your lifestyle eating habits do NOT have to be bland! 

  • Thankfully our culture has (mostly) moved away from the low-fat diet movement (fat equals flavor, fat also supplies much needed nutrients).  There are so many options out there for healthy, amazing tasting food! 

  • Try cooking a healthy dessert with your kids and take it to the next holiday gathering or family event. 

3.  If you are transitioning to a healthier way of eating or specific guidelines for a type of eating (such as, Paleo, Keto, AIP etc) have in mind some talking points to explain this to your children and friends that encourages a healthy relationship with food! Here are some ideas… 

“I’ve been following the guidelines for the Ketogenic way of eating because I want to focus on eating nourishing foods that make me stronger so I can have more energy to play with my kids.” 

“No thanks i’ll pass on the chocolate cake, every time I eat wheat I wake up feeling crabby and I don’t like how that affects my ability to take care of my family in the morning.” 

“Yes! Thank you, I’ll have some of Grandma’s pumpkin pie. It means so much to me to be here with all of my family, eating treats that Grandma made, just like it was when I was a little girl.”

These kinds of statements communicate that you have long term goals in mind…feeling good, wanting to be able to serve your family, and making memories with family and friends.

The statements above are in sharp contrast to the following guilt saturated statements which communicate that you are eating in a strict way in order to lose a few pounds fast.  

“I know I’m not supposed to eat pie but everyone else is and I really want to…I’ll make up for it later. I won’t eat breakfast or lunch tomorrow.”

“Sure I’ll have a piece of cake I already had Pie with lunch so might as well have cake too.”

Exceptions to the rule…
There are some great short term eliminations diets out there that are useful for resetting your habits and how you think about food! For instance the ‘Whole 30’ guideline is a strict set of rules to follow for a short period of time. It’s not meant to be followed exactly for your whole life and is more strict than a lifestyle way of eating but has a specific purpose of breaking bad habits. The nice thing about this guideline is that there are no cheat days. If you cheat you go back to day one and start over. This avoids the sloppy ‘I’m on a diet but this is a guilt free cheat day’ mentality that produces negative effects that we want to avoid!

In summary… 

Strict diets for short term results like losing 20 pounds can destroy your relationship with food.  Healthy ways of eating that are adaptable to your specific needs and situation are forgiving, and encourage you to build a positive relationship with food.  They will create joyful memories with your family and, as a side effect, will lead to you losing those 20 pounds (if that’s what your body needs).  

I encourage you to search for a lifestyle way of eating that works for you! 

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