I’ve been researching many different types of diets recently for a new book. I can tell you, without a doubt, there is a lot – I mean a LOT – of junk information floating around in the vast world-wide web. Some of it is touted as being ‘supported by years of medical research’, but always fails to mention what studies it references. Others were written by doctors or nutritionists, who by pure happenstance are selling supplements, meals or meal plans as well. Whom do you trust?
Here’s the answer – you trust YOU. No one knows your body, your needs, your desires better than you do. Now, before half of you prepare your tar and feathers, let me be clear on something. This does NOT mean you shouldn’t work with a doctor, nutritionist or trainer to achieve your goals. I would never, ever suggest such a thing. What I am saying is – trust yourself. You know what, when and how you eat. You know what you are willing to moderate and what you are absolutely, realistically not going to give up.
If you sit down for a minute and really think about it, you know where your calories and ‘problem areas’ lie, whether you choose to say it out loud or not. I believe part of the problem with dieting (and heaven forbid, ‘fasting’) is that you feel punished. You feel like this is what has to happen, that you need to suffer to make up for all the bad stuff you’ve eaten and for the lack of movement. This is why they rarely work. Who wants to willingly submit to this pseudo self-flagellation for months and years on end? Not this girl!
I had this idea for a new cookbook. Not a diet book, not a self-help book. A genuine, this is real-life-stuff cookbook. One that uses common sense and balance in all things. I’ve been researching and sifting through all kinds of ridiculous and insane diets out there proclaiming to be the next big thing in weight loss. Diets that tell you cavemen lived better than you, that sugar is the root of all evil, that proteins are good/bad, that fats are bad/good, that fasting is great for weight loss (it’s not*), that you should subsist on lemon water or clear soups for weeks on end.
Why do we subscribe to these? Why do we punish ourselves, only to find that we end up worse off than when we began? We are looking for a quick and simple fix. One that absolves us of responsibility and accountability. One that enables us to not think about it so much. But that doesn’t really work does it? We need something that works in our own reality. When you punish yourself, in some cases starve yourself, you think about it even more. I did, for a very long, long time. Yo-yo, up and down, constantly feeling devalued and not-quite-enough. A failure when it came to my own body. We need balance in our diet, as in our lives.
No more, I say! I am on a new mission – one that makes sense and appeals to my inner-scientist. One that doesn’t punish and starve. One supported by legitimate science and research*. Here it is – are you ready? Balance and nature. As a culture, as a nation, we have become so complacent with ‘shove-it-in-our-face’ foods that we simply accept them as normal and healthy. Well – they are not. Quick is not always good and tasty, and healthy does not mean long creation times and gritty foods. Processed foods come at a price – your health.
I’ve come to understand that *I* am the only one who knows what I need, what I want, where my challenges lie and what I struggle with daily. My doctor can provide medical advice, a nutritionist can make sure I am getting the average of what a woman my age should be ingesting (with my goals in mind) and my trainer can help make sure that I have an exercise plan that works in coordination with my diet and goals. But when it comes down to it – when I am alone in the house, watching a movie late at night – *I* am the one who has to make the choice between opening that ever-so-sweet box of peanut butter Girl Scout cookies and maybe just having a glass of water instead.
I began by sitting down and having a conversation with myself about my own realities. What did I really want from my body? Were they realistic? What are my concerns for my long-term health? What dilemmas do I face daily and what are the items that I simply won’t surrender?
My first acceptance was that I was addicted to soda. It had to go – it was the worst thing in my diet. I knew this, but I needed something to substitute. I hate plain water, and I seem to have some weird reaction to fluoridated tap water. So that meant that I had to stock up on gallons of water and some flavorings. Ok, that’s easy enough, right? No – it wasn’t. Soda really is an addiction, and it was damn hard to give it up. But I did this first and as my only challenge, and that made it seem more easily accomplished.
Next – I love Reisling. I don’t drink multiple bottles a night, and it’s not incredibly bad for me, so there is no way I am giving it up. My significant other refuses to give up his chips and salsa. That’s okay – we just have to balance in other areas.
Coffee from two different retailers? Truth be told, I get terrible heartburn from lots of coffee, so I agreed to change the type of coffee (limit the calories – not the frozen stuff, and no added sugar) and reduce the frequency (once a week, max). This was actually much easier than I expected. I drink black tea at home, and it took the edge off the coffee withdrawals. Cheaper too!
My current challenge is eating in the evenings. It’s not always easy, but keeping busy and recognizing the difference (whether or not you vocalize it) between eating due to hunger or eating from boredom, helps. Having someone you live with participating too helps to keep you both in check. We are trying to not eat after 8pm (for clarification purposes, I do not consider ‘not eating at night’ to be fasting. Fasting, to me, is 24 hours or more). After a period of success, my goal will be to reduce this to 7pm. If we have a night where we have a snack, we don’t beat ourselves up – we keep moving forward. You’re allowed to make mistakes and have ‘moments’, everyone does.
The next part is developing recipes I can live with long-term. Real, natural and as-balanced-as-I-can-get menus to sustain us for the upcoming year. Finding meals that will provide for our bodies needs, but also satisfy our tastes and cravings. Based on our current diet – carbohydrates are our kryptonite. Pasta, breads, grains, potatoes….deliciously tasty, but we eat them far too much. It’s a real problem.
My point is that you should trust yourself and not punish yourself. If you know that you eat too much candy or soda, develop a plan you can live with long-term and work in stages. Incorporate any health concerns or allergies as well. If you know you have a problem you can’t get past, ask for help from a legitimate source; don’t trust the internet and anyone trying to sell you a product. Believe in yourself and keep moving forward – you can do this!
* 1. Am J Clin Nutr November 2001 vol. 74 no. 5 579-584 is an example of one, far too many more to list. Do your research – you’ll find them easily.
*there are quite a few medical studies that agree fasting is not an effective way to lose and keep weight off – a simple google search will highlight them. (For clarification, I consider fasting to be 24 hours or more.)