Using the word “diet” can be confusing. When I talk to patients about nutrition, the question I ask is - “what does your nutrition look like?” For this post, “diet” refers to a change in dietary intake with the primary goal being to lose weight.
There is evidence of diets dating back to the 1000’s, but in modern times, dieting became more of a phenomenon in the 1940’s with the Lemonade Diet. This consisted of consuming a mixture of lemon juice, maple syrup, water and cayenne pepper (this became popular again in the 2000’s. I do not recommend the lemonade diet or any diet). There has been a variety of liquid diets and juice diets, low calorie diets, low fat diets, high fat diets, high protein diets and even the Tapeworm diet…yes, the Tapeworm diet.
A large driver for creating a new diet by the diet industry is marketing and money. Statistically speaking, not one diet works with consistent effectiveness (meaning a large number of people seeing results) long term. One of the reasons for this is because a primary goal is to alter appearance, achieved by extreme measures that are not sustainable.
That is the number one question I recommend you ask: “Is this dietary change sustainable?” If the answer is no, then please do not proceed with making the dietary change. Usually the diet is aimed at quick results, but because it isn’t sustainable, the results do not last.
Another problem with dieting and diet culture is the focus on appearance and objectification of the body. “Diet culture” refers to a set of beliefs that values thinness, appearance, and shape above health & well-being.” This belief is not healthy for the body or the mind. Oftentimes there is such a hyper focus on body appearance and food, it becomes all-consuming and leaves little room for engaging with aspects of life that are more fulfilling and rewarding. A day filled with calorie counting, macro counting, food restriction, standing on the scale and worrying about the number is exhausting and causes a lot of self shame and guilt.
Ask: Has dieting worked for me in the past and lasted long term?
How is my relationship with my body right now as a result of past diets?
How is my relationship with food as a result of past diets?
I should say, when I work with patients I do address nutrition. Nutrition is a huge factor in the health of our mind, body and spirit. Nutrition and dieting are different, as I hope to be explaining in this post.
There are instances when I recommend a very short term elimination of foods. But I screen patients first for disordered eating, and the recommendation is part of a treatment plan to identify food allergies, sensitivities or intolerances. The short term elimination may be for treatment related to a bacterial or fungal overgrowth. Never a focus being for weight loss.
If your goal is to make nutritional changes for weight loss, I recommend you shift your goal to instead improve how you feel - not how you look.
Write down a list of symptoms you experience that are concerning to you. For example, maybe you have low back pain or knee pain. Maybe you experience diarrhea and abdominal bloating. You may be frequently exhausted and have difficulty concentrating.
2. Now, think of food as healing. Food as a source of energy. Food can help lower inflammation. Write that down. These are excellent words to think of when you are planning your meals. Aim to include foods for this purpose. When you are eating your meal that includes these foods, use imagery and think to yourself, “this food is giving me energy”, “this food is lowering my inflammation”.
Shift the focus away from food restriction and labeling food
as “bad”. Instead make nutritional goals of inclusion - that are sustainable and will help you feel better. As you include more of these foods, you will start to feel better and this can be very motivating to keep the nutritional change around long term.
Foods that are healing, anti-inflammatory and are packed with energy include:
Whole Grains (Carbs get a bad rap, but we need them, there is alot of nutritional value to them - just aim for the grains that are high in fiber such as whole wheat, brown rice and quinoa).
Beans and Lentils (High in fiber and protein, very filling and great for blood sugar control)
Colorful fruits and veggies (packed with fiber and phytonutrients that increase energy and healing, lower inflammation and so much more. Strive to include the color of the rainbow of plant foods in your daily nutrition).
Nuts and Seeds (protein, fats and Omega 3’s, great for energy and reducing inflammation).
This New Year Season, my hope is you will be able to make nutritional changes that will be sustainable and improve how you feel, both mentally and physically. Please let go of any guilt or shame that has been pushed upon you by diet culture. You are a beautiful human being with an amazing life to live!