Ever since I can remember, I have never been able to really embrace the concept of strategically restricting my eating for a better reflection in the mirror. I would always try to compensate with more exercise to offset times when my eating was less than perfect. That being said, I have always had a little voice in my head that has reminded me that one of my biggest weaknesses was my inability to try any sort of “quick fix” diet. I would hang out with my girlfriend’s and chat about which of the newest fad diets they were trying or had done with temporary success and laugh it off that I would never be able to stick to any of those. I would rationalize that because I exercised so much, I needed to eat a certain amount of calories and didn’t have time to shop and cook multiple dinners. I would secretly be jealous that friends and coworkers were able to avoid sweets, eat salads all day long and drop pounds without much effort. I threw my focus into my personal training and group fitness classes and continued to sweat away the calories until that just wasn’t enough.
After being pregnant for 3 years and dealing with hormone fluctuations & weight gain, I needed to come to terms with my internal struggle of “dieting.” Having an exercise science background, I knew that there were many factors to consider and that it wasn’t just about calories in vs calories out. I started observing some of my friends who were farther out from pregnancy and observed where they were with their weight. I also looked in the mirror, somewhat metaphorically, and said this is the body you were given, make peace with it and move on! I am a 5 foot, pear shaped female with a small frame, bubble butt and monster calves.(no boots fit width or height wise…ever heard of a petite leather boot?) That’s when I decided that for my sanity and my success, I needed to adopt the motto, “everything in moderation” and be consistent with it.
When you live by this motto, it is hard to use the word DIET. To me dieting is the opposite of living… a freakin’ 4 letter word….
D – Deprivation
I – Ineffective
E – Emotionally Disconnected
T – Threatens your Self Confidence over time
Deprivation – it sets in quickly when you start a diet, mostly because of the way it’s structured, but also because of the emotions it triggers when we restrict ourselves from things. While there is some science behind certain diets, most usually require eliminating so many foods that most people eat. For me, the minute I think I should stop eating something, I start to obsess about it. Is it really that bad…should I cut back or eliminate it all together…what if there’s nothing else to eat or I’m in a rush. That’s why I made a choice to create an Adoption vs Restriction mentality. I created a healthy addition to my eating plan that gave me a challenge, which I have to admit I love. I gave myself permission to try it out and see if it would work, knowing I wouldn’t like all the healthier options out there. Eventually, these options became normal, filled me up and decreased that “want” of the less healthy option without much effort. Does this take work? YES. Does it take patience? YES. Even some creativity at times. But it IS acheivable.
Ineffective – Quick fix diets and “challenges” work in the short term, right? Yes and No! If you need a quick start to get back on track and you have the personality to run with it after the plan’s time frame, great. Unfortunately for the majority of busy moms out there, life gets in the way, we fall off track, feel guilty, demotivated and one bad day turns into weeks and months and then we’re looking for the next “quick fix.” Ugh, exhausting!!!! It is so unrealistic to think that you will be able to stick to a specifically designed diet and then successfully integrate back into normal eating without any side effects like weight gain and negative emotions.
The other aspect of diets is that they normally coincide with our desire to start exercising again. We know that if we are making an effort to cut calories, we should follow up with a plan to burn calories. THIS IS THE BIGGEST MISTAKE YOU CAN MAKE!!!! Sorry, I had to get your attention. You may have heard of “starvation mode” or “metabolic compensation”. What this means is that when you ask your body to exert more energy while feeding it less calories, it says, “Are you kidding me?” Your body will then compensate by increasing your hunger and cravings and then puts the brakes on your metabolism. You might try to fight harder and harder until you eventually CRASH!
Emotionally Disconnected – I am going out on a limb here, but I would bet that most women who decide to try a diet are not coming from a place of self-acceptance and happiness. In a stage of frustration, depression or self-doubt, most of us resort to making a change by utilizing a diet that someone recommends regardless of its success rates or cost. I’m not saying that this isn’t always successful, it’s just that in most cases there are emotions and behaviors that play an even bigger role in why we might need a change in our eating. ..not just the food! Many diets are based on healthy food choices and in a “perfect” world will work. They are also one size fits all and lack any commitment to self discovery. Some of us eat poorly when we are sad or stressed, others when we are in a happy social situation. Understanding how you got to your “dark” place is the only way to slowly get yourself back on track. Emotions are tricky and it’s so easy to give in when stress or disappointment take over. On the other hand, much like myself, over indulging on night’s out or cheat days when we are in social situations is just as difficult to overcome. What has worked for me is to allow a “free” meal (I never say cheat) when I know the food quality is so worth it. If I’m going to have pizza, I will only eat it from my favorite place or if I’m going to have a cookie, it’s got to be homemade and amazing. A lot of times I would crave or obsess about a food and when I finally had a chance to eat it, it left me disappointed and then I would reach for the next treat thinking that would be better, NOT! Figure out what your body responds best to in terms of your energy level and your ability to be satisfied after eating a meal and make a conscious effort to identify and accept the emotions that are linked to the times when you fall off your healthy eating plan and lead to better habits and health.
Threatens your Self Confidence – when you go through life constantly trying diets and falling right back where you started, or sometimes even farther back, it starts to feel pretty crappy. I have trained many clients that have hit their max frustration level with their ability to lose and maintain weight. They ultimately know what the right approach is and they usually have learned the tools from one of their better structured diets in the past, but because they weren’t allowing themselves to live in the real world, they either rebel or lose confidence that they can succeed. The hardest stories to hear are the ones where women acknowledge their issues in childhood and have continued to cycle through the diet/binge process for most their life. For a time I helped counsel bariatric surgery candidates and it was so frustrating to hear what they had gone through and why surgery was their last resort. They had been relying on a set of nutrition rules to free themselves of their issues, but never had true success. Spend time researching the science behind food and how our body uses and stores it. Make sure the plan incorporates a large variety and gives you options based on your schedule and preferences. Finally, make sure their is a maintenance plan that is clearly laid out, so you are not left hanging and vulnerable to the yo-yo cycle. Set yourself up for success, allow for flexibilty and show the world how great self confidence looks!
We live in a society that praises appearance, hard line opinions and success. You might admire celebrities that promote diets or natural health fanactics that preach clean eating is the only way or even fitness professionals that have rock hard bodies and say they only work out 20 mins a day, 3 x a week. Go ahead admire them, take inspiration from their lessons and then apply it to your REAL LIFE! Allow yourself to fail every once in awhile, then pick yourself up and get back to it. I guarantee that all those guru’s had failures and learned from them too.