I’m going to tell you a little secret – I’ve lost more than 65 pounds without giving up anything. Yes, that’s right, I didn’t give up carbs for weight loss, nor did I give up fat, desserts, or anything else that I enjoy.
What I did do was learn everything I could about food – what dietitians say, nutritionists, naturopathic doctors, even my medical doctor (who I see only once a year for my physical). I studied to become a health coach, and in that time was exposed to countless different diets. Then, I threw it all out and started from scratch. I learned to listen to my body, to what it is asking for. As I started to respond to those simple requests – plenty of clean water, fresh veggies, fruit, and other whole foods – the weight simply started to melt off. You can learn more about my personal journey if you’re interested.
So, it makes me
bite my tongue so I don’t ask them if they are crazy cringe a little, when I hear people saying that they’ve given up carbs (what they really mean is grains) to lose weight – or fat, or fruit, or any other food group.
The truth is we need all of these beautiful foods to nourish our bodies. We need grains because they are filled with important vitamins and minerals as well as fiber to help keep us full, satisfied, and with sustainable energy. We need fat to literally lubricate many parts of our bodies, provide us with energy, absorb nutrients and feel full and satisfied. We need fruit for fiber to keep us full and satisfied, to give that sweet tooth a hint of sugar to keep the sugar monster at bay, and to provide a variety of vitamins and minerals. When we take protein out of our diets…well, you get the picture.
When we start to remove an entire food group from our bodies, it’s kind of like playing Jenga. Remember that game? You take a block from the bottom and you put it on top, you take a block from the middle and you put it on top. You keep going, building the tower higher and higher yet also less and less stable, until eventually the pieces crash around you and you’re left with…well, a big mess to clean up.
The same thing happens when we start restricting ourselves from an entire food group, or even from a favorite dish. We start with creative strategies – replacing one food with another, doing things to ignore our cravings, ‘cheating’ and then feeling guilty for hours or days, convincing ourselves that it’s worth it to reach our goal weight.
Eventually we might reach that goal weight, or not. Invariably what happens is that we give up on the crazy diet because it was too hard and restrictive. Since we haven’t actually learned new healthy skills, we go back to our old way of eating because it’s all we know. Usually that leads to the weight packing back on, and that’s how we end up in the yo-yo dieting cycle.
The next time one of your friends is raving about this great new diet that only requires you to give up [fill in the blank here] use your best manners and say ‘no, thank you!’. If you’re already on the dieting rollercoaster, pull the emergency break and step off.
Instead opt for one of my favorite rules – the 80/20 rule. Aim for at least 80% of your daily food intake to be whole, healthy, nutritious foods – plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains and high quality protein. With the other 20%, cut yourself some slack. Allow yourself that favorite afternoon beverage, a spoon of honey in your morning coffee, and other small indulgences that make you feel good. If those indulgences don’t make you feel good, seek out healthier alternatives like homemade whole grain cookies, kale or pita chips, and other more natural treats. This simple 80/20 rule can make a big impact on your health and your waistline.
Photo Credit: Robert Horvath