It’s safe to say that we’ve all dieted to some degree, whether we realize it or not. By “diet,” I don’t only mean the act of losing weight; it can include eating “clean,” Paleo, gluten-free, or following any nutritional plan that outlines certain parameters by which you should abide.
More often than not, many diets require you to do one thing: eliminate something. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? This alone may be one of the biggest reasons why your diet may not be working.
The act of eliminating certain foods from your diet can set you up for failure by making you crave those eliminated foods more than you normally would, simply because they’re ‘forbidden’ from you. The longer you restrict yourself from eating certain foods, the more your craving increases for those eliminated foods — this is the typical scenario of your willpower succumbing to your so-called ‘forbidden’ foods. After awhile, you won’t be able to resist those eliminated foods, and may even find yourself over-indulging in them (head-first into a package of Oreos), then feeling guilty for your over-indulgence, followed by being smack in the middle of a vicious binge-purge-diet-binge-purge-diet pattern (also known as “yo-yo dieting”). This pattern is less likely to see the results that you desire, not to mention that this approach simply isn’t sustainable.
Haven’t you had enough with eliminating things from your life and making yourself feel guilty for eating something that’s forbidden?
Another reason your diet may not be working is that you may simply not enjoy it. What makes you think that you can successfully follow something that you don’t enjoy? Yes, eating less calories in order to lose weight may never be enjoyable for anyone, but it doesn’t have to be a miserable experience. A miserable experience will most likely not be successful to meet your goals. Regardless of which diet you choose to follow, the best diet for you is one that you will actually enjoy following.
What if I told you that you can eat the foods you enjoy on a regular basis and still lose weight? It’s true and it exists: it’s called flexible dieting, and it’s one of the methods I use to guide my team to a life-long way of eating. Flexible dieting was even shown to work in this study (1), and there are plenty of anecdotal stories out on the interwebs if you Google ‘flexible dieting.’ [Full disclosure: Instead of using the word “dieting,” I prefer to call it flexible eating (and you can learn more about my approach here), but that’s just semantics.]
Flexible eating, while technically a diet, is more of a lifestyle, providing you with a way to eat flexibly and enjoy foods that will fuel you for your daily life.
Regardless of which diet you choose to follow, the best diet for you is the one you will actually enjoy following!
Nutrition is so personal, and everyone has a different response to eating certain things and eating a particular way, so listen to your body to see what would work best for you and your level of dedication. Nutrition is not one-size-fits-all; what works for your friends and family may not work for you, and that’s okay. I’m not going to try to talk you into following the flexible eating lifestyle, either, because I know how annoying it can be to have someone say their way is the only way. But, I do think you should add some flexibility to your eating style if you’re currently restricting yourself from eating certain things and you find this is mentally wearing you down.
Adding Flexibility to Your Diet
The goal of flexible eating isn’t necessarily to eat whatever the heck you want, all the time. No, let’s be reasonable. However, flexible eating should afford you some indulgences to help keep you sane while you’re dieting.
For me, doughnuts are one of my favorite go-to treats, especially after a ridiculously heavy lifting session at the gym. For the sake of providing you an example here, consider the doughnut to be whatever you crave. In my experience, if you want to eat a doughnut, then eat it. But, place some parameters around how you eat the doughnut:
Balance. Incorporate the doughnut into your day by balancing it with your other meals throughout the day. This may mean that your other meals include only nutrient-rich whole foods (such as lean meats/proteins, vegetables, fruits, and unprocessed grains).
Portion control. Try to portion control your doughnut. Eat one doughnut instead of six doughnuts. 😉 This is where moderation is key.
Enjoy every bite. As you enjoy the doughnut, make sure you savor every single bite of that delicious doughy goodness. Don’t make it a contest to see how quickly you can eat the doughnut. Savor it!
By incorporating some flexibility into a diet that you enjoy, you may find your diet adherence to improve, which is key to developing healthy life-long nutrition habits. You will no longer be that socially awkward friend who won’t enjoy a few bites of a dessert at your favorite restaurant because “it doesn’t fit your diet.” Lastly, the feeling of deprivation — as well as the feeling of guilt associated with eating what you enjoy — may be gone forever once you add some flexibility into your life. It does take some practice to get the hang of eating flexibly, but with this practice should come great results.
Of course, let me be clear: there are exceptions to eliminating foods from your life. For example, if you’ve been diagnosed with a gastrointestinal or autoimmune issue that may be resolved by eliminating gluten or other foods, then by all means, you should follow an elimination-style eating plan. Naturally, eliminating the foods that adversely affect you will benefit you the most, and the mental barriers to eliminating those foods is limited (mainly because you actually shouldn’t eat those foods unless you want to experience a disaster in your intestines, which I can almost guarantee no one wants to willingly experience, ever).
No matter what diet you decide to follow, make sure it is a plan you enjoy and doesn’t make you feel restricted. A little bit of flexibility never hurt anyone.
1. Timko, C. A., & Perone, J. (2005). Rigid and flexible control of eating behavior in a college population. Eating Behaviors, 6(2), 119-125.
INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE?
Interested in learning more about flexible eating and how to enjoy the foods you love? Comment below or email me, and I’d be more than happy to help you make sense of it all.
If you’re interested in having your macronutrients personally calculated for you to meet your goals, or having a customized nutrition plan built just for you and paired with attentive coaching, then check-out my Services page first to see what I offer. Message me and we can arrange a time to chat for a free consultation.