This is my un-diet diet. My un-diet diet involves eating what I want, as much as I want, when I want. I say abs are kind of made in the kitchen. I don’t think being obsessive about your diet is the healthiest practice; so how can we have a healthy diet without giving it that much thought or effort? These are the principles I follow.
Listen to Your Body and Focus on Health, Not Weight Loss
When I feel hungry, I don’t feel healthy. When I feel bloated, have a headache, am painfully sore, feel depressed, or get too much sun, I don’t feel healthy. “Listen to your body” is probably the most cliche piece of health advice, and yet it’s almost impossible to reach your goals, including weight loss, if you’re not listening to the needs of your body.
Sometimes listening to your body goes against even peer-reviewed research on health, because you know you body better than anyone else. For me, I have to avoid consuming too many cruciferous vegetables (brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower) because they make me bloated and gassy. I also have to be careful about religious fasting, because going more than five or six hours without food makes me feel sick and dizzy, and it literally takes me a week to recover.
Everyone’s body has different needs. Instead of doing tons of research in books and online, the most important research you can do is to study yourself. Discover the foods and exercises that make YOU feel good.
If the upright row makes your shoulder joints ache, choose another shoulder exercise. If running makes you light-headed, maybe try biking for cardio. If kale gives you diahrrea, keep eating it until your body gets used to it… haha! Just kidding, but really, it may take your body a little time to adjust to added fiber in the diet. Give your bowels a couple weeks before making a decision.
Focusing on health WILL help you lose weight, if losing weight is what your body needs.
Eat Slowly and Savor Every Bite
Let food be a pleasure in life! This is the simplest bit of advice I have, and yet, possibly the most powerful! Eating slowly will help your body register when you are full, and paying attention to how much you love your food will help you make better choices. Let me give you these scenarios to demonstrate what your relationship with food can be:
1) Someone brings you a plate of cookies, and they look so good. Fresh from the oven, the chocolate chips are still soft. The cookies are golden and thick. You take a bite and slowly chew while closing your eyes to taste every bit of sugary goodness. You finish the first cookie, and think about how you just ate dinner. You could eat another cookie, but you’re not really that hungry for it. You put the cookies to the side to save for later.
2) Someone brings you a plate of cookies. They look like chalky, store bought cookies and when you pick one up, it breaks in half. But the frosting on them will probably taste yummy. You look at them a little longer and think about how they will probably taste, and you are not that hungry. You decide to give the cookies to your little sister.
If there is an “unhealthy” food that you REALLY want, then for heavens sake, eat it! Life is too short! Enjoy the crap out of that cookie, and savor every single bite. If you think you will enjoy the second cookie just as much, eat that one too, but make sure you are enjoying every bite you eat.
Don’t Eat Out of Obligation or Habit
We don’t need to eat when our body isn’t asking for food. It’s safe to say that we have all been guilty of eating food just because it’s sitting in front of us, but our bodies are amazing and are programmed to tell us when we need food.
It’s okay to say no to food. You don’t need to sacrifice your comfort and health for food that you aren’t hungry for. This may or may not lead to hurting people’s feelings, but trust me. It’s worth it.
Some sticky situations may include:
- Making your friend feel good by eating the dry cookies previously mentioned.
- Eating too much at a restaurant because the plate is huge and you paid a pretty penny for it (save some for lunch tomorrow!).
- Continually reaching for the candy or popcorn bowl just because it’s there. If you find yourself doing this, move the food out of sight!
- Eating the rest of the potatoes from dinner because “there’s not that much left” and you don’t want to waste food.
- Eating lunch just because it’s lunch time and not because you’re hungry.
These little scenarios happen every day. Becoming a little more aware of them will help you that much more with your weight loss goals.
Lose the Guilt
If you binge and eat half of a large pizza one night, DO NOT FEEL GUILTY. Seriously, that guilt is the reason people fall into a rut with their health. Just take the pizza for what it is, recognize how it makes you feel, and try to remember that feeling the next time someone sets a box of pizza in front of you.
There is nothing wrong with taking two steps forward and one step back with your weight goals. Persistence and general progress are key.
Don’t Pull Weeds, Plant Veggies
No weeding necessary! Personally, I hate weeding. I am not one of those people who enjoys digging in the dirt. It dries out my hands, and when I do wear gloves, the dirt always manages to get inside the gloves…
Your diet is kind of like a garden. However, in a diet garden, you can keep the weeds out just by planting more veggies. By adding more healthy foods to your diet, you are leaving LESS room for junk. So many diets focus on eliminating sugar, eliminating saturated fats, eliminating processed food.
Are brownies your favorite thing in the world? Do you absolutely love corndogs and cannot live without them? Well, you don’t have to give them up. Here is the only rule: get your vegetable and protein in first. Eat something your body needs to function properly. To find out what your body specifically needs based on your height, weight, sex, and physical activity level, go to https://www.choosemyplate.gov/MyPlatePlan.
For me, Myplate recommends 2,600 calories a day. I am breastfeeding and have a fairly high activity level. Per day, these calories should be broken down into:
- 3 1/2 cups of vegetables
- 2 cups of fruit
- 9 ounces of grains
- 6 1/2 ounces of protein
- 3 cups of dairy
Check out your Myplate recommendations below:
They break down the food list even further by listing what counts as cup of vegetables or an ounce of protein, and even have a printable checklist so you can keep track daily. If I ate exactly according to these recommendations, there would be very little room for cookies, chips, candy or soda. Work on adding the essentials, and the nonessentials will start fading to the background, leaving you healthier.
It is important to know what your specific nutritional needs are so that you can avoid nutrient deficiencies and feel energized. You don’t need to pay for a diet program or meal plan (although if that works for you, then go ahead)– there are free resources all around you, including Myplate.
Here are links to FREE healthy recipes and a printable weekly meal plan:
Meal plan sheet: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/budget-weekly-meals
Find Healthy Foods You Actually Enjoy
If you are only eating celery because you’re trying to be healthy, that probably isn’t going to last. You can’t force yourself to eat foods you don’t like, it will only lead you back to your cravings. The trick is to try a whole bunch of healthy foods and pick out the ones from each food group that you enjoy.
While it’s important to have variety in your diet, I believe it’s okay to have some healthy foods that are consumed more regularly. For example, I love avocados. I can eat avocados with anything and I buy them by the bag at Walmart. On average, I probably eat one small avocado a day. I don’t think this is excessive. Read how I like to incorporate avocados HERE.
I DON’T like salad. Salad makes me feel like a horse chewing on grass. Anyone watch Parks and Recreation? When Ron Swanson is served salad at a restaurant, he says something like, “I think there’s been a mistake. You’ve served me the food that my food eats.” Yes, this is how I feel about salad!!!
So guess what? No salad in my diet. Those leafy greens can be incorporated in other ways, such as in wraps and on sandwiches, or in a yummy smoothie.
Smoothies are a great way I like to sneak super foods like spinach, kale, ginger, and turmeric into my diet. Read about the amazing benefits of turmeric HERE.
Sometimes it’s a matter of finding the right preparation for a certain food. Squash is not my favorite on its own, but is delicious in squash bisque. Experiment with different recipes, and once you find something you like, hang onto it. I made squash bisque once a month throughout my pregnancy. My body needed squash, so thank heavens I had a good recipe!
The lifestyle change won’t happen until you find healthy food that makes you look forward to eating every day.
This may seem like a lot, but incorporating these mindful techniques is sure a lot easier than “Eat This”, “Don’t Eat That”, “Eat at this time”, or “Eat this much”. Myplate does give more specifics on what you need, and you can totally keep a food journal where you record you servings. But you can also use it just to get a general idea of what you need or to pick one new food to add to your “garden” per week or per month.
Losing weight and adopting a healthy lifestyle do not have to be complicated or expensive. It just takes the right mindset and sometimes patience to reach your goals.