What’s the first thing that springs to mind when you think about going on a “diet”? Restriction? Deprivation? Definitely not enjoyment anyway.
With all the common myths, fallacies, and downright lies that surround the health and fitness industry, in particular when it comes to fat loss, we are led to believe that we must make drastic changes to our diet to become slim and healthy.
We are led to believe that we must eliminate all refined sugar, dairy, gluten, grains, beans, alcohol, salt and even fruit, in a drastic bid to regain control over our health.
Whereas ironically, I would argue that such drastic measures will eventually lead you in the opposite direction, to become more out of control than before.
Restricting and depriving yourself of foods that you enjoy and love to eat can lead to binge eating episodes. A binge can last from a few hours to a few days as you try to make up for lost time with the foods you enjoy to eat.
Extreme swings in eating behaviours like this can lead to very disordered eating patterns and it is not a healthy place to be for the body or the mind.
Food has turned into a religion for some and certain diets have become almost cult like. Lots of very strict rules have been put in place, with whole foods group being black listed, akin to an excommunication.
Food is and should be a pleasurable experience. We should enjoy the foods we eat. We should eat whole, quality and minimally processed food the majority of the time for optimal health. But we should also eat fun foods that we love from time to time.
Pick a Friday night meal, or a Sunday brunch with friends, and eat some foods you wouldn’t normally eat. This way, there is no deprivation, no starvation, and no food is “off limits”.
Your diet should be maintainable, sustainable, and enjoyable. Allowing yourself fun foods from time to time is ultimately what makes a diet maintainable.
With modern on trend diets, such as “clean eating” and the Paleo diet, the word “cheat” has somehow found its way into the fat loss dictionary.
I really do not like the use of the term “cheat” when it comes to food. The definition of cheat is “to act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage".
Food should NEVER be associated with dishonesty or guilt, not ever.
I much prefer the use of the term “treat”. The definition of a treat is “an event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure". Gives great pleasure, now that’s more like it.
It might sound a bit trivial to argue over the use of vocabulary when describing food we eat. However, it plays a much bigger role than you might think.
The word cheat is a negative term and can encourage a negative mindset when it comes to dieting. Our choice of words is a powerful thing. Our thoughts determine our behaviours. Our behaviours determine our habits. And our habits are what ultimately determine the outcome.
If we start off with a negative thought process then our chances of having a positive outcome is slim to none.
A negative mindset can lead to a loss of control, binge eating episodes, and even disordered eating behaviours as the feelings of restriction and deprivation escalate beyond control.
Free yourself of the “cheating” label. Allow yourself to indulge in fun foods that you enjoy without the harsh judgemental thinking.
Give yourself permission to enjoy a slice of cake because you choose to do so and not because of some diet rule that has been inflicted on you.
Find a balance that you can maintain in the long-term. Loosen the reigns and enjoy your life, don't endure it.
Eat *some* cake.
Thanks for reading,
Karen, your local Nut Coach
[As published in The Herald on 24th November 2014 as part of my weekly nutrition column - Look Good Feel Good]