It’s a Lifestyle, Not a Diet
Here’s a newspaper headline that’s a prime example of why people have difficulty becoming “normal” eaters: “A party menu that won’t ruin your diet!” This makes it sound like a diet is something you’re on temporarily as if you might give up a diet someday, like an escalator on which you step on and off. Instead, lifestyle is a moving sidewalk you stay on to move forward and keep moving forward.
The idea is not to think of eating a particular way as temporary, but as permanent. Let’s just get rid of the word diet or dieting, period, and talk about what we’re really looking at: a lifestyle change, a new habit. It’s ongoing, not on and off. It’s forever, not for the moment. This is an example of how diet (versus) lifestyle thinking goes:
Say, your friends all order dessert after a restaurant dinner. Diet-think would go something like this: You consider whether you’re on or off your diet. If you’re off, you check out the dessert list and make a choice. If you’re on, you pass on dessert and feel virtuous and morally superior or you feel deprived, resentful and envious, watching everyone else eat theirs. Then you go home and polish off your sister’s stash of M&Ms.
Lifestyle-think would go like this: You assess your hunger, fullness and satisfaction level. You consider if any of the desserts appeal to you and why. You ponder (or ask) what ingredients are contained in whatever dessert you might choose and imagine how you’ll feel later or tomorrow if you eat it. You think about whether you already had a lot of sweets today or might have later and how you’ll feel today and tomorrow—proud or ashamed—about your choice after you’ve eaten or not eaten dessert.
Notice the difference in how you make the decision. One is for the long haul and one is for over in a heartbeat. One is based on what’s happening in your body with your appetite, while one is externally focused on what others are doing. One focuses on instant gratification and the other on happiness and well-being.
I’m not saying that eating dessert is wrong or bad for you. The point is that you want all your eating choices to be about self-care. Sometimes dessert is perfect and hits the spot. Sometimes it ruins how you feel the whole rest of the day—and part of tomorrow—because you feel ashamed and regretful and your body is bloated and fatigued.
Using the example above, think about how you often run with the pack when you wouldn’t dream of doing so with anything but food because you pride yourself in being an independent thinker. Remember, eyes on your own plate and it’s all about tomorrow.