Updated: Aug 23, 2019
Let's talk about diets.
There was a time in my life that I could be standing in the open door of my fully-stocked refrigerator, experiencing a ridiculous amount of anxiety because I couldn't eat anything. Or so I thought. I had over-complicated nutrition to the point where I could not for the life of me decide whether or not it was ok to have a piece of toast with peanut butter or a grapefruit.
It was utterly ridiculous. I didn't realize until recently that it was also a form of disordered eating, called orthorexia nervosa, that you can read more about in this article.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics defines Orthorexia as an unhealthy fixation on eating healthy or “pure” foods . This disorder is typically characterized by an extreme obsession with avoiding foods perceived to be harmful or unwholesome. Literally translating from the Greek to mean “correct diet”, this phrase was first presented by Steven Bratman, M.D. in 1997 to describe this condition that resembles other eating disorders .
My interest in clean eating and having the perfect diet had gotten completely out of control. Luckily, when I kicked my anxiety and depression to the curb, my food obsessions left too. I came to my senses and refused to do anything that wasn't maintainable and healthy in the long term. I came to realize that being "healthy" is much more than what your diet looks like. Being healthy should be a hollistic term that includes your mental and emotional health. Obsession isn't healthy. Deprivation isn't healthy. Healthy is not being afraid of food. It's being able to enjoy food without feeling like you need to binge or starve afterwards. It's not assigning moral values like "good" or "bad" or feeling like you should punish or reward yourself based on what you're eating. It's having a relationship with food that is centred around moderation. For me, this was one of the many lessons in balance and self-love that moved me out of dangerous extremes, quick fixes, and binge-restrict cycles into a lifestyle change.
There are an overwhelming amount of fad diets out there, claiming to have found the answer. They will all tell you what you should be cutting out or licking to get some mind-blowingly fabulous results. There are many diets out there that may appear to be healthy on the outside but they have really restrictive rules, even surrounding food with high nutritional value. You might be able to follow these diets for a painful little while but usually it will end in you walking down the junk food aisle and grabbing everything in sight or having a weekend "cheat day" that turns into a slump. There are very few diets that are sustainable in the long-term (have you ever noticed that the people you know who go on diets are always the same people going on diets? If they really worked, why are they still going back to them?) On the other hand, a few of these diets might actually work, if the measure of whether or not a diet is working are the numbers shrinking on the scale. Sure, you might lose weight sipping only celery juice for weeks on end but guess what is going to happen the moment you stop? You'll likely gain it all back. It's also possible that in the process, you've risked losing some hard-earned muscle and harming your body, not to mention your experiences.
How many experiences have you been tainting because of your relationship with food, when food should be something that's allowing us to fuel our bodies and live a full life? Maybe it won't be binging on junk that will be the tell-tale sign of a diet. Maybe it will be not having dessert with your family and friends or making yourself different meals than the rest of your household because "mommy's not eating carbs right now." Honestly, I have decided to just say no to all of that and this is why: the most effective, hollistically healthy diet out there is moderation paired with consistency.
Here are some more things that I say no to:
Anything Wildly Restricting
This includes cutting out entire food groups, saying I'll never eat sugar again, etc. This is not something that I could ( or should ) be keeping up for my entire life, nor is it necessary. Now, there are certain foods that I avoid have frequently because I find that I personally don't feel great when I eat them. However, that doesn't mean that I don't eat them ever, at all, no way jose. Everything - yes, even the chocolatiest treats - are ok in moderation.
I refuse to feel bad for enjoying my food. I try to remember that I'm taking care of my body so that I can live a full life. When I think of it that way, I can remember that part of living a full life is my enjoying my experiences. No one is laying on their death bed thinking that they shouldn't have had that slice of cake at a birthday party. Ten thousand slices of cake that led to physical decline, maybe yes. However, indulging from time to time is good for you and not feeling bad about that will lead you away from extremes and binging. Guess what only fuels binges? Shame! And feelings of just throwing in the towel.
Counting Calories or Obsessively Tracking Food Long-Term
This is no way to live, guys. I have more important things to put my energy into than how many calories are in ten chickpeas. This to me is an extreme and can lead to a dangerous obsession that can spiral out of control fast. I do sometimes recommend using an app like My Fitness Pal to track your food for a few days at a time, just to get a picture of what your average food intake looks like, but it's not something I think anyone should be doing long term. On top of that, when you are looking at food as calories, it's very easy to let yourself think that all calories are created equal. You've got 400 calories left. Why not skip dinner all together and just eat some candy instead! (I mean, that does sound delicious but definitely not high on the nutritional value.) There are healthier mindsets and more maintainable ways.
Magical shakes, pills, and other diet voodoo
Just no. Nobody needs these things and if they actually worked, people wouldn't still be struggling to lose weight. Not to mention that most of them are likely unregulated and pretty bad for you. Some of them (coughHGCdropscough) would have you starve yourself on 500 calories a day along with taking their product just to make sure that their product, ya know, "works". Walk away, guys. Those products don't have your best interest or the long-term picture of your health at heart.
It's time to break the cycle. The diet industry (which is a billion dollar industry, by the way) fuels itself on our insecurities and desperation for something that works. Don't let yourself get sucked in to the idea of the perfect diet; it doesn't exist. You deserve more than a diet, food obsession, or over-thinking every little bite that goes into your mouth. There is so much more to life than that. I hear you if weight-loss is one of your goals. Believe me, I have been there. I have been uncomfortable in my own skin, unable to move the way I used to, and not recognizing the person in the mirror. I hear you. I also know that you can get where you want to be with small, consistent changes. Does it sometimes take more time? Yes. Does it involve shaking up your routine? Yes. Does it respect you as a whole person, your health, and not reduce you to some number on the scale or your size? Yes! Find the freedom in saying no to diets and yes to balance and moderation.