By Shayna Bryan, Intern & UAB Community Health & Human Services Student
Eat a balanced variety, enough of the good stuff, not too much of the other stuff. If the principles of a healthy diet are so simple, why do so many dieters fail? Maybe our perspective is to blame.
As discussed previously, your diet is everything you eat over your entire life, so changing your diet is more akin to changing your lifestyle. The best diet is one you can stick to; one that embraces the rhythms and changes of life. The most restrictive diets demand total compliance and encourage a cult-like devotion. These severe restrictions, such as those that eliminate whole categories of food, make it harder to comply and easier to give up. It sets us up for failure. While someone can give up tobacco or alcohol, we still have to eat every day of our lives.
Small changes, slowly incorporated over a long period of time, are the best way to ease yourself into a healthy diet. Here’s how you can do it:
- Set realistic goals that you can achieve
- Set yourself up for success, not failure!
- Take an honest look at what your current habits are and look for ways to make changes
- Example: I currently drink about 20 oz of water a day, my new goal is to drink 40 oz a day.
- Reduce, instead of remove
- It’s not necessary to eliminate certain things from your diet, especially if you like them. Look for the balance.
- Example: I currently eat fast food 5 times a week, my new goal is to reduce that to 3 times a week. Eventually I will work towards eating fast food only once a week.
- If you didn’t meet your goals, set new more achievable goals! Failure is an opportunity to learn and improve, not proof that you can’t do something.
- Example: I previously drank a case of soda (24) every week, so I set a goal to reduce that to 1 soda per day (7 per week). I didn’t meet that goal, so my new goal is to drink half a case (12) of soda per week.
- Try new things!
- New foods, new techniques, new cuisines!
- Living life to the fullest isn’t meant to be about endlessly cutting back, so neither should your diet. You might surprise yourself with what you find and how your tastes change!
- Example: I didn’t like brussel sprouts until I tried roasting them, now they’re my favorite go-to green veggie.
Love Yourself and Keep Going
Our stumbles in life do not undermine our previous efforts. Days of self-love and indulgence are part of a healthy lifestyle, both in mind and body. It’s easier to eat dessert in moderation if you don’t view it as a breach of contract. These cycles of adherence are a natural part of living. If we consider the long term, that your diet will be defined by what you consume over a lifetime, maybe we’ll have an easier time sticking to healthy eating and won’t see a failure as the end.
Sources and Further Reading:
Calorie Restriction and Fasting Diets: What Do We Know? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/calorie-restriction-and-fasting-diets-what-do-we-know
Freedhoff, Y. (2014, November 17). No, 95 Percent of People Don’t Fail Their Diets. Retrieved from https://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2014/11/17/no-95-percent-of-people-dont-fail-their-diets
Godman, H. (2018, January 24). How fast should you change your diet to lose weight? Harvard Health. Retrieved September 20, 2021, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/how-fast-should-you-change-your-diet-to-lose-weight
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2019, January 9). 8 steps to a heart-healthy diet. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/heart-healthy-diet/art-20047702