“No, I couldn’t possibly. I’m on a diet.” Said with a mixture of pride and irritability.
Suzy was forever dieting.
One week it would be the pumpkin seed cure (“Seriously, after 3 weeks eating only pumpkin seeds, she’d lost 12 pounds and glowed!”), the next she’d be on to some seriously low-carb regime (“The first three days are the worse because I’m only allowed to eat eggs”), before finishing the month on protein shakes (“Actually this is so much easier because I don’t need to cook anything”). And invariably, the look on her face when someone in the office brought in cakes or biscuits was heart-wrenching.
She always gave in.
Does this sound like you?
Why is it so hard to be on a diet? Because it is based on a fundamental flaw. Dieting implies restriction. It implies giving up what you love. And it implies, loud and clear, that you’re not good enough just as you are. You need to be tweaked, smoothed, nipped and tucked. If you’re on a diet it implies you do not consider yourself good enough as you are right now. Is it any wonder that dieting is such a dismal experience, drenched as it is in scarcity of taste, comfort and love?
Dieting Equals Craving
Dieting, I’ve found, isn’t the happiest pursuit (understatement). Whenever I’ve embarked on one, I’ve found myself craving the very things I “shouldn’t” be eating. Whether that be pizza, strawberries, avocados or bread. And that’s because our brain naturally desires what we tell ourselves we can’t have. Add to that a little stress and the plate of biscuits left in the office canteen and boom. You’ve slipped off your diet. And now you feel guilty. Pass me another biscuit. Dieting never fails to make one feel utterly miserable.
Dieting Makes You Sick and Sad
And it’s not that good for your health either. Often rooted in dodgy theory—one of the worst examples is the crazy notion that fat is public enemy number one—long term dieting can leave you nutritionally deficient, and heavier than when you started. Consider the fat-free diet: not only are you not getting the good fats that keep your hormone levels balanced and your brain ticking away nicely, you’re usually consuming more sugar (did you know most diet products contain more sugar than their conventional counterparts?), which is the last thing you want to do when you’re trying to get healthy and shed a few pounds.
Detoxes Can be Dismal
Detoxing can be equally daunting, with those 3 to 5 days stretching ahead, with nothing but a few carrot sticks and pond-water-like juices to see you through. Most of us can only drag ourselves through a cleanse if we go to a retreat, with no contact with the outside world, and have all our detox potions mixed for us.
Well guess what. It doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to restrict, starve yourself, or eat bland food. Getting healthy deserves to be a happy, delicious experience.
Detoxing is less about taking away and more about what you’re adding in. It’s about filling up on food that nourishes, heals and supports—and that goes for what you feed your body AND your mind.
Tip 1: Set Your Intention
It’s important to start your new health regime with a positive intention, rather than a negative one. Why are you going on a diet or doing a detox? Is it because you want to lose weight? Take a moment to think about how you’re phrasing this, the feelings that sentence engenders for you. Chances are you feel upset, maybe angry or anxious. Because wanting to lose weight implies that you’re too big now, not quite right. But by focusing on those feelings you are welcoming more of them into your life.
Change your intention to something that reflects the love and kindness you want to show your body. “I am stepping into vibrant health” “I am releasing toxins from my body and supporting it with abundant nutrition” “I am nourishing my body with wholesome food,” “I choose the healthiest foods for my body”… Choose an intention that resonates with you.
Think about what it will feel like to reach your health goals, and focus on that feeling. Your body responds to your thoughts as much as it does to food, so feed it some happy, positive and optimistic thoughts. Believe that you will reach your goals, and you will.
Tip 2: Listen to Your Body
The second thing you want to centre your new regime around is ABUNDANCE. Wave goodbye to the diet mentality that says you can only have a certain number of calories a day. This kind of calorie controlled dieting is guaranteed to make you so obsessed about cake and biscuits you can’t focus on anything else.
Instead of counting calories, pledge to your body that you will listen to it when it cries out for food. When you feel hungry – do just that: listen. What are you craving right now? Are you really hungry? Are you feeling stressed, unloved, anxious, bored? What can you do to make yourself feel better? Sometimes you might find what you really want is a chat with your best friend. Or a hug. Or a good cry. Other times you might actually be hungry – in that case: it’s time to eat!
Tip 3: Eat (Mindfully)
Bye-bye restrictive dieting mentality! The first trick to a healthier you is simply to have healthier options on hand. Make yourself some raw energy balls (you do not need to be a gourmet chef to do this – simply throw a cup of nuts and a cup of dates in a food processor, add a nourishing superfood, and process until sticky enough to either press into a cake tin or roll into balls; my current favourite is cashews, dates, maca and vanilla) to satisfy a craving for something sweet. Keep a big bowl of home-made hummus in your fridge so you can snack on raw veg if you feel the need for something crunchy. Always have your favourite teas on hand to make a drink, because very often hunger is thirst in disguise. Keep some nuts in your bag or your desk drawer at work. Indulge in a little raw chocolate once in a while…
The second trick to a healthier you is mindful eating. We are all too often eating on the go, at our desks, in front of the tv. But if you simply shovel food down, barely chewing it or tasting it, you’re not giving your body the time it needs to register it’s full, so you’ll end up eating more. What’s more, digestion begins in the mouth. If you’re not chewing properly, your body has a harder time breaking down and absorbing nutrients from your food. So practice eating mindfully, without any distractions. Bless your food before eating it. Really savour each mouthful. Chew properly (some people advocate chewing food 30 to 50 times… but you don’t have to be so hardcore about it, just be a bit more mindful). Think about the goodness this food is bringing your body. You’ll find you eat much less, and that the food you do eat makes you feel more satisfied.
Don’t Restrict; Renourish!
Setting an intention to re-nourish rather than restrict means you won’t slip off your “diet,” because your body isn’t craving something it cannot have. You’ve given it a new message, that you’re listening and able to satisfy its needs (without that biscuit).
Of course, there’s no getting away from the fact that if you want to lose weight and improve your health, you have to change your lifestyle—beware any diet or product that tells you otherwise! But that doesn’t mean it has to be a dismal experience where you’re forever denying yourself life’s little pleasures. Far from it! By making healthier versions of those pleasures, and nurturing a positive loving attitude towards your body, you can transform your journey to health from dismal, to delicious and delightful.
What diets have you tried? Did they work? How did they make you feel? I’d love to hear your experiences!