I hate the word “diet.” I use it almost every day, but to me the word has a negative connotation. I hear “diet” and I think restrict, limit, deny. There isn’t one positive word or thought that comes from this word, yet it is so important. The definition of diet (when used as a noun) in the dictionary is
The kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.
Seems harmless right?
The definition of diet (in the dictionary) when used as a verb is
Torestrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.
Not so harmless!
Why do people want to RESTRICT themselves to special foods in order to lose weight? Why do people want to let their dieting dictate what family function, work event, or date night they can attend based on the food they eat. Why not learn a flexible way of dieting that allows you to incorporate all different types of foods into your diet so you don’t miss out on anything? Can you imagine attending a family function and enjoying a piece of cake without guilt while on a diet? Enter, FLEXIBLE DIETING!
Flexible dieting is nothing new but it is rarely practiced. As a personal trainer, I am always hearing about a diet that someone is on: paleo, clean eating, no carbs, etc. but I never hear about someone being on a diet that is conducive to their lifestyle.
Paleo diet, oops, had a piece of cheese, I am off the diet. No Carbs, oops had a french fry, I am off my diet. Clean eating, oops had ketchup to go with that fry, I am off my diet but I will start again on Monday. Sounds ridiculous but it is true!
Flexible dieting allows you to eat the foods you wouldn’t normally eat on a diet. Therefore, flexible dieting is a lifestyle, not a fad. You should eat to nourish your body first. Nutritionists recommend food over vitamins. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take your vitamins, but different foods provide a variety of vitamins and minerals as well as dietary fibers that are not found in a vitamin or mineral supplement. Once you eat to nourish your body, then it is good to eat to provide satiety. This is a state of feeling full and or satisfied. Are you going to feel full or satisfied when restricting your diet? Unfortunately not, and all this can do is create issues in the long term.
When you’re trying to lose weight there’s too much pressure put on eating “good” foods and “bad” foods. Depending on the type of diet you’re on will determine what is on your “good” and “bad” list. When you don’t allow your body to have the “bad” foods that are against the diet, you will start to obsess over them and usually break down and eat the “bad” food, throw in the diet towel, and start the vicious cycle of yo-yoing. This is why I preach to my clients, friends, and family about flexible dieting. With flexible dieting you do not need to label foods as “good” or “bad.” It is all out there for you to choose: healthy, unhealthy, whatever it is, it is allowed.
“Woo Hoo, call the diet police, I am breaking out and going on a bender!” Not so fast! Flexible dieting isn’t a big free for all! It is a way to incorporate an uncontrolled way of eating into your lifestyle. As mentioned earlier, you should eat to nourish your body first, but if you are trying to nourish yourself with Oreos, your body is going to have some issues with that. If you are meeting your daily fruit, vegetables, grains, protein, fat, and dairy requirements, then what is wrong with a couple of Oreos thrown in? The “all or nothing” effect does not work with most people. What is wrong with allowing yourself a few Oreos every day and including them in your daily totals?
The key to flexible dieting is tracking your macronutrients. Macronutrients are protein, fat, and carbs. In order to track your macros you need a diet tracking software. I love to use Lose It. It’s free for the basic option and is the most user friendly diet tracking application I have used. You can find the website here (http://www.loseit.com). With this app, I am able to scan the barcode on my food and 90% of the time it is correct. The other 10% I have to take a few minutes to enter the food manually but it is conveniently saved for the next use. The two negative things I can say about Lose It are that it calculated my daily calories way too low and the fiber is usually off. Make sure you go to this site (http://www.freedieting.com/tools/calorie_calculator.htm), as mentioned in my previous blog, in order to find out what your true daily caloric requirements are. This site will help you calculate the correct amount of calories needed in order to sustain you throughout the day. Make sure to include your activity level so that the extra calories can be added into your totals. After that, you can go here
http://www.freedieting.com/tools/nutrient_calculator.htm to figure out how many macronutrients you need.
In the beginning it will be hard to let go of the good food, bad food habit. I have been applying this method for a year and I am still not perfect. When I find myself labeling food I will step back and ask, “Will this give my body the nutrients it needs? Will it provide me with lasting energy or will I crash 20 minutes after eating it?” Sometimes I make the right decision, but sometimes I am hungry 20 minutes later looking for my next fix. This is a lifestyle, not a fad, so thankfully I can learn, try to apply what I have learned and move on. Remember, it takes 21 days to start a new habit. Give flexible dieting a 21 day chance and I am certain you will feel the control food has over you gradually fade away.