To the average person, it is no question that diet and emotions play a never-ending game of cat and mouse in their lives. A sudden bout of inspiration (say, a New Year Resolution?) may spur an entirely revamped health-food kick, or maybe a demotion at work could inspire an all-sugar, no nutrient spiral.
No more “diets” – make a lifestyle change!
The term “diet” implies that the change in eating habits is temporary. As with everything, the content of your ‘diet’ will ebb and flow, but one thing should be consistent – the (majority of the) food you put in your body should be consumed because of what it will do to your body. The science of making food taste good is a multi-billion dollar industry. People are willing to pay for incredible taste not just with money, but with their health. This may be a conscious choice or it may be lack of education. Either way, the food they are choosing to fuel their body is instead robbing it of the vitality they deserve.
A diet is often adhered to for only as long as it takes to reach a certain goal. All too frequently this goal has more to do with weight and size and less to do with internal health markers. It is no secret that our society has historically valued smaller frames as more attractive on women and more muscular – albeit still slender – physiques on men. Fortunately, as our understanding of the science behind nutrition and health broadens and social movements push toward equal representation of all body types, we are able to direct more focus toward the apex goal which is total health and wellness.
From “FlatTummyTea” to “Green Tea Pills” to meal replacement shakes, there are constantly products on the market claiming to produce weight loss results with no other lifestyle changes. “Just add our product into your daily routine, the pounds will melt right off!” This amazing deal sounds too good to be true – because it always is. It is time to come to terms with the fact that there is no magic pill, tea, or shake that is going to boost your health without any other lifestyle change. It may help shave off pounds (temporarily) but this is not an indication of true health.
Consider this: if someone is born at 7 pounds and now weighs 150, that means they are 22 times the size they were when they first first born! And before that, they started as an oocyte, too small to be seen with the naked eye, until their mother’s body created his or her tissue. Where did the material for all of these body parts come from?
“Matter cannot be created or destroyed”
This is a principle law of physics but it has an incredible connection to nutrition. Virtually every cell in your body is made up of the material consumed by you. The physical components in our food are the building blocks for our entire body. Food goes in our mouths and down to our digestive tract, it is broken down to its microscopic parts and absorbed into our bloodstream, and then it is re-packaged as whatever bodily tissue cell our body needs to replace…what a truly wild concept! We literally are what we eat. If we can wrap our heads around the magnitude of this realization, it will make this next logical step much easier to adhere to – “Food is Fuel”
So choose the right fuel!
You wouldn’t choose untrustworthy, low quality building materials to construct a home you want to live in, so why would you constantly choose low-nutrient density foods that are the building blocks of the body you live in? The answer is complicated and there are many psychological reasons why we choose the food that we do. Dr. Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating, has conducted numerous studies aiming to answer this exact question. Our food choices are tied to emotions, past life experiences, and hormonal reactions in our body controlling hunger. Luckily, as a species with developed frontal lobes and the ability to use logic (though it sometimes seem these abilities collectively evade us) we can learn to override these basal temptations and repeatedly choose food based on its ability to contribute to our overall health rather than its ability to satisfy a craving.
The secret to a healthy diet (long-term, permanent diet) is:
Once you learn to prioritize your health & well-being over everything, food will lose its power over your decisions. This does not mean that you can’t indulge in the occasional snack, but it will keep you from losing control and regretting every meal. This change may not come all at once. Give yourself time to adjust to this concept of eating to thrive, not just eating to survive. Use your resources to educate yourself on the importance of different vitamins, minerals, micro, and macronutrients so that you can fully comprehend the power and importance of your food choices.
Healthy foods can taste delicious
Once you have made the choice to appreciate food for its contribution to your health rather than its immediate gratification for your taste buds, you will begin to see a gradual change. As you adapt mentally to a life of health and wellness your tastes and preferences will follow suit. Does this mean you will never again feel that inexorable pull toward the bright red glow of the Krispy Kreme sign? Definitely not. Does it mean that you will be more likely to give yourself a few moments to daydream about it and then move on to eating a more well-balanced lunch? Hopefully, most of the time, yes. A healthy sustainable lifestyle is not about constantly depriving yourself, it is about rendering enough self control that you can give in occasionally without completely falling off track.