As Americans, we spend a lot of time and money learning about diets. We all want to live healthier and longer, look better, and have more energy. But we also want convenience. It is so easy to buy fast food or convenience foods at the grocery store, even at the risk of our health. In reality, we all know what we should and shouldn’t eat. We all know that eating those burgers and fries is going to make us feel crappy later on. And even if we aren’t dealing with weight issues, that junk food is still bad for your health.
But you are young! You don’t have to worry about health problems yet. Heck, you might even struggle to gain weight sometimes.
Or maybe you have struggled with weight and health issues your entire life. Maybe you have tried every diet and continue to keep trying diet after diet, wondering why they aren’t working.
No matter what our reason is, we are all looking for the right diet for us. The truth is, there is no one “diet” that will work for everyone, all the time. There are no quick fixes. Yes, there are ways to lose 10lbs in one week, but it isn’t healthy and it isn’t long term.
Look at your goals. What is it you want to accomplish on a diet? Are you trying to lose a certain amount of weight? If so, why? Do you think you will be happier if you are a certain weight? Do you want to look like a certain celebrity? Are you trying to solve or reduce your risk of health issues? Being honest with why you want to be on a diet and setting actual, realistic goals will help you succeed. If you need help with how and why to set goals, read my post on goal setting part one and part two.
A good diet should be a lifestyle choice, not something with a beginning and an end. It also shouldn’t be so restrictive that you are missing out on crucial nutrients that are necessary for your body to run, or that just makes you feel left out of certain situations. Our lives are centered on food…parties, dates, and other social situations are usually food based. Don’t you hate it when you have to pass up that delicious looking birthday cake because you can’t have carbs?
Certain situations do call for certain restrictive diets, diabetes sufferers have to cut back on sugar, those with celiac disease have to eliminate carbs, and those with lactose intolerance have to cut out dairy. Your doctor will tell you what diet is right for you if you have a medical condition.
In general, though, we should all strive for a diet that gives our bodies what we need to function in the best possible way. We also need to learn how to love our body the way that it is. We live in a world that surrounds us of images of unattainable beauty. Some of us will never look the way we think we “SHOULD” look according to those impossible standards around us. Did you know that women aren’t supposed to have a 6 pack? That is why it is so hard to attain! That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push yourself to get them if that is your goal, as long as it is your goal for healthy reasons, to push yourself and prove you can do it, for example, than because you think that is the ultimate standard in hotness.
Think about how to make changes to your diet in small, easily managed ways, and start creating healthy habits. Add a piece of fruit to every meal and add veggies as snacks. Stop buying potato chips and ice cream, and try roasted almonds and Greek yogurt instead. Don’t force yourself into something that might cause you disappointment later on. Just because you have a sweet tooth, doesn’t mean you have to completely eliminate all sweets. Look for alternatives, read labels, try to cut back on your sugar intake slowly (I started by using only creamer in my coffee). I tried a diet that included cutting out carbs and I ended up getting shaky and losing weight in a way that made me feel sick. I need carbs in my diet, although only minimally, so I had to learn to balance my carb intake instead of cutting them out. I still lost the weight I wanted, but I didn’t look so deprived and I felt better overall.
Sure, I could sit here and tell you about all the fad diets and how they work or don’t work, but my guess is you have already looked into all of those. I could tell you how many servings you are supposed to eat in each food group, but I think that you already know what is good and what isn’t. You learned nutrition in school. Me telling you what you should or shouldn’t eat isn’t going to help you reach your goals. The only thing that is going to help you reach your goals is your own motivation and your own realistic view of what you can accomplish.
So here is my advice:
- Set your goals. Think clearly about how much you want to lose, why and what you want your end point to be.
- Create steps to reach smaller goals. What can you do to lose those first 5 pounds? How can you continue your momentum when you don’t lose for a week or two?
- Reward yourself. Find a way to reward your behavior that doesn’t have to do with food. If you track a goal of eating more fruit and less sugar for a month and meet that goal, buy those shoes you love. Treat yourself to a spa day when you reach your weight goal. Be proud of your accomplishments.
- Find a way to hold yourself accountable. Whether it is tracking your goals in a book or app, getting a friend to help you or join you, or any other way that helps you stay on track, make yourself accountable. It is much harder to fall off the wagon when you know you have to report back to someone or keep track of it.
- Look for healthier options. Even if you aren’t dealing with health issues yet, you can prevent issues when you are older by taking care of yourself now. Sure you are on your own now and can do whatever you want, like eating whatever and whenever you want. But don’t you want to start taking care of yourself now? So if you are a pasta lover, try the veggie options, like zucchini noodles. They are surprisingly good and can be used in a variety of ways. I have switched to cauliflower rice, mashed cauliflower, and zucchini noodles for a lot of our family meals. If you cook with a lot of flavor, you could easily learn to love the new veggie options. Look for leaner cuts of meat (or no meat), add more fiber (beans, legumes, nuts), and other sources of protein.
- Don’t make the mistake of thinking that adding certain items will make you lose weight. I think there is a common misconception that protein powder will help you lose weight. The truth is, there is a lot more to protein powders than just protein. Protein powders are great for body builders and people who are using more calories than they are taking in. The point of protein powders is to build bulk in muscles. If you are already struggling with weight, protein powders can add pounds to your muscles, underneath the fat. Don’t be fooled into thinking that adding extra protein burns calories on its own. There is a whole process involved that involved science and stuff I am not an expert in.
- And don’t make the mistake of thinking that cutting out items will be the magic solution either! Keto diets that add lots of fat and cuts out carbs might work for some people based on their need for their bodies to go into ketosis, but the normal person doesn’t need that. Before you start a dramatic diet, you need to talk to a doctor.
The point is, if it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is. It may take longer to reach those goals, but it is much better to take the slow route. And don’t be too hard on yourself when you have days where you fall off the wagon, or weeks when you don’t reach your goals. Just start where you are, and try again. And remember, we don’t have to look like a star athlete to love ourselves. No matter how hard I have tried over the years, I have never been able to get rid of my belly. It used to bother me, but now I wonder why? No one else was ever offended by it. Sure, I don’t feel comfortable wearing a bikini, but there are beautiful options out there for me that accentuate the parts that I do love. And my diet and exercise has kept me healthy and young looking, which have been my goals as I’ve gotten older.
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