7.13.2018

"It's Not A Diet"



"It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle." I hear this phrase a lot. It's thrown around quite a bit in online health communities. And despite my mental eye roll every time I hear it, I find myself using it as well. Because, in my core, I believe it, and it's how I try to live. That fact that it's become a cliche doesn't rob it of any inherent truth.
When I first decided to ditch the Standard American Diet, I went all in. I started following a very restrictive diet with no cheat days or meals. And that's what a lot of people seem to do when first diving into the whole world of real food. And that's perfectly okay! Good, even. I think it's what I needed at the time to see the results I wanted. But I don't eat that way anymore, because honestly, I would go crazy. 
And the phrase "It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle" has slowly, unintentionally morphed into a sort of health motto for me. But there can be some misconceptions surrounding it. So I thought I'd clear some things up..

When I say this phrase, this is what I mean:
  • It's not temporary. The way I eat goes hand in hand with the way I live. The word diet implies a set of rules for a set period of time. But I don't plan on stopping anytime soon. 
  • Boundaries aren't inherently oppressive. There is freedom in choosing foods that I know will energize and nourish me, not make me feel like crap. I think one of my favorite articles ever, "Restricted Diet Is Not Restricting", puts it best: "Self-discipline is freedom, not limitation. When I say I follow a grain-free, dairy-free, sugar-free diet, I don’t consider myself limited. I consider myself FREE of the effects of these substances on my health." And can I get an amen?  
  • Food is not a moral issue. I think food can involve moral quandaries (the ethical treatment of animals in factory farming, or whether or not using herbicides on the soil means we're being good stewards of the earth, for example), but choosing Cheetos over a bowl of cherries does not make you a bad person. You're not inferior, nor superior, simply because of what you had for dinner. 
  • Failure isn't possible. Because failure implies there was something to lose in the first place. There is no "falling off the bandwagon". I cannot "fail" at putting food in my body. 
  • I'll never "make it". There is no perfect way of eating, no peak balance of biohacking and epigenetics, no detox program that'll bring you a state of perfect health. That doesn't mean we shouldn't strive to be the healthiest we can be, constantly learning, growing, and adapting, but contentedness is often overlooked. 
  • I prefer the 80/20 rule over "All-Or-Nothing". This will look different for everyone, some people thrive on very set boundaries about what they eat, some don't. But I've tried to develop the attitude that says I won't beat myself up for any food choice. Did I have Halo Top ice cream for dinner? Cool. I'll probably have a breakfast salad the next morning. And not because I'm "punishing" myself for having a treat, but because I know getting some good fat and protein in the morning will set my energy off right for the day. It's about balance, whatever that looks like for you. No guilt, no shame, no impossibly high standards. 
  • It's more than physical. All the organically-grown kale and unrefined coconut oil in the world isn't gonna fix your relationships or strengthen your character. Food is incredibly powerful, but it's only one chapter in the book of overall good health. What good is physical health if you don't have loving, supportive people in your life? What's the point of a good, healthy meal if you eat it in anger? "Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred." (Proverbs 15:17)
  • Know your body. I know that I can no longer stomach fast food. I know that my body doesn't thrive on a hardcore Keto diet. I know that eating late at night will cause my blood sugar to be high the next morning. I know that my palate has changed over the past few years so much that eating any sort of processed candy will actually just taste like chemicals to me. And I also know that ice cream makes me indescribably happy. Over time, I've learned all these things about myself and my body. And I'm still learning, constantly. It's a process, but that's kinda half the fun. 
  • It's about more than what I eat. It's about what I wear. It's about how I interact with nature, how I choose to spend my money, what brands of cosmetics I use, my overall mindset. 
  • Sustainability is key. I'm on a 3 week sugar detox at the moment, and one of the things I'm abstaining from is fruit. Now does that mean I'm never going to eat an orange again? No, duh. That would be silly, and not at all sustainable. Now there are definitely some foods that are always a "no" for me, there are things I restrict completely. But there are some things I give more wiggle room. Why do you think so many people quit their New Years health resolutions after a month? They often just set unrealistic goals for themselves. Don't think just about how you want to eat next week, but for the rest of your life. 
  • I love food. I really do. It's like one of my favorite things ever. And that means I respect it. I respect it enough to appreciate and utilize what it can do for my body, while simultaneously acknowledging that it's no more than a God-given tool, providing joy and sustenance, not the world. 

What I'm not saying:
  • That diets are bad. I'm not trying to demonize the word in any sense. Dieting can be a valuable tool. And in cases of autoimmune and other chronic disorders, interventional, therapeutic diets are sometimes very necessary. 
K, that's all I have to say for now. If anyone has any thoughts on the phrase "it's not a diet...", I'd love to hear them! I feel like there's a lot more to be said, and a lot of room for nuance on these issues. But I will leave it at this for now. 


Hope you all have a fantastic weekend! 
Mel
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