If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I hate the word ‘diet’.
To me, it’s a dirty, four-letter word (although it shouldn’t be) that has no place in anyone’s life.
However, I can see why so many of us automatically assume that we need to go on one when we find ourselves struggling to zip up our jeans or understand why the scale’s telling us that we’re 30 pounds heavier than we should be: There are literally hundreds, if not thousands (I don’t know for sure, but I’m not inclined to dig any deeper either) of diets out there that claim to be able to ‘help’ you lose weight in no time at all, and with very little effort.
If you’re currently on some kind of diet but aren’t sure if it’s working or if it’s even right for you, here are 6 signs that point to a big, fat “NO”:
You hate what’s on your plate
You’re allowed to eat nothing but a can of tuna and a banana for dinner, and then wash it all down a tall glass of kale and celery smoothie. You’ve lost sight of why you’re doing this to yourself, but you do know this: That you’d rather head to the dentist to have a root canal than go another night eating this way.
DIET FIX: Pick a way of eating that goes with your lifestyle, not against it. For example: If you can’t imagine living without having a juicy steak once a week, a vegan diet clearly isn’t right for you. And if cooking with complicated, time-consuming recipes makes you want to cry, then a plan that’s chock-full of them isn’t one that you’re likely to stick with. Here’s something to think about: What if you didn’t need to go on a diet to get healthy and lose all those extra pounds? What if all you needed was to change how you ate and add more nutrient rich foods to your diet while eating less of (but not eliminating completely) the ones that caused you gain weight in the first place?
You can’t go out to eat with your friends or family. ever
Your friends are planning a Friday night out at that trendy new restaurant in town and drinks after. But wait. You can’t go. Because that carb-free, salt-free, fat-free and organic ingredients-only diet you’re currently on says you can’t, so you resign yourself to another night alone with a bowl tasteless (did I mention no salt?) tofu and zero-calorie noodles for company.
DIET FIX: You don’t have to do a total 180 from how you currently eat to look and feel better, and you definitely don’t need to eliminate an entire food group from your diet or develop an obsession with calorie counting to reach your weight-loss goal. What you can do instead is to start eating mindfully, which will then help keep your tendency to overeat in check whether you’re eating pizza or tofu lasagna (I kid you not), if you’re eating in or out.
You’re always hungry and grumpy
You didn’t expect losing weight to be a walk in the park, but damn, this is really, really hard. In fact, it feels like downright torture. All you can think of is stuffing your face with your favorite ooey-gooey, piping hot mac n’ cheese from the deli around the corner, and if that’s not bad enough, you’re walking around feeling like you’re ready to bite (not literally, of course) someone’s head off the second they rub you the wrong way.
DIET FIX: If you’re always hungry, you’re probably not getting enough calories and nutrients into your body. If you’re constantly grumpy, it could be because you’re not eating enough carbohydrates (they’re not as evil as you think) or are just simply feeling deprived from the constant, self-inflicted food restriction. Try ditching the all-or-nothing mentality and go for the “I’ll have some, sometimes” approach instead. For example: If you love donuts, don’t break up with them. Make a date with one (or two, I won’t tell), once a week to satisfy your taste buds and fill up your willpower bucket so that you’ll be able to stick with your new, healthy habits more consistently.
Your gut isn’t happy…and it’s making sure that your brain knows it
If you’ve ever been told to “listen to your gut”, here’s something I need you to know: You totally should. Our brain and gut are connected by an extensive network of neurons as well as pathways through which there is a constant exchange of hormones and chemicals that tell our bodies how hungry or full we are, if we’re stressed out, or if we’ve eaten something that’s gone bad. In fact, this complex system within our gut (what scientists refer to as our ‘second brain’) is so finely-tuned and powerful that it can affect your mood and overall well-being, bringing new meaning to the phrase “you are what you eat”. Eat one too many fast food meals 3 days in a row and you can bet your bottom dollar that your gut will let you know that it knows what you did in the last 72 hours.
DIET FIX: See your doctor to rule out any food allergies or intolerances instead of choosing to ignore any on-going gut discomfort that you may be experiencing after your meals. If you’re in the all clear, learn to listen to your body to decide which foods make you feel good, and which ones don’t (hint: constant bloating or constipation isn’t a good thing), so you can tweak your diet as needed.
YOU’RE GAINING, NOT LOSING WEIGHT
You’ve been on that new ‘fat burning’ diet for months now, and instead of having your waistband loosen up, it’s getting even tighter. There could be two reasons for this: One, if your diet prescription comprises mostly processed, pre-packaged foods, you’re likely eating just as many empty calories as you were before you started your diet; Or two: your diet is too restrictive, leading to a slowed down metabolism and an increase in your hunger hormones, both of which when combined, make it even more difficult for you to lose weight, but easier to gain.
DIET (AND WORKOUT) FIX: Swap the processed food plan for one that’s rich in fresh vegetables and fruit, lean protein, good fat and whole grains, and you’ll instantly drop the calories while increasing the amount of nutrients you take in. If you constantly find yourself feeling hungry, unwell, low in energy and craving sweet, fatty and salty foods, it’s time to get off the ‘eat less, exercise more’ train and give your metabolism a chance to recover from the constant stress you’ve been putting it under. While healing from metabolic damage, which is the term that’s used to describe the unbalanced state in which your body enters (as a result of prolonged restrictive dieting and overexercising) to protect itself from starving to death, it’s best to eat more, more frequently to return balance to your blood glucose levels, and ease off the stress-inducing cardio workouts. And it’s probably a good idea to see your doctor for a definitive diagnosis and plan of action.
YOU’RE not GETTING ANY HEALTHIER
That number on your scale may be dropping, but your other markers of good health, like your cholesterol, blood pressure and sugar levels, are not, which is a big, red flag that your diet isn’t as healthy and effective as you thought. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with eating with the intention to lose weight, it shouldn’t be at the expense of your overall health and well-being.
DIET FIX: Shift your focus away from calorie-counting and towards eating foods that nourish, heal as well as help you get to and maintain a weight that you feel great at. For example, 1,500 calories from a fast food meal will have a very different effect on your body than a similar number of calories that you consume from fresh vegetables and fruit, lean protein, whole grains and good fat. When it comes to making any kind of change to your diet and way of eating, always, always go for the option that helps you look and feel your best.
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