Let’s Talk About … Dieting vs. Lifestyle

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July 3, 2013 by mybattlebuddyfitness

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In our last post, we talked about exercise and nutrition as a means to FEEL good, and as you start to feel good, you’ll probably start to look good.  Today, I thought it would be good to talk about nutrition in the context of diet vs. lifestyle and how that frames into looking good vs. feeling good.

Dieting is universal.  I feel like everyone, me, you, friends, family, everyone has been on a diet.  There are celebrity diets, diets where you take certain pills at certain times of day, liquid diets, crash diets, you name it, and there is a diet for it.  It is short term, drastic change in order to achieve a specific outcome.  I like to think of dieting as a sprint.  It is a short burst that cannot be maintained, but can in some cases have short term wins.  I would never say that there is no place for dieting.  For me, there are mental gains to doing something short term.  I every once in a while do a vegan cleanse, where I go vegan and raw for 5 days.  The gain here is not usually weight loss (though it sometimes happens), but I break some addictions I over time develop to certain foods (and it breaks me of needing sugar and carbs, which is awesome).  A 30 fully clean eating kick can jump start some stalled weight loss, and even a couple of pounds could be the mental boost needed to maintain your everyday lifestyle.

DIETING IS NOT LONG TERM.  Dieting is short term.  It is designed to be short term.  People yo-yo with their weight because they think diet = longer term changes.  It isn’t.  If you walk away with one thing from this, it would be that dieting is short term, and won’t be able to deliver the changes you are looking for over the long haul.    

Lifestyle is different.  It is all about changing how you look at food.  It is changing about how you relate and interact with food.  It is making decisions that are consistent and maintainable.  You decide how you want to relate to food, and then take the steps necessary to get into that long term relationship.  It is a journey, and a lifelong one at that.  It takes careful thought and deliberate choices in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and relationship with the food we eat.  It is not about today or tomorrow or a week from now, it is about the years and decades ahead. 

You don’t get to lifestyle changes overnight, and the results of lifestyle changes are not visible overnight.  It isn’t like I woke up one morning and said hey, I think I am going to be a vegan from now on, or I am going to eat clean from now on.  I didn’t trade in my French fries for broccoli from one day to the next.  No, it was gradual.  I cannot remember back far enough to know if it was even a conscious decision.  I think I probably didn’t like the way I was feeling one day, however many years ago that was, and wondered if it had something to do with what I was eating.  So I probably decided to cut back on certain foods (fried foods, fast foods, sugary foods).  I didn’t eliminate them all at once, certainly not.  But after cutting some things down, and realizing how much better I felt, I decided to eliminate those things and then make cuts on other things to see if that made me feel better.  Over time, I have come to this place where I am now: limited meats (not 100% vegan), limited sugars, and limited fats.  I feel great, living this way, it is awesome.  I have lots and lots of energy, I sleep better than I ever have, and I don’t hate myself the way I used to when I ate poorly.  It works for me.  Will it always be just like this?  No.  It is a journey, and I will likely adapt as my body adapts. 

And that is a big problem I see with folks and the relationship with feeling good and looking good.  We want immediate results, in every aspect of our lives.  Physical appearance is no different.  We want to diet for 3 months, get an awesome body, and then go back to our old ways of living.  Folks, that is just never going to work.  Going on a diet can jumpstart a course correction in your lifestyle, but it won’t last.  You need to create better, healthier habits that you plan on maintaining for the long term in order to have lasting results.  I know it seems like I am stating the obvious, but I think we often forget it. 

So here is what I would suggest.  Write down where you want to be, with your health, your nutrition, your physical abilities, and even your weight.  And then be realistic with yourself about what nutritional changes you can make over what periods of time to achieve your goals.  If you are a daily fast food eater, guess what?  Going cold turkey likely won’t work.  You have probably been eating this way for years.  So instead of a full stop, make a plan: over the next month, I am going to reduce my fast food meals from 5 times a week to 3 times a week, over the next 3 months, I will reduce from 3 times to 1 time a week, etc.  And then plan what you are going to substitute into those eliminated fast food stops.  Trading a Big Mac out for a fat laden meal at home isn’t going to get you to your goals.  You’ll need to trade it for something lower in calories.  Or maybe, if you cannot eliminate those 5 trips, you reduce your intake for those trips.  You go from the Big Mac and Large Fries and Coke to a hamburger, small fries and Diet Coke.  It may sound silly, but you are eliminating hundreds of calories by taking that approach, and will likely feel better with those small changes (and probably lose weight to boot). 

Or maybe you are a candy bar addict (or some other sugary snack).  You eat pretty well most of the time, but those sugary sweets are like a siren song.  Well, first start by cutting out frequency or portion size, and gradually work towards elimination.  And when you reduce frequency, again, substitute with something healthy, like fruit.  Gives you that sugar feel while providing nutrients too!  If you cannot go to fruit, then you ditch the candy bar for a 90 calorie Fiber One bar.  Not my favorite, but again, you will break the candy habit and at least reduce calories you are consuming.  It is a stepping stone towards the future. 

In all of these cases, the gradual progression is going to help you build new habits.  And it is all about habits.  Make a plan, a realistic nutrition plan that you can follow, and then execute to that plan.  Consistency is the name of the game.  Over time, you will crave these foods less, and you will change your lifestyle.  I promise.  You might not see the immediate results you’d like, but over time, you’ll notice big changes, ones that you can maintain over the long haul. 

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